This is, obviously, in response to a challenge to write a Gundamwing fic mixed with the Sound of Music. This is not a comedy, but a bonefied romance that is capable of standing on its own without having seen or liked the movie. No warnings as of yet. Pairings will be 1x2 and 3x4 and a possibility of Treiz and Zechs. I haven't decided on the last pairing yet. ^__^ Enjoy.

Category: Yaoi, parody of Sound of Music, Gundam Wing
Pairings: 1x2, 3x4, 13x6
Warnings: shonen ai
Author: Arigatomina
Email: arigatoumina@hotmail.com

Sound of Music


Duo slipped on a large patch of wetness in front of the well in the center of the church's indoor courtyard. Flailing his arms wildly, he skidded forward barely catching himself before he crashed into the pump. //Lazy nuns//, he scowled as he washed quickly, //I get all of my chores done, sort of, and I get yelled at for taking a well deserved nap. But they leave messes like this and then get to be ordained. It's just not fair.// Tossing a handful of water at his face to wash away any dirt, he straightened quickly, drying his face with his sleeve and smearing a new streak of dirt across his cheek. //I am so late! Better run!// Bolting across the yard, he almost knocked down two women as he ran past them, long braid flying out behind him.

Then he stopped abruptly. //Was that. . .?// Turning, he looked straight into the eyes of one very disapproving Mother Superior. It was Mother Une. "Uh. . .heh-heh. Oops?" smiling weakly, Duo's shoulders slumped and he trudged away, head lowered. //Figures...//

Une shook her head as she watched the boy make a slower exit. "I just don't know what to do with the boy."

Noin nodded her wimple covered head as she watched the boy in question. "He tries, he really does, but...."

"Everything he does ends up a disaster," Une said sadly. "I don't think he was meant to be a priest. He's just too...hyperactive."

"He's always running around, causing mischief. The only time I really think he belongs here is when he sings."

"Yes," Une smiled. "He has a beautiful voice. But that isn't enough. I know he has his heart set on joining the church, but I can't help feeling there's more out there for him."

"Are you thinking of sending him away?" Noin's eyes grew wide. "It would break his heart!"

"Not permanently," Une said, laying a soothing hand on her friend and sister's shoulder. "I just want to make sure he's choosing the path that is best for him. He hasn't seen what the outside world has to offer. He's too wild to pin down without making sure it's the best thing for him. I know a place that would test his resolve. I just don't know if he'd be able to handle the strictness involved in the assignment."

"Are you sure you want to inflict him on some unsuspecting person?" Noin asked, doubtfully.

Une smiled again. "From what I've heard, this person could use some wildness in his ordered life. Duo just might be the best thing that ever happened to him."

* * *

"Look, Mother," Duo said quickly, eyes widened in desperation. "I know I ran off again to go sing in the fields, but don't you think you're being a bit drastic? I mean, you wouldn't really send me away over a minor slip like that, would you?" Duo looked pleadingly at the woman seated across the desk from him.

"Duo Maxwell," Une said, frowning slightly. "You know I wouldn't send you away. I just think you need to get out and see the world before you settle down. I want to make sure the life of a priest is what you really want."

"It's all I've ever wanted! I don't like people. Why would I want to see them? If anything, it would make me want to be a priest more than ever."

"Then what's the problem?" Une stood. //He doesn't like people and he wants to be a priest who leads people to God. The poor boy's more confused then I thought.// "You will accept this assignment, serve your time as any person of the order would," she shot him a look and was rewarded with his guilty statement, "Then. If you still want to be a priest, I won't stop you. I'll still make you finish your service, but I won't try to dissuade you any longer."

Duo sighed, standing to face the woman. "You promise?"

"Duo! I am the Mother Superior. Are you really accusing me of lying?"

"No! Of course not! I'll just be going," Duo backed toward the door quickly, realizing she'd put on her eyeglasses, and almost tripped over the chair in his haste. "I'll telegraph you to let you know how things go!"


He paused, turning back warily. "Yeah?"

Une rolled her eyes in exasperation. "Don't you want to know where you're being assigned?"

"Oh yeah..."

* * *

//Seven. Seven children. How insane would a person have to be to want that many children running around in the same house?// Duo thought back to his own childhood and grimaced. //Children are such monsters...and no mother? That guy has got to be nuts. No wonder he asked for help. They must drive him up the wall. But what does Une,// he never bothered to think of her as Mother Une, it sounded too weird, //what does she expect me to do? I don't even know if children like me. I haven't been around them since I was a kid.//

Duo sighed and leaned his forehead against the window of the bus. //Man, I hope this doesn't take too long.// He glanced over his shoulder at the teenagers across from him. They were whispering furiously and looking in his direction. //Jerks. You know what, God? I really don't like people.//

Outside the window, trees rushed by and he looked longingly at the forest. Then a tall cement wall cut off his view and his eyes widened. //Wow. The place must be huge!// The bus slowed to a stop and Duo practically leapt out the door, leaving the staring people behind. Not bothering to look back, he clutched his case and stared at the huge gate before him. Finally his awe diminished enough for him to approach it, but when he pushed on the gates, they didn't move.

"Do you have an appointment?" a voice called and Duo's head snapped up.

Looking through the gate, he saw a man step forward on the other side. His eyes widened as he looked at the man. He had long, pale blonde hair that was almost white and reached to the middle of his back. Pale blue eyes watched from under arched eyebrows. Then the man smiled slightly and Duo remembered himself. "Hi. The name's Duo, Duo Maxwell. I was sent from the Maxwell church. Is this the Yuy residence?" Duo grinned as he wondered what he would say if the man said no. He didn't have another ticket, and Une would kill him if he'd gotten off the bus too early.

The blonde man's left eyebrow raised as he looked at Duo. "You? Aren't you...well, aren't you awfully young to be the children's governor?"

"Not at all," Duo said, "And I'm the only one they could spare, so it looks like you're stuck with me. Unless the captain decides to send me back." Duo stopped suddenly as a thought struck him. "You...you aren't the captain, are you?" //Surely not, this guy can't be more than twenty-five at the most. He can't be the father of seven children.//

"No, I am Zechs Marquise. I work for Captain Yuy. Please," he unlocked and opened the gate, gesturing, "come on in."

"Sure," Duo grabbed his case and entered, unable to stop himself from staring around at the expanse of the grounds, or the huge house that stood at the end of the long drive.

Zechs led the way down the driveway, glancing repeatedly at the distracted boy behind him. //Heero's going to flip when he sees him. Maybe I should warn him about Heero. And warn Heero about him.// The boy's wide eyes met his for a moment and the boy grinned before continuing to look at the grounds. //Or maybe not. This could be entertaining.//

Opening the door, Zechs led the boy into the hall, leaving him there to wait. "I'll go get Captain Yuy." He stopped when he saw Duo drop his case and move around the hall, looking at everything. "Wait here." The boy shot him a look and nodded quickly before turning back to his exploration. //Well, time to go get 'Captain Yuy'.// Zechs smiled as he made his way up the tall staircase. //I really should have warned the poor guy.//

Duo glanced up as the pale man disappeared up the stairs, then his eyes widened as they latched on to a closed door. //Temptation-temptation// He smiled, glancing again to the empty stairway. //I'm not a priest yet, and besides, what would it hurt? I just want to look.// Duo stepped to the door, turning the knob slowly before peaking inside. It was a large, empty room. //That sucks.//

No longer bothering to sneak, Duo stepped into the room and stopped abruptly. His footsteps echoed. //Wow. This room has great acoustics. It must be a music room, but...where are all of the instruments?// Duo stepped around the room, looking at the barren walls, the chandelier hanging from the ceiling that had no candles in it's holders. Then his eyes fell on a picture that sat on the window sill. A dark haired man in his mid-forties stood in the picture which must have been taken outside the mansion. He had an arm wrapped around a beautiful woman who stood beside him. They were not looking at the camera, however, but at each other. Duo's breath caught at the love evident in their statements.

//That must be him. I feel so sorry for him. It must have been terrible to lose her. No wonder he doesn't mind having seven children around. If they're her children, he'd probably love having a part of her with him.// Duo sighed, leaning against the wall and looking down at the picture. //That is so sweet.//

"What are you doing in here?"

Duo jumped, moving away from the wall quickly. His eyes snapped up and he saw a young man, twenty-two maybe, near his own age standing in the open doorway. "I'm waiting for Captain Yuy. Sorry, I was supposed to wait in the hall, but...well, I was curious?" Duo gave a hesitant smile, despite the cold look in those cobalt eyes.

The boy took a step back, gesturing to the open doorway. "The hall is right here."

//Man. Is he one of the kids? I hope they're not all like this.// Stepping out quickly, Duo skirted past the other boy and stood in the hall next to his bag. "Is the Captain here? Zechs was going to get him."

The boy's eyes suddenly went to Duo's feet, then made their way slowly upward to stop on Duo's eyes. "Are you really the person the church sent?"

"Of course," Duo said, slightly insulted. "I may run and hide, but I never tell a lie. I'm Duo Maxwell and I'm here to...I think they said govern...the children of one Captain Yuy." Duo's back straightened as he looked at the other boy. "So, if you'd go get him, we could get down to business."

Eyes narrowing slightly at the tone used, the boy took a step towards him. "I am Heero Yuy."

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you Heero," Duo said, smirking. //Yeah right. Are all the kids so stuck on themselves?// "I'm sure we'll get along just fine. Now, would you mind getting the Captain?"

"I am the Captain," Heero said, stepping up to stand directly in front of the other boy. "I am the one who requested a governor from the church."

"But..." Duo's eyes widened in disbelief. "You're just a kid! There's no way you could have seven children!"

"They aren't my children, they're my brothers and sisters. As the oldest surviving Yuy, I am their guardian." He turned away from the speechless boy and toward the stairs. "I'll introduce them." He then produced a whistle on which he blew a pattern.

Duo's eyes widened even more and his mouth dropped open as the sound of rapid footsteps came from upstairs. Then seven children appeared and marched down the steps and came to stand at attention in a line in front of Heero. //Uh, God? What's going on here? Are they all nuts, or what?// Duo turned to look at Heero in confusion. The dark brown-haired boy stepped toward the line.

"Umm," Duo interrupted as the boy lifted the whistle to his lips. "If you expect me to learn how to make some confusing noises that all sound the same, I wouldn't if I were you. There's no way I could do it, besides," Duo grimaced, "That whistle is loud. It sounds horrible."

Heero's eyes widened at his audacity, then narrowed. Slowly, he put the whistle back into his pocket, glaring when Duo let out a relieved sigh. "Introduce yourselves. I have work to do." With that, he turned and left the hall.

Duo stared after the boy for a minute, then slowly turned to look at the children. //Uh-oh.// They were watching him, two of them looked as if they were planning to do something horrible to him. "Uh, hi. My name's Duo. Why don't you--"

One of the children stepped forward abruptly, the one on Duo's left. A shockingly tall boy with dark brown shaggy hair, who looked as if he was going to keep growing, nodded sharply to Duo. "I am Rashid. I am 17 years old." Having said this, he stepped back again, lining up with the others. The next boy stepped forward.

This was a slender blonde, dwarfed next to his tall brother. "My name's Quatre. I'm sixteen." He smiled slightly before stepping back.

Duo nodded and started to say something, but the next child stepped forward and he closed his mouth quickly.

"I'm Wufei," the black haired, black eyed boy said with an evil smirk. "I'm fourteen."

A girl with long blonde hair stepped forward, strangely split eyebrows lowering as she looked at Duo. "My name is Dorothy, and I am thirteen." She smirked and Duo felt the urge to take a step backward.

A pretty girl with light brown hair then took a quick step forward. "Sally," she said, looking Duo over curiously, mouth twitching uncertainly, "I'm eleven."

Duo smiled warmly at her and nodded, not wanting to interfere with what must be a preset way of introducing themselves. Then he looked at the pretty red-head who stepped forward with a bounce in her step. "Catherine," she smiled, the epitome of friendliness. "I'm nine." Duo smiled and nodded again.

Then a small girl moved forward, coming to stand next to him. She grinned widely up at him. "Mine's Hilde," she said sweetly, blinking up at him rapidly. "I'm six," she nodded. "And I think your hair's pretty."

Duo's eyes widened as the girl waited expectantly. "Well thank you. I think yours is to." And it was, black, short and waved, a two thick strands falling into her eyes. She was adorable.

Having introduced themselves, two of the children left without another word. //Wufei and Dorothy,// Duo thought. //Man I just know they're going to do something. Well, at least the trouble-makers are out in the open.// Duo smiled darkly for a moment. //I'll be ready for them.// Then he realized the other kids were still watching him.

"Well, why don't you guys tell me about yourselves." The younger children looked at Quatre and the tall boy. //Rashid,// Duo thought. //They sure found a variety of names. I think that's Arabic. So's Quatre.// The tall boy smiled at the little ones and nodded.

Hilde promptly latched onto Duo's hand, smiling up at him. "I can tell you 'bout everybody," she said. "Want me to?" Duo grinned. //She's so cute.// Duo knelt on the floor so he could meet the girl's eyes. She grinned and turned to look at the others. Following her gaze, Duo was surprised to see wariness in the others' eyes.

"Well," Hilde began, chewing on her bottom lip as she concentrated. "Wufei's a brat," she said suddenly. "He's not very nice, but I like you," she turned to smile up at Duo. "I won't let him bother you." Duo grinned. "Dorothy's a brat too, but she's afraid of Heero, so she won't do anything or I'll tell on her." She looked at the others. "Quatre's nice. He's nice to everyone." The blonde boy blushed and Duo had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. "Rashid's nice too, but he doesn't let us do anything fun."

"Dangerous," the tall boy said firmly, correcting her.

"Whatever. Sally's real quiet. All she ever does is read. Cathy's nice. She hangs out with me sometimes. And I'm perfect." She beamed and Duo laughed. "I don't do anything wrong."

Rashid caught Duo's eye. "Don't believe her for a minute. She's a load of trouble. But when she likes someone, she's usually better behaved."

Duo stood up, the girl still attached to his hand. "Well. Anyone want to show me to my room?" Sally stepped forward to stop him.

"You haven't told us about you."

Duo blinked. "Well, I love to sing, I--"

Sally was shaking her head violently. "We're not allowed to sing. You'll get in trouble."

"Huh?" Duo's eyes narrowed. "Why aren't you allowed to sing? Says who?"

"Heero," Quatre said quietly. "Mom and dad sang alot, and music reminds him of them. So there's no music allowed anymore."

"That is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard," Duo sputtered, angry, "I'll just have to talk to him about that."

Hilde tugged sharply on his hand until he looked down at her. Tears were welling in her eyes, her bottom lip in her mouth. "If you make him mad he'll make you leave!" she wailed.

Duo sighed. "I'll wait until he's in a good mood, okay?"

Catherine laughed. "That'll be a long wait."

* * *

Zechs smiled when he saw Heero standing in the doorway, looking down at the children in the hall and the boy they were talking to. Heero turned and looked at him, scowling before he stepped back and closed the door. "Well, what do you think?"

Heero glared. "He's my age."

Zechs nodded, smile widening. "I know. But look at him. That hair and those eyes, he's magnificent."

"Don't even think about it," Heero snapped angrily. "He's the children's governor. Besides, he's a priest."

"No he's not," Zechs said quickly. "He hasn't been ordained yet. They said they were sending someone who hadn't been chosen for the church but who was trying to get in."

"Why would they send him?" Heero glared as he sat down behind his desk. "He's worse behaved than the children. I'll give him a week, then he's gone."

"I think they like him," Zechs leaned against the desk, watching Heero with knowing eyes. //And so do you.// Zechs smiled again.

"Don't you have work to do?" Heero asked angrily.

"Yes Captain, my Captain." Zechs made a mock bow and, laughing, left the room.

Heero sighed. //I don't know why I keep him around.// He glared at the closed door. //But Zechs is right. He is magnificent.//

* * *

"Why would I have a long wait?" Duo asked, his heart dropping as he guessed what the girl was about to say.

"Heero's never in a good mood. So if you're going to wait until he's in a good mood then it's going to be a long wait." Sally smiled sadly at him.

"Why is he so grumpy anyway? I understand that you must have lost your parents, but if he's going to take care of you then he needs to change his attitude. He can't mourn them forever." Duo frowned.

"Yes he can," Hilde piped up, ever helpful. "It's been three years and he's still mean. But that's okay, because we don't see him much."

Duo shook his head at the little girl. //That's not right. I'll have to talk to him. I may not know much--okay. I may know next to nothing about families and children, but to be mean for three years is wrong. And to ban music because it reminds him of his parents is stupid. A certain song, maybe. But not music altogether. If nothing else, there has to be some music that reminds him of good times with them.// Smiling, Duo squeezed Hilde's hand. "Why don't you show me my room so I can put this up," he said, holding up his case.

Smiling shyly, Quatre stepped forward. "I'll carry it," he offered.

"Are you kidding?" Duo stared at him for a minute. "I can carry it. Besides, it's your house. I just work here."

"Not for long," a taunting voice called and Duo looked up toward the balcony just as a wave of water hit him.

Quatre gasped in horror, Rashib gave an angry oath and took off upstairs after Wufei and Dorothy, and Hilde started shrieking in fury while Sally and Catherine held her down and clamped hands over her mouth, shooting worried looks upstairs. Duo stood for a minute, looking down at his wet clothes. Then he let out a soft laugh. Hearing it, Hilde stopped struggling and looked at him in surprise.

Kneeling, Duo leaned toward her. "Where's my room? Quick before anyone comes to see what all the noise is about."

Nodding quickly, Hilde grabbed his hand and ran up the stairs, Duo right behind her. She led him to a door and opening it, shoved him inside just as another door opened. Duo peaked down the hall to see it empty, a wet spot on the floor, and an angry Heero standing in a doorway, looking for the culprit. Smirking, Duo softly shut the door and turned to Hilde.

She was standing in what must be his room, looking at his wet outfit sadly.

"What's wrong, honey?" Duo asked, "It's just water."

"Now you're gonna leave. I hate him! He always does this! And I'm tellin on Dorothy. Just wait till Heero finds out!" She took a furious step towards the door and Duo grabbed her hand.

"Hey, wait-a-sec." Tugging her away from the door, he knelt beside her. He was whispering in her ear when a soft knock came on his door. He stood abruptly, Hilde beaming with pleasure. "Who is it?" he called, walking to the door but not opening it.

"Cathy and Sally," Cathy called. "Oh, and Quatre, too."

Duo exchanged a quick wink with Hilde then opened the door. The three came into the room quickly, and shut the door behind themselves. Sally looked at his clothing sadly, then went and sat on the edge of the bed. Cathy was shaking her head and muttering, and Quatre looked mortified.

"I am so sorry!" Quatre said quickly. "They always do things like this, but usually they wait a day or two. I really am sorry."

"Hey, don't sweat it Quatre." He smiled, trying to think of a way to divert attention from his clothing. "By the way, did you realize I haven't even told you my full name yet?"

Their eyes widened and they looked at each other in surprise. Then Catherine tilted her head. "What is your full name?"

"Duo Maxwell," he smiled. "Heero'd probably make you be more formal, so instead of calling me Duo around him, just don't call me at all, okay?" They looked confused. "What I mean is just catch my eye and start talking. That way you won't have to worry about what you call me and I won't have to be called some stodgy name that makes me feel about fifty years old. What do you think?"

They talked about it for another five minutes, Duo's dripping clothes completely forgotten by all but the wet boy and the grinning Hilde who sat on his bed. Still talking, Duo opened his soaked case, pulling out more wet clothing and a small bag. Then another knock sounded on the door. This one more forceful. Wide eyed, Duo didn't have the courage to ask who it was. Instead, he turned the knob and opened the door as if he answered the door wet all the time.

Rashid stood there, a furious and struggling child in each arm. He was breathing a bit heavy, but his eyes shone with pride. "I think I found the rain-makers." He set Wufei on his feet, one hand gripping the boy's small pony-tail. Then he set Dorothy down, a hand on her head. Wufei glared, but Duo noticed that Dorothy looked more worried about someone seeing them standing outside the door than about whatever Duo might do or say. Duo smiled at Rashid, leaning against the doorway as he looked down at the two.

"Well," Duo said finally, "Do you two have anything to say for yourselves?"

Dorothy looked much less dangerous now that she was caught, and shook her head, eyes still darting up and down the hall, watching for Heero. Wufei, however, was as angry as ever. "You better let us get changed for dinner, or Heero'll kill you." He smiled as he eyed Duo's soaked shirt and the splashes on his black pants. "And you better get changed too, or you won't make it through the day." Rashid looked at the clock on the wall and glared at the boy.

"He's right," the bushy-haired boy said finally. "We have to get changed now. Dinner's served at five, and dress is formal. You don't want to know what happens if you're late. Heero hates that."

Duo smiled. "Fine. I'll see you at dinner Wufei, Dorothy." Having been released, the two headed down the hall, Wufei throwing a victorious smirk at Duo as he did so. "Oh and Wufei?" The boy turned. "You don't have to worry about me being late. I'll be there." Wufei's brows lowered before he threw his head and stalked away. Behind him, Duo heard Hilde give a small giggle.

"You guys better go and get changed too," he said, gesturing for them to exit his room. "I'd hate to get you in trouble the first day I'm here." Nodding, they made their ways to their rooms, Quatre and Rashid apologizing again on their way by. Duo caught Hilde's eyes as he shut his door, giving her a wink. She giggled before letting Catherine drag her down the hall.

* * *

Heero glanced at the clock again. It was two till five. He looked at the others. Wufei sat very straight in his chair, looking very pleased with himself. Heero eyed him for a minute then looked at Dorothy who was fidgeting, eyes going to him nervously before moving away quickly. The others were looking toward the dining room door worriedly, and Hilde had a hand to her mouth, eyes wide and sparkling. Heero focused his attention on her. Noticing his gaze, she turned and gave him a wide smile before folding her hands in her lap and looking up at the ceiling with an innocent statement on her face. Heero's eyes narrowed.

//Did they forget to tell him when dinner is served? Or is he being late on purpose. I won't tolerate it.// He looked at the clock again. //He has one minute to get his ass down here then he's gone.// Heero looked over sharply as the door suddenly opened, a wide eyed servant holding it and looking out in shock. Then Duo entered the room and Wufei gasped. Heero stared in disbelief, then stood abruptly.

"What is the meaning of this?" Heero demanded angrily, pointing at Duo's wet clothing.

Duo looked at him, eyes wide with innocence. "It's water."

Heero growled. "I know it's water. Why are you soaking wet?!"

Duo blinked, then looked down at his clothing before meeting Heero's gaze. "Because I didn't change my clothes." Hilde snickered, holding her hand over her mouth and staring wide-eyed when Heero shot her a look.

Taking a deep breath, Heero glared. //Is he provoking me? On purpose?!// "Why didn't you change your clothing? Dinner is formal in this household. That means you dress appropriately."

Duo nodded, "I know. Rashid told me, but my other clothes got wet. The water got on my bag too."

Heero suddenly straightened, his eyes narrowing. "Where exactly did you get wet?"

"In the hallway," Duo said helpfully. "If I'd been expecting it, I wouldn't have kept my case with me. Sorry if I ruined your dinner." Nodding, Duo glanced at the table. "Can I still eat? It's not as if I did anything wrong." Heero snorted in disbelief. "Well," Duo said, pulling out a chair and sitting in an empty spot. "Think about it for a minute. Which would be worse? My showing up less than presentable, or my not showing up at all until my clothes dried?" Duo looked around the table at the children's shocked statements, not daring to meet Hilde's gaze. "Are we going to eat?"

Heero stood frozen for a minute, then he walked over to Duo, standing behind him. The children looked at him, four of them looked terrified, two looked stunned, and one was just starting to look worried. "Eat your diner, finish your lessons and go to bed," Heero said to them. Then he met Duo's inquiring gaze. "We need to talk. Now."

Duo nodded solemnly, standing and following Heero out of the room. He paused in the doorway to give Hilde a reassuring look, then went after the angry boy. He entered the room after Heero, looking around to see that it was an office. Heero moved behind the desk, sitting down in the chair and folding his hands over his chest. There was a chair across the desk, but it had a cloth cover. Not wanting to get it wet, Duo rested a hand on it's back and waited. It was not a long wait.

"Are you trying to get yourself fired?" Heero demanded, unfolding his arms and placing his palms on the desk.

"I can't get fired," Duo said with a small smile, "I'm not getting paid."

Heero's eyes widened in shock and he looked two seconds away from leaping over the desk and strangling him. "I'm kidding," Duo said gently. "You really need to calm down a little. Look," Duo walked around the desk, placing a hand near Heero's as he looked down at him. "I wasn't trying to make you angry in there. I really didn't have a dry outfit. I guess I could have sent a message that I wouldn't be coming to dinner, but I was making a point to the children. I wanted them to realize that there was a downside to playing pranks. I didn't want to tattle on them and make them hate me, but I wasn't about to sit back and let them run all over me either. This way they'll think about the results before they play another prank on me." Duo waited for a minute as Heero's face lost that look of unconcealed rage. "I should have warned you."

Heero stared at him, not saying anything. Minutes passed, then Duo squirmed under his gaze and he blinked. "Who did it?"

Duo let out a slightly relieved laugh. "If I told you that, there'd be no point to what I just did."

"Doesn't matter," Heero said, still staring at him with a strange statement. "It must have been Wufei and Dorothy."

"You won't do anything, will you?" Duo asked quickly, placing a hand on Heero's. "If they think I told, then they'll just work harder than ever to make me miserable. Let them think you're furious with me alone. Then they'll start to feel guilty. Trust me," Duo smiled suddenly, "Guilt can be worse than punishment if it's done right."

Heero nodded sharply and Duo grinned. "Does that mean you're not mad at me anymore?" He nodded again and Duo's grin widened. "Can I go eat then? They probably bolted their food and took refuge in their rooms. You know, they're really intimidated by you," Duo moved toward the door. "But I'm not."

Heero stared after him for a few minutes, then let out a deep breath of air. His fingers moved over his hand as he looked down at it, then he looked at the door again, his eyes glinting. Slowly, he stood, and Zechs came rushing in, eyes wide, smiling.

"What happened?" he asked, looking over his shoulder for a moment before meeting Heero's eyes curiously. "He's soaked."

Heero shot him a glare as he moved toward the door. "I noticed."

//I'll bet you did.// Zechs smirked. "Those clothes are awfully tight when they're wet," Zechs said slowly, ignoring Heero's glare. "Maybe you should get him some more. Silk is nice and loose."

Growling, Heero stalked from the room, slamming the door on the blonde man's laughter. //I'm going to kill him.// Heero glared as he went to his room, no longer hungry. //Wet silk....//

* * *

//It's nice to be able to see outside at night,// Duo thought as he looked out the window. His eyes moved over the dark yard, then he saw a movement near the gazebo that sat in the corner of the yard about thirty feet from the house. Squinting, Duo realized what he was looking at and gasped. Turning from the window, he pulled his now-dry pants on over his shorts and, not bothering to change the tank-top he slept in, slipped quietly out of his room.

* * *

Glancing over his shoulder, Quatre moved across the yard, watching just in case someone else was outside. Slipping into the gazebo, he gasped as strong arms suddenly wrapped around him, a warm cheek pressed against his. "Trowa?"

"You were expecting someone else?"

Sighing, the blonde boy relaxed against the strong chest behind him, enjoying the feeling of being held by those arms. "I was afraid you wouldn't come," he said softly, turning and wrapping his arms around the taller boy's waist. One green eye glinted in the dark, the other hidden by the fall of long reddish-brown bangs. Lowering his head, Trowa breathed in the clean scent of Quatre's hair.

"And I was afraid you wouldn't be able to slip out. You're late."

Quatre looked up and Trowa placed a gentle kiss on his forehead causing him to blush and smile. "We have a new governor and Wufei played a prank on him."

"That's nothing new."

"Well, this one really backfired and Heero was very angry. I don't know if he fired him or not." Trowa pulled him closer, lowering his head to kiss him on the lips. Tilting his head back, Quatre sighed and opened his mouth giving entrance to the other boy.

"Let me guess, Heero doesn't know about this, right?"

Quatre gasped and Trowa pulled away, pushing Quatre behind him. "Who are you?"

"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" Duo smirked, leaning to the side to glance at Quatre who was still behind the other boy. "Is this your beau, Quatre?"

Quatre's blue-green eyes widened in horror, "Oh my God...Please Duo! Please don't tell Heero! He'd kill me!"

Duo laughed quietly, "I think it would be more likely that he'd kill him." He pointed at Trowa who was still looking at him in confusion.

"Who are you?"

Quatre blinked, "Oh, I'm sorry. Trowa, this is our new governor, Duo. Duo, this is Trowa Barton."

"Your beau." Blushing, the blonde boy nodded. "Don't worry, Quatre. I'm not going to tell on you. What you do is your business, so long as you aren't doing anything dangerous. You aren't, are you?" Duo looked from Quatre to Trowa.

Eyes narrowing, Trowa looked at Duo. "Are you kidding?" //Is he giving Quatre permission? What is he thinking?//

Duo took a step back. "Of course not. Quatre can't help who he falls in love with. Why should I deny him that. Besides, he's sixteen. He's old enough to be married and have children, surely he's old enough to know that he's in love."

Quatre grinned widely while Trowa still looked at Duo in shock. "How do you know he's in love?"

"Trowa!" Quatre cried, "You don't think I love you?"

"Of course I do," Trowa said gently, "but how could he know?"

"He was kissing you, wasn't he?"

Duo looked at the two boys in confusion while Trowa gaped at him. Suddenly, he heard a noise near the house and the boys' eyes widened in fear. "Stay here," Duo said quickly, whipping around and running across the lawn away from the gazebo and toward the back yard. Sure enough, he heard the sound of light footsteps running after him. Moving faster, he sprinted toward the wall as if he was trying to escape after having done something wrong. The person behind him gained ground as he suddenly veered away from the wall, drawing them farther from the gazebo. Then he was tackled.

The breath knocked out of him, Duo lay frozen as the weight lifted abruptly.


Pushing himself up, Duo looked over his shoulder to see a shocked Heero sitting beside him. "Hi there."

Reaching out, Heero pulled him into a sitting position. "What the hell were you doing?! If I'd had a gun I might have shot you!" Duo's eyes widened and he jerked back.

"I...I didn't think about that..." He let out a deep breath. "I'm glad you didn't."

"What are you doing out here?" Heero asked, still angry.

"I was running," Duo said, then he saw Heero glare. "It's a beautiful night and I like to run. I'm sorry. I thought with that wall it would be safe. I won't do it again."

"No," Heero said, eyeing his tank-top. "Just don't go out alone."

Duo watched him for a minute, then noticed where his eyes were and looked down at his shirt. "What?" he tugged the sleeve of his top, glancing up at Heero. "Is this too informal? I don't have a running suit. All our possessions go to charity when we join the church," Duo smiled, but Heero was still looking down, now at his hand where he'd pulled the shoulder strap away from his skin. //What's wrong with him?// "Heero?" Leaning forward, Duo moved so his face was level with Heero's. "What's wrong?"

Heero stared at him for a minute, then he blinked and turned his head away. "It's cold out here. You shouldn't be out here dressed like that." He stood up, reaching a hand down to pull Duo to his feet.

With a relieved sigh, Duo nodded. "You're right. I didn't notice how cold it was until I stopped running." Suddenly, he remembered why he'd been running and shot a glance toward the gazebo. It was empty. "Well, I think I'll go in now. Breakfast is at eight, right? I wouldn't want to sleep in." Heero nodded and walked with him to the house, stopping at the foot of the stairs. "Good night, Heero." He nodded again. Duo started up the stairs, but stopped when Heero grabbed his arm. Turning, he raised his eyebrows, "Yeah?"

Heero was still staring at him, his cobalt blue eyes shining with intensity. "Next time you want to run at night, let me know."

"Really?" Duo smiled. "You want to run with me?"

"No," Heero said, shaking his head slightly, "I'll watch to make sure it's safe. I run enough during the day."

Duo frowned for a minute, then shrugged. "Alright. Well, good night, Heero."

"Good night." Heero watched as Duo made his way up the stairs and around the corner.

* * *

Duo looked around the room as he entered, moving to the empty space across the table from Heero. He'd yet to be late for breakfast, but it was always a close thing. He had trouble getting up in the morning. Pulling his chair back, he smiled at Heero who was watching him statementlessly. Sitting lightly, Duo glanced around the table at the children. It had been days since the water incident, and neither Wufei nor Dorothy had pulled any more pranks on him. Of course, they weren't talking to him either, but silence was preferable to having to watch one's back all the time.

Eating silently, Duo looked at Heero and Zechs who was sitting to the dark-haired boy's right. //How can they live like this? It isn't just the quiet...no one's happy. There's no reason for them to live like this.// His eyes moved to the children then moved back to Heero. //They're kids. They should be out having fun, enjoying their youth while they still can.// Duo's eyes sparkled suddenly. //And that goes for mister sour-puss too. And I//, a wry smile curved his lips, //I am just the one to make that happen. After all, Une's always saying I act too much like a kid to be a priest. Well, I can teach them how to be kids too. Especially him. I love a challenge.//

Heero scowled suddenly, catching him staring. Grin widening at Heero's raised eyebrow, Duo blinked at him, holding both eyes closed for a few seconds before turning back to his food. He continued to eat despite the way the persistent silence grated on his nerves. Then he looked up abruptly as Heero cleared his throat.

Looking around the table, Heero waited until he had everyone's attention. "I'm leaving for the Sanc Kingdom tomorrow. I should be gone for a few days."

Hilde scowled, glaring at him, and Sally's face dropped. "You're going to see her again, aren't you?" Hilde demanded, statement dark. "You spend more time with her than you do with us."

Heero gave her a sharp quelling look and she dropped her eyes, still fuming. "I will be bringing Relena back with me." There were several groans, but when he shot looks around the table, the children all had their eyes on their plates. Frowning at their behavior, he glanced at Duo. The long-haired boy was looking at the children in obvious confusion over their reactions to Heero's statement. "Treiz will also be returning with me." This was met with smiles by all of the children except Wufei, who was scowling worse than he had when he'd heard about Relena's impending visit. Heero smirked when he saw Zech's eager statement, causing the blonde man to look away suddenly.

Heero pinned Duo with his eyes. "I expect them to follow their regular routine while I'm gone. Zechs will be here. He can inform you as to what is expected."

Duo fidgeted, wanting to ask who the two people were but not willing to. //I'll just ask the kids later.// Heero stared at him for a minute before Duo realized he wanted some sort of response. "Okay. Whatever you say."

* * *

Duo waited a full hour after Heero had left before he went searching for answers. He'd thought about asking the children first but quickly dismissed the idea. If he nailed Zechs, he could compare the man's answers to those of the children. Duo had an idea that they were more likely to give him straight-forward answers.

Finding Zechs was easy, the blonde man was in Heero's office. Reclining in the chair with his feet propped on the desk, he looked set to enjoy Heero's absence to the fullest. The smile that claimed his face when he gave Duo permission to enter the room was absolutely brilliant. "Come on in, Duo," he called, pulling his feet off the desk and sitting up in the chair. "I can call you Duo, can't I?"

From the devilish look on his face, Duo got the impression that the man didn't really care if he had permission or not. "That is my name," Duo said with a grin, not to be outdone in the teasing department. "What else would you call me? On second thought," Duo suddenly looked wary as he remembered some of the less than kind things he'd been called. "Don't answer that." Being called 'Maxwell's Demon' by an enraged nun was bad enough. He didn't want to think about the sort of things a man with Zechs's wicked grin might come up with.

The man in question laughed at the abrupt correction. "Well, Duo, what can I do for you on this happy day of Heero's departure?"

Sitting in the chair across the desk from him, Duo wondered how he should start. He decided to go with the direct approach, that being his specialty. "Who're Relena and Triez?"

Zechs's eyes widened momentarily, then he smiled. "You don't waste any time, do you? Well," He looked at Duo with a strange statement. "Triez is a close friend of the family. He, Heero and I used to work together. As you can probably guess, I've retired so there is someone besides hired-help to stay with the children." Seeing Duo's smirk, Zechs realized what he'd said. "Not that there's anything wrong with hired-help," he put in quickly.

Duo grinned, leaning forward to prop his elbows on the desk. "Don't worry. I wouldn't take offense, I agree with you. Besides," he tilted his head with a cocky smile. "As I explained to Heero, I wasn't hired. I was posted here by the church." Zechs gave a sharp laugh at the boy's attitude "Well," Duo continued, "What kind of work is Heero in? I understand he's a general?"

"Yes, well actually he's more like a soldier for hire." Zechs looked uncomfortable, not meeting Duo's eyes.

"You mean a mercenary." Duo pinned him with his eyes.

"I really can't go into it," the blond man said quickly, moving his hand as if to brush the subject aside. "Why don't I tell you about Relena." His statement went to a teasing one again, small smirk firmly in place.

Realizing this was something the children were more likely to give more information on, Duo nodded. "Alright."

"Well, she's the princess of the Sanc Kingdom which is a kingdom devoted to total pacifism. Heero had a mission to guard her a couple of months ago." He stopped, eyeing Duo. "They've kept in touch since then." He waited for Duo's reaction. Duo nodded, looking as if he weren't paying much attention.

//While he's gone, I can work on the children.// Duo smiled then glanced at Zechs. "What's this schedule Heero was talking about?"

Zechs frowned for a moment, then he shrugged. "I don't actually care if you hold them to their routine. So long as they get exercise daily and keep up with their studies, I usually let them do whatever they want while Heero's gone."

Duo raised an eyebrow, "How would you feel if I took them out of the house?"

"Well, it would depend on where you want to take them. It'd have to be someplace safe, otherwise you'd have to have guards accompany you."

Duo grimaced at the idea of being followed around by a bunch of guards. "I wasn't thinking of anyplace dangerous, I just thought I might show them Maxwell church." Smiling his most innocent smile, Duo waited.

Zechs blinked in surprise. "Oh, I think that would be fine. I doubt if Heero would complain either, after all, religion counts as studies." Duo grinned suddenly, pushing back his chair and standing.

"Great. I'll take them tomorrow." He was just turning to leave Zechs stopped him.

"If you're going to take the children into public, you'll have to dress appropriately for your position as their governor." Duo turned, eyes glinting dangerously close to a glare. "No offense," Zechs said quickly, laying a restraining hand on the shorter boy's shoulder. "It's just that if people saw you it'd get back to Heero and he'd take it badly." With an irritated sigh, Duo frowned, dropping his gaze. "I'm sure I can find something for you until we can get more clothes made. Don't worry about it."

When Duo left, Zechs stood watching the doorway for a minute before his mouth curved in a large grin. //Just wait until Heero gets back. He thinks he looks good now?// Zechs let out a sharp laugh as he moved to sit behind the desk again. //By the time I'm done, Heero won't know what hit him. Until then,// picking up the phone, he dialed a number. //I have to find some black silk.//

* * *

Still fuming, Duo stood in front of the mirror in his room, glaring at his black priest's uniform. //God! Like it matters what I wear.// Shaking his head with disgust, he turned and left his room. The children had disappeared after Heero's final words of warning before his departure. Moving down the hall, he paused outside the first door on the right. He still didn't know where each of their rooms were. Knocking softly, he silently hoped it wouldn't be Wufei's room. God must have been smiling at him, or smirking.

"What do you want?"

Barely suppressing a groan at Dorothy's hostile statement, Duo forced a tentative smile. "Hi. I wanted to talk to you. All of you, if you aren't busy."

Rolling her eyes, Dorothy smirked. "Too bad because I am busy." Turning to go back in her room, she missed seeing something that didn't happen very often. Duo snapped.

"No," Duo growled, violet eyes sparking, "that's too bad." Reaching out, he grabbed the girl's arm, jerking her around till her shocked eyes met his. "You have a problem with authority, Dorothy, and I can understand that. However," pulling the girl after him, he stalked to the next door, not knocking softly this time. "I'm sick of putting up with this spoiled act of yours. I'm going to talk to all of you, like it or not."

Quatre opened the door, eyes going wide as he spotted Dorothy's stunned statement. "Duo?"

Still angry, Duo nodded to him sharply. "Help me get the others, will you? I want to talk to all of you." Quatre looked hesitant, and Duo's anger calmed slightly. "Don't worry, Quatre, I've actually got good news." Smiling slightly, Quatre moved to the other side of the hall, knocking on the first door as Duo moved, still dragging Dorothy behind him, to knock on the next door.

"Okay," Duo grinned, staring at Wufei and Dorothy with a slightly maniacal smile. "It was so nice of you to get together like this so we could talk." For lack of a better place, they were all in the room off the front hall that was once a music room. Duo sat against the wall, the children sitting in a half-circle around him, statements ranging from awe to fury.

"What do you want to talk about?" Hilde asked, eyes still moving from Dorothy's stunned statement back to Duo, very impressed.

"Well," Duo gave her a smile then looked to Quatre and Rashid. "When's the last time you guys had an outing?"

Catherine frowned at him in obvious confusion. "Do you mean leaving the house?"

Duo nodded and Quatre shook his head. "Not since mother and father died. It's not the sort of thing Heero would want to do, and we have everything we need right here. There hasn't been reason to go anywhere."

"That's what I thought," Duo said. //Holed up in this house for that long? It's no wonder Dorothy and Wufei are so bad-tempered.// "In that case, I've got good news for you. We," he grinned cheekily, "are going on an outing. Tomorrow."

"I'm not going!" Dorothy cried immediately.

"Neither am I," Wufei added, "and if you go, Heero'll kill you when he gets back. He specifically said we were to follow our daily routine."

"Yes he did," Duo's face was carefully neutral. "And Zechs has informed me that exercise and learning are part of your routine." He stared at the black-haired boy until he reluctantly nodded. "He also said that I could pick the type of exercise and lessons. So," his eyes narrowed suddenly, daring either troublemaker to argue. Dorothy dropped her gaze, still confused at having been drug down the hall earlier. "Any more complaints?" Wufei glared at him for a minute then looked away. "Good."

"Where are we going?" Sally asked, more curious than eager.

"It's a surprise." Duo noticed that Quatre was biting his lip. //Wonder what's wrong with *him*.//

"How long will we be gone?" Quatre asked in a careless tone.

//I see. He's got plans.// Duo smiled. "I don't really know. Oh," his eyes grew wide as if he'd just thought of something. "If any of you have any friends you want to invite, we can bring them too." He gave a significant look to Quatre whose eyes widened for a minute. Then a small tentative smile came to his lips.


Rashid turned, eyes narrowed. Wufei smirked. "You going to invite your little boyfriend?"

Duo turned on him, angry again. "What is your problem, Wufei?"

"Right now, you are."

Duo smirked at the boy's challenging statement. "Okay, just checking." Turning, he looked at the others. "I'd like to head out after breakfast tomorrow. Quatre, can you get a message to Trowa or do you want me to pick him up on the way?"

Quatre frowned and the others, who obviously knew about the blonde boy's friend, smiled at him. "I can have him meet us, but I don't want to ruin your surprise."

"Don't worry about it, Quatre. Give me his number, and I'll take care of everything."

* * *

"You've got to be kidding." Duo stared at the clothing Zechs had brought him. "What is this?"

"It's a coat," Zechs said, hiding his smile.

"A coat. It looks like some kind of fancy nun's robe. What do I need a coat for anyway, it's not that cold." Duo frowned at the long, black coat for a minute before setting it down on the desk.

"It's customary," Zechs explained, eyes shining. "Don't worry, you'll get used to it. I should have a selection of clothing for you in a couple of days so you can pick what you like out of it. I'm afraid this is all I could find on such short notice."

Suddenly embarrassed at his outburst, Duo glanced down at the stack of clothing. Smiling slightly, he met Zechs's gaze. As long as it's black, I won't be too picky. Besides," touching the shirt, he marveled at the texture. "These are nice."

"I thought so," Zechs smiled. "I'm glad you like it."

* * *

They piled off the bus outside the entrance to the church, mutters coming from the two trouble makers. Approaching the sister at the tall doors, Duo asked permission for them to enter. Recognizing him, she quickly unlocked the doors, opening them as Duo gestured for the kids to enter. Following them, Duo let them look around for a minute then turned quickly to stop the woman before she could lock the doors again.

"Oh, we're not staying," he said quickly. "Come on guys." Motioning for them to exit the doors again, Duo waved and grinned at the woman as he directed the kids across the street. Once they were out of the woman's hearing, Duo turned to them, still grinning. "I told Zechs I was going to take you to the church, so I had to keep my word. Now that I have, there's somewhere I wanted to take you. Follow me."

Leading them through the woods across the road from the church, he made his way up hill. Climbing slowly, he leaned down and picked Hilde up, resting her on his hip when she started to lag behind. "Just a little farther." Finally, they reached level ground, Hilde squealing as she looked at the fields visible around them. The church and the rest of civilization was hidden by the forest they'd come through.

Setting Hilde on her feet, Duo gestured for Rashid to drop the large basket he'd insisted on carrying. "Why don't you guys play while I set out lunch." They looked at each other while Quatre slowly sidled off, Trowa in tow. Seeing their uncertain statements, Duo sighed in exasperation. "Come on, you guys know how to play. Dorothy, do you know how to fight?"

Dorothy looked at him with wide eyes, then she glared. "Of course I can fight. I know I could beat you up."

Laughing, Duo shook his head. "I wouldn't be so sure of that. Anyway, why don't you and Wufei wrestle. I know how much the two of you like violence."

"What?!" Wufei cried in indignation. "I would never fight an onna. I'm no coward. I won't fight someone so weak."

"Did you just say I was weak?" Dorothy asked dangerously, eyes narrowing as she eyed the boy. Growling, she launched herself on him, sending them both to the grass.

"Hey! One rule you two," Duo said quickly. "The first one who leaves a mark or seriously injures the other has to kiss that person's feet!" The two froze for a minute, staring at him in horrified shock, then they started fighting again, Wufei gripping Dorothy's arms as she tried to strangle him. Looking at the furious fighters, Duo sighed knowing they weren't likely to hurt each other with such a degrading prospect in line for them if they did. Grabbing the basket before Rashid could argue, he carried it a few yards away and set it down again before looking at the others.

"Hmm. What about you guys?" Looking at them, Duo noticed that Sally was biting her lip and not meeting his eyes, her hands holding the bag she'd brought. "Hey Sally, what do you have there?"

Looking uncertain, she opened the bag and pulled out a small book, holding it out to Duo as if he would disapprove. Taking the book, Duo hid a smile as he recognized it as a book of poetry by William Butler Yeats. Seeing the girl's solemn statement, Duo raised an eyebrow. "The Lake of Isle Innisfree is one of my favorite poems," he said softly, smiling when her eyes widened. "I love the idea of being alone with nature, surrounded by peace."

"Me too," Sally said, nodding.

"Have you read anything by William Blake?" She shook her head, and Duo grinned, handing the book back as he took up a dignified stance.

"To see a World in a grain of sand,
and a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour."

Grinning widely, Sally clapped softly as Hilde laughed. "That's beautiful."

"Yep, it's from Auguries of Innocence by Blake. I have the book back at the church. If you want I can pick it up on our way home later." Sally nodded quickly. "Until then, that rock over there's great for reading in the sun."

"You don't mind?" Sally asked eagerly, looking across the field at the flat rock he'd indicated.

"Of course not, the whole point is for you to have fun. You like reading, so as long as it's fun for you I'm happy." Duo grinned as she smiled and turned, walking across the field quickly.

"Okay, I guess that just leaves you three. Well Rashid?" Duo asked as he eyed the two girls for a minute before looking up at the tall boy.

"I wouldn't mind going for a walk."

"Going to check up on Quatre?" Duo asked slyly, smiling when the boy stiffened. "Go ahead, just be nice, okay?" Nodding, Rashid turned and walked away, still looking embarrassed. Kneeling, he faced the two girls who were watching him expectantly. "Well, what do you want to do?"

"Play!" Hilde said happily, eyes shining as she glanced at Catherine.

"Play what?" Catherine said, giving her a disgruntled look before putting her hands on her hips and cocking her head as she looked at Duo. "This was your idea, what should we play?"

"Uh," Duo blinked. "Um...why don't you guys run around. Play tag or something."


Sighing, Duo slapped his hand over his forehead. //This is going to be a long day.//

* * *

Pulling Trowa with him, Quatre ducked into the forest. Wrapping his arms around the tall boy's neck, he sighed as Trowa's hands slipped around his waste. Standing on his tip-toes, he brushed his lips over Trowa who lowered his head, deepening the kiss. Pulling back slowly, Trowa led him to a moss covered log. Taking off his coat, Trowa spread it over the log, sitting down and pulling Quatre down with him.

"There's something I need to tell you," he said gently, reaching a hand up to brush back Quatre's thick blonde bangs.

"Trowa? What's wrong?" Concern filled Quatre's eyes as he looked up at Trowa.

"You know I said I wanted to marry you, right? Well, I've decided to join the army." At Quatre's sharp cry, Trowa moved his other hand to the pale boy's cheek. "Quatre, I want to take care of you. For that I need money."

"But Trowa, you can't fight now! You know war's going to start, you can't involve yourself in this. Don't you know what type of army OZ is?! They're horrible..."

"I know," Trowa said softly. "But I've made up my mind. You know me. I wouldn't do anything to make you upset if I could help it."

"Why do you have to take care of me? Money means nothing! Trowa..."

Pulling the smaller boy close, Trowa kissed him again. "I love you, Quatre. And I will take care of you."

* * *

After lunch, Duo put things away in the basket, eyes moving over the kids. Quatre and Trowa were looking rather depressed, but Wufei and Dorothy were another matter. Despite their disheveled appearances, their eyes glowed and they actually looked happy. The same could be said for the others. Having put everything away, Duo took a deep breath and smiled at them.

"Well, fun's over. Time for the lessons." Hilde groaned and he frowned playfully at her until she stopped. "That's better. As I was saying, time for lessons. And we'll start with a music lesson."

"But we're not supposed to sing!" Dorothy cried, staring at him.

"Hey, I'm the teacher and I'm going to teach you guys to sing. You're much to old not to know how, especially Wufei." Waiting for the boy to get mad, Duo hid his grin.

"I can sing! We all can! We don't need you to teach us how." Glaring, Wufei crossed his arms over his chest.

"Great. In that case, It'll be easy to teach you a song. I thought it would be nice if you sang a song for Relena when she comes."

"No way!" Dorothy yelled, jumping to her feet. "There's no way I'll sing anything for that--" The rest was cut off as Rashid jumped up, a hand thrown over her mouth.

"Why don't you guys like her?" Duo asked, motioning for Rashid to release her. "I mean, what did she do?"

"She's horrible," Hilde said angrily. "She hangs all over Heero and she totally ignores us."

"Maybe that's because you aren't nice to her," Duo said slowly, catching the girl's eyes and pointing to the blanket until she sat again. "Look, even if you guys don't sing it for her, it wouldn't hurt anything to learn, would it? It's a nice song."

Pouting, Hilde looked down for a moment then back up at him. "I guess I could learn it," she said finally.

* * *

"Heero, it was so nice of you to invite me to your home."

Looking at the sandy-blonde girl beside him, Heero nodded. Turning again, he leaned forward to speak to Treiz who was driving. "You haven't asked," he said quietly, smirking when the brown haired man glanced at him.

"I've been thinking about the war that's coming. You know they're going to want you fighting for them. I'm surprised they haven't asked yet." Raising an arched eyebrow at Heero's angry statement, he started to say something but Relena spoke first.

"Heero won't be fighting with OZ anymore," she said firmly, looking at Treiz in disapproval. "After all, he has his family to take care of and," she smiled at Heero who'd turned to look at her, "he has his future to think of."

"Of course," Treiz said, glancing from the road to Heero. "Alright, Heero, how's Zechs?"

* * *

"Heero, do sit down and talk to me. You know I detest being ignored."

Glancing at Relena where she sat at a small table on the patio behind his house, Heero paused in his pacing. He was furious. Before Zechs had disappeared with Treiz, he'd informed Heero that the children were not home. Evidently Duo had taken them somewhere. Not sure who he wanted to kill more, Heero continued to pace back and forth across the patio.

"Really. This is very rude of you. The children are fine, I'm sure. Now sit down, I want to talk to you." Relena waited, one eyebrow raised. Looking at her again, Heero finally nodded sharply and slowly joined her. "You need to get away more often, Heero. Your young, you need to enjoy yourself more."

"With you?" Heero asked, voice monotone as he looked at her.

"Well, you could do worse. With my money, you wouldn't have to worry about fighting anymore. You could simply retire right now."

"I'd go insane. I couldn't live an inactive life."

Relena suddenly smiled, a sly smile, lowering her head so she could look through her lashes at him coyly. "Who said your life would be inactive?"

Sighing, Heero shook his head. They'd had the conversation before, but she simply wouldn't give up. "Relena, you wouldn't be happy with me."

"You don't know that," Relena said urgently, leaning across the table. "If you'd only give me a chance..." Her words were suddenly drowned out by the sounds of happy yells coming from the lake. "What sort of trashy people let their children...." Relena trailed off, eyes widening as she looked out at the lake behind the house. "Heero...Heero, look!"

Following the girl's wide, shocked eyes, Heero's own eyes widened. "Uso..." Glaring in shocked fury, Heero vaulted over the short railing that circled the patio, stalking across the yard. Still trying to deny what he saw, he looked at the row boat filled with his family. Flicking from person to person, he saw all seven of the children, his eyes stopping on Duo. Seeing him, Catherine and Hilde leapt to their feet, waving to him and calling out happily. As he stood frozen in disbelief, the boat rocked dangerously for a moment, then capsized, flinging its contents into the water with startled cries.

Eyes widening in horror, Heero was about to go after them when they started to break the surface, one after the other. Grabbing Hilde, Duo swam to Catherine, slinging an arm around her while Rashid went after Catherine, the other four treading on their own. The youngest secure, they made their way to the shore, breathless yet relieved laughter coming from Dorothy as her feet touched the bottom and they trudged through the shallows and scrambled up the bank.

Grinning at Heero, Duo set the girls down, watching as they ran to their brother. Then the kids noticed Heero's statement and an abrupt change occurred. Eyes wide, Duo stared as they abruptly reverted into the obedient children he'd first met, quickly forming a line in front of Heero. Angry at Heero's cold welcome, he glared at the boy as he approached the line of wet kids.

"How can you act so immature," Heero growled in fury. "Look at you. Get in the house and change out of those filthy clothes. We'll discuss this later." Still fuming, he watched as they ran into the house

"You insensitive jerk!" Turning abruptly, Heero stared at Duo's furious statement with disbelief. "Do you have any idea how long it took for them to be happy?! Then you come back and in less that a minute they're dead again! What is wrong with you? Why are you so horrible to them? Don't you care about them at all?"

Shaking his head at the boy's gall, Heero advanced a few steps. "I will not tolerate this," he spat. "You will not speak to me like that." Voice cold, he glared into Duo's violet eyes, the equal anger he saw there spurring him on. "You are finished here. Pack your bags." Turning, he walked to the house, fists clenched at his sides. Not seeing Relena where he'd left her at the table, he jerked the door open, letting it slam behind him.

Pausing inside the door, Heero stood, breath coming in furious gusts. Suddenly he stiffened, eyes widening at the sounds that filled the hall. Taking a step forward, he saw Treiz and Zechs coming out of the music room. Seeing him, they halted, taking in his suspicious statement.

"What is that?"

Glancing at Treiz, Zechs nodded his head toward the door he'd just come out of. "The kids are singing a song Duo taught them for Relena. They're actually quite good."

Mouth opening in disbelief, Heero shoved them out of his way, pushing the door open and staring at the scene that greeted him. It was true. They were lined up according to height in a semicircle in front of Relena who was seated in a soft-backed chair, watching the show with a very pleased statement. Eyes moving over them, Heero felt his anger leave him, replaced by dawning humor as he took in the children's disgruntled statement even as they sang beautifully.

//I can't believe they would sing for her.// Forgetting that music was forbidden, even though he'd been the one to forbid it, he found his eyes falling on Hilde who was positively glaring at Relena and singing like an angel. //What would make them sing for her? They *hate* her...// His face fell as he realized it wasn't a 'what' but a 'who'.

* * *

Fury blazing through him, Duo sat on a bench behind the house, glaring at the door Heero'd gone through. //He doesn't care about anyone but himself. As much as I hate to leave the children, I don't want to be around anyone so cold and heartless.// Shoulders stiff, he stood and made his way to the house. Not glancing at the music room he'd redecorated with the children just days ago, he walked quickly across the main hall to the curving staircase. Not hearing the approaching steps, he whirled in surprise when a hand gripped his arm. Seeing Heero, his eyes narrowed.

"I'm just getting my stuff."

Uncertain what to do, Heero watched the sparks practically shooting from Duo's eyes. "I want you to stay," he said softly.

"Is that right?" Duo said sarcastically, jerking his arm out of Heero's grasp. "Why? So you can treat me like what I think doesn't matter? So I can watch those kids get more and more buried inside themselves? Sorry, Captain Yuy, I don't want to see that."

"And if I...changed?"

Looking at him, Duo raised an eyebrow, his anger slowly draining out of him. "You really want me to stay, don't you."

Clenching one hand into a fist, Heero gritted his teeth for a moment. "You brought music back," he said finally, forcing the words out. "I thought it would just make the loss greater but...it doesn't. It helps and if you leave we will lose it again."

Looking him over, Duo suddenly smiled wryly. "On one condition."

Heero raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"No more yelling at me or the kids. And you have to listen when I talk."

"Not if you're disrespecting me, I won't," Heero said, eyes widening at the boy's words.

"Oh, you won't have to worry about that," Duo said. "As long as you don't make me mad I'll treat you with plenty of respect." Looking down suddenly, Duo grinned. "I'm wet again. What is it with this family, every time someone throws a tantrum I end up soaked." Laughing as he shook his head, Duo turned. "I'm going to change. I'll see you at dinner."

Not having really noticed the boy's dripping state, Heero's eyes widened as he followed Duo's progress up the stairs. He didn't move until the boy disappeared around the corner.

* * *

Eating slowly, Duo eyed Relena where she sat beside Heero. Having been around her only a matter of minutes, he could see why the children didn't like her. It wasn't that she was mean to them but that she acted as if they weren't even there. In fact, except for a comment or two to Treiz and Zechs, the only one she payed any attention to was Heero. Which seemed strange to Duo, because Heero didn't seem to be listening. It was as if he were lost in his thoughts. Yet Relena continued to chat amiably as if she were used to not getting a response. Shaking his head at her, Duo turned his attention to Treiz.

It was obvious that he and Zechs were more than just friends with the way they kept exchanging significant glances. The man seemed nice enough and except for Wufei, the children seemed to like him. But then, Wufei didn't like anyone much. Looking at the children, Duo smirked at the way Hilde and Catherine were glaring holes into Relena's head. Catching their eyes, he looked at Relena for a moment then gave the girls a wink before looking down as he finished his food.

"Heero, you simply must have a party for me," Relena said, loudly enough that the entire table heard her. Glancing up, Duo smirked when he noticed that Heero didn't react. "Heero," Relena repeated, smiling sweetly when he finally looked up, raising an eyebrow at her. "I was saying that I would love for you to throw a party in my honor. It would be such a nice way to welcome me, don't you agree?"

"Hn." Looking at the girl, Heero finally nodded. "Okay."

"Great," Relena said smoothly, "Don't you worry about a thing, I'll take care of all the arrangements."


* * *

Frowning, Duo looked in the mirror as Quatre helped him dress. As the children's governor, he was expected to make a brief appearance. That meant dressing 'appropriately.'

"I still don't see why I have to go down there. It's not like I'll be there for more than a minute or two and it's taken forever to get dressed. It's such a waste of time," Duo complained as Quatre tied a long cloak around his shoulders. "And what's with the cape? I look like an idiot."

"No you don't," Quatre said, stepping back and smiling at his work. "It's all the rage. Trust Zechs to find it, he's such a clothes horse."

"Really?" Duo asked, looking at himself doubtfully. "Well, rage or not, I still think it's stupid to get dressed up just so some rich people can look at me and then treat me like scum."

"They wouldn't dare," the blonde boy laughed. "You look too dashing. Black certainly is your color. Trust me, once they get a look at you, you won't have to worry about returning to your room. They won't let you go so easily."

Smirking at the boy's praise, Duo raised an eyebrow. "And what will you be doing while I'm down there making a fool of myself?"

"Well, since Relena said we're all too young to go to the party, Trowa's meeting me outside." Quatre blushed lightly, eyes aglow with pleasure.

"Be careful," Duo cautioned, "With so many people around you might be seen."

"I know, but Trowa said he'd run away with me if Heero tried to keep us apart. He's so romantic." Quatre blushed darker.

"You're young, are you sure you want to risk it?" At Quatre's vehement nod, Duo smiled. "Well then, I wish you all the luck in the world. Now if I could get some luck myself, I can be down there and back without feeling too much like an idiot."

Smiling, Quatre shook his head at the older boy. "You'll be fine. I'll see you in the morning."

* * *

As the waltz ended, Zechs grinned at Treiz and excused himself. He couldn't help noticing that he hadn't seen Duo yet. The boy wouldn't have not come down, but he didn't see him anywhere. The party was taking place in the main hall of the mansion, but the surrounding halls had been opened to allow conversations to take place without interfering with the dancing. Beginning in the middle, Zechs began looking for the missing boy, determined to find out why he hadn't shown up. He'd worked hard to find an outfit guaranteed to send Heero's libido racing and he didn't appreciate the boy hiding so it couldn't be seen. //At this rate, Heero'll end up marrying Relena despite the fact that he isn't attracted to her. And that'll be the end of me. I refuse to live with that girl.//

Making quick conversation with the people who stopped him, he finally made his way to the music room, a wide grin crossing his face as he spotted his prey. Sidling into the room, he made sure to leave the door open behind him as he snuck up on Duo who was looking out a window in the small room. Moving as quietly as he could, he suddenly grabbed the boy around the waist, causing him to yipe in fear and turn, his back pressed against the window.

"Zechs!" Duo cried in shock, "Don't do that! You nearly killed me." Still breathing fast, Duo suddenly froze as he realized he'd been found.

"What are you doing in here?" Zechs asked, arms folded over his chest as he eyed the boy, waiting for an answer.

"Well," looking away, Duo frowned. "Some guy asked me to dance."

Eyes narrowing, Zechs frowned. "What's wrong with that?"

Still not looking up, Duo shrugged. "I don't know how to dance. It's not the sort of thing a priest needs to know so I never learned."

Glancing out the door, Zechs grinned as he saw Treiz looking in and nodded his head toward Duo who was still eying the floor. Nodding, Treiz left. Turning back to Duo, Zechs' lips curved into a wicked grin. "I had no idea. Well, I can show you how." At Duo's surprised and slightly wary statement, Zechs acted as if he were insulted. "Unless you don't want to dance with me."

Getting the feeling he was being tricked, Duo eyed him for a minute before sighing. //I would like to know. It sure looks like fun.// With a long-suffering sigh, Duo finally nodded. "Alright, but I don't know how good I'll be."

"Fear not," Zechs said loftily. "When you dance with me you'll look as graceful as a swan."

Duo stared at him for a minute, eyes wide, then he suddenly burst out laughing, hands held over his mouth and he bent over slightly from the force of his laughter. Staring at the boy in confusion, Zechs raised an eyebrow.

* * *

"Heero, now that I've met all of your friends won't you dance with me? I'd love to dance with you." Smiling at the morose boy, Relena touched the back of his hand lightly.

"Relena..." Looking at her, Heero sighed. "I don't want to dance. I don't like dancing."

Pouting, Relena eyed him with reproach. "That's not very nice."

"Excuse me."

Glancing up, they looked at the man who stood before them, Heero's brow raising as he noted the way the man's eyes latched onto Relena eagerly. "May I have the next dance, Miss Peacecraft?"

Looking at the man as if he'd just asked her if she wanted a dish of generic caviar, Relena turned to Heero, eyes telling him to get rid of the man.

"Yes, you may," Heero told him, taking Relena's hand and laying it in the man's, ignoring her angry gaze. Smiling slightly, he nodded to her. "No reason you should go without dancing." As the man thanked him and pulled her out the room and onto the dance floor in the main hall, Heero smirked and shook his head.

"That was smooth," Treiz said, laying a hand on Heero's shoulder.

Eying him, Heero raised an eyebrow. "Why aren't you out there dancing with Zechs?"

"Can't," Treiz sighed, sipping his drink as he turned and started to walk away. "He's in the music room dancing with Duo."

* * *

"God! Do you have to squeeze so hard?"

Stopping dead in his tracks, Heero stared straight in front of him for a moment, eyes widened in outrage. Stepping forward quickly, he looked into the room, eyes narrowing on Duo and Zechs, fury building as he spotted Duo's disgruntled statement and Zechs' hands curving around the boy's narrow waist. Stopping just inside the door, he cleared his throat loudly causing Duo to look up, startled for a second before he blushed and looked away in embarrassment.

Not letting go of Duo who tried to pull away, Zechs tossed a grin over his shoulder to Heero. "Hi Heero. Duo wanted to learn how to dance," smiling at the embarrassed boy, Zechs released him. "I couldn't refuse." Seeing Heero's furious statement, Zechs cheered mentally.

"Treiz is looking for you," Heero said, voice telling him to run. Fast.

"Oh! I'm sorry Duo," looking at Duo who was still not meeting anyone's eyes, he reached out and pushed his chin up. "I'm afraid I have to go. I'll teach you how to dance some other time."

Angry at the man for embarrassing him even more, Duo glared. "No thanks." Rubbing his waist, he frowned. "If that's how a person dances, I can do without it."

Zechs blinked at the boy for a moment, taken back, then he slowly smiled. Glancing at Heero out of the corner of his eye, he leaned down and brushed a quick kiss over Duo's lips, grinning when the boy's eyes widened in fury and he shoved away, staring at him in disbelief. Turning, Zechs' grin widened even more as he took in Heero's statement. The boy looked as if he was about to explode. Blowing him a quick kiss, Zechs beat a hasty retreat, fully intent on getting Treiz and dragging him off for some private time. Duo had very soft lips.

* * *

A very long minute passed as the two boys stared at the empty doorway in shock. Then they seemed to remember each other at the same time, eyes meeting. With an angry blush, Duo dropped his gaze, glancing out the window rather than at Heero. Shaking his head, he looked at the other boy.

"I'm going to bed," Duo said, voice dull as he passed Heero on his way to the door. Heero caught his hand and he turned, stilling himself for reproach.

"Do you still want to learn how to dance?"

Duo's eyes widened in surprise as he met Heero's gaze. Looking over Heero's straightforward expression, he gave a silent sigh, a small smile playing over his lips. "I'm not sure," he said wryly. "I can't get all that fancy foot-work down."

"A slow dance then," Heero said softly, pulling Duo to the center of the room. "It's easy. I never bothered to learn the actual steps, but they're all the same." Taking Duo's hands, he placed them on his shoulders, his own hands moving lightly around the boy's waist as he pulled him a bit closer. "Now, all you do is take small steps, like this." Looking down at his feet, Duo gave him an uncertain smile. "You don't have to concentrate so hard, just follow my lead."

"So we just...shuffle and turn?" Duo asked, smiling at Heero.

"Mmm, something like that."

Not sure he liked the intensity in Heero's eyes, Duo looked down abruptly. Then Heero touched his cheek and his eyes widened till they filled his face, his breath speeding up. Swallowing sharply, he looked up, confused by the feelings that threatened to overwhelm him.

Stroking Duo's soft cheek, Heero moved his other hand to pull him closer. Looking into his wide violet eyes, Heero didn't think, he acted. Closing the space between them, he brushed his tongue over Duo's lips, slipping it inside when the boy gasped and opened his mouth. Heero moved his tongue against Duo's, tentatively at first, then more hungrily as he felt the boy's hands move behind his head. When he pulled back, both were breathing heavily. One look at Duo's stunned expression and he was moving forward for another taste.

"Well, isn't this interesting."

Releasing Duo, Heero turned, barely suppressing a groan when he recognized Relena in the doorway. Glancing back at Duo, he was surprised to find the long-haired boy staring at him and not Relena. Blinking in obvious shock, Duo slowly dropped his eyes to the floor and left the room in a daze, not sparing Relena a single glance. Worried about the boy's reaction, Heero started to follow him only to have his way blocked by a smirking Relena.

"Really, Heero. You are simply unbelievable. Seducing clergy?" Shaking her head, she turned on her heel. "We'll discuss this later," she called over her shoulder.

Relieved, Heero was about to resume his chase of the violet-eyed boy when a man cut him off. Irritated, he started to brush him off but paused, eyes narrowing as he saw who it was.

"I've been meaning to talk to you, Yuy."

"I've told you before," Heero ground out, voice deadly. "I won't fight your war."

"You may not have a choice."

* * *

//What was that...?// Still unable to understand what had just happened, Duo sat on the edge of his bed, the fingers of one hand over his lips as he stared at the floor. When a knock came at his door, he was too confused to be embarrassed. Even when he found Relena in the doorway, he didn't immediately realize why she would want to see him.

Looking the boy over, Relena pushed him aside lightly as she entered the room, glancing around before perching on the edge of the bed. Waiting for him to shut the door, she took in his expression.

"I must say, Duo, I was surprised to find you kissing my fiance."

Duo reacted as she'd expected, flinching as if she'd slapped him. Eyes wide, he shook his head a little before crossing the room quickly. "Fiance?"

"Well yes," Relena said, "I thought you knew. But don't worry, dear, I don't really blame you. Heero's a very sexy man. And you're young."

"I didn't know...I didn't mean to..." Duo was slowly panicking as verse after verse flew through his mind, the ramifications of which were hitting him one after another.

Nodding sharply, Relena caught his eyes. "And you know Heero. He's definitely hot-blooded when it comes to sex. After all, he's a young man with raging hormones. It is to be expected."

Choking at the word, Duo stood shaking his head, unable to speak.

Standing, Relena laid a light hand on the boy's shoulder. "I just wanted to let you know that I don't blame you. Even if you did kiss the man I plan to marry." Smiling sweetly, she breezed out of the room.

Staring after her, Duo bit his bottom lip. He felt cornered, caught, but the worst thing was that he didn't really regret kissing Heero. The worst thing was that he'd liked it.

* * *

Still furious after his run in, Heero made his way upstairs. It galled him that the man had the nerve to threaten him. Shaking aside his anger, he knocked on the door to Duo's room, prepairing himself for whatever greeting the boy would give him. Getting no response, he knocked harder, frowning as he wondered if Duo had gone to his room after all. Turning the doorknob, he found it unlocked, and pushed it open. Scanning the room, he was about to search elsewhere when he noticed the open window.

* * *

"Are you really just going to sit there and do nothing?"

Glancing up from where he sat at his desk, Heero glared when he saw Zechs standing in the doorway. "Get out of here. Now. Leave me alone."

Shaking his head, Zechs looked at the boy in disgust. "You're not even going to ask Relena why he left? I should have know. You deserve her."

Eyes narrowing, Heero sat up abruptly. "Relena? What does she have to do with this?"

Rolling his eyes, Zechs scowled. "Everything, of course. I saw her go into his room minutes after he did. And as we both know, he didn't come out. If I were you I'd find out why he left before giving up on him because he left."

Standing, Heero shoved Zechs out of his way, moving down the staircase and through the people. The party didn't need his presence, but it did need Relena's. Sure enough, he found her in the center of a small mob of people who were hanging on her every word. Sidling to her, Heero leaned close to her ear, talking low enough so the others wouldn't hear. Giving her excuses, she followed him out of the room.

"Well, darling, you wanted to speak with me?" Relena asked, still smiling that knowing smile. "I would think you'd be to riddled with guilt to want to speed up this confrontation."

"What did you say to Duo?" Heero asked, eyes narrowed as he glared at her.

"Really, Heero. You're not even going to appologize for cheating on me. Well, if you must know, I felt sorry for the boy. I merely conveyed my forgiveness to him."

"Forgiveness?" His confusion was obvious, but it didn't seem to bother her any.

"Yes. Don't you know that adultery is one of the biggest sins? I had to let him know that I forgave him. Ater all, I couldn't just leave the poor boy wondering if he was damned, now could I."


"He's a priest, remember? Well, not yet, but it's just a matter of time. And he did kiss my fiance."

"You. We were never officially engaged. You know that!"

"As I said, Heero, it's just a matter of time. You know I always planned to marry you."

"Not now. That's over."

Sighing, Relena shook her head. "So what are you going to do? He ran away. What kind of coward runs away?"

"He ran because of you," Heero spat, "because you lied to him."

"Yes. But do you blame me? I had to try. I couldn't just stand back while you left me without trying." Fowning at Heero's angry expression, she shook her head and glanced out the window. "Well, if you're going to go after him, you'd better hurry. It's awfully dark out there for a boy to be walking all by himself."

* * *

The moon was bright in the clear sky, lighting the trees with a pale glow. It didn't matter though, since he had excellent night vision. He hadn't lied when he'd told Heero he liked to run, he'd been running since he was a child. And that's what he was doing, running. Staying in the forest, he followed the road far enough away to see it, but not close enough to be seen. Not bothering to pace himself, he ran as fast as he could, ran away. He wasn't running from Heero, or Relena, but from his own guilt. He didn't blame himself for the kiss; he knew that hadn't been his fault. It wasn't that, but the longing he had for more. This combined with the knowledge that even Heero's being engaged didn't stop him from coveting the boy was the driving force behind his flight.

Breath coming hard, he forced himself to keep going. It wasn't that he expected anyone to come after him, but it was harder to think when he had to concentrate on the ground he was covering, the trees he had to avoid both standing and lying dead on the forest floor. Pushing himself to his limits, he kept moving, the only sound reaching his ears being his own harsh breaths and the pounding sound of his footfalls on the cover of dead leaves and brush. When the pain in his side grew too large to be ignored, he let himself slow to a stop beside a tall tree, leaning against it heavily. Without the continued motion, his body was quick to tell him how much it resented the workout and he slid to the ground, his back against the tree-trunk as he put his head on his knees and panted. A glance at the road he could barely glimpse through the forest told him he'd made excellent time, and he closed his eyes for a well-deserved breather.

Sighing as he stared at the dark shadows of leaves beneath his feet, he felt a tear slip down his cheek. It was times like this that he doubted his faith.

* * *

Although he'd never been to the Maxwell church, Heero knew where it was. He'd passed it many times, and normally it wouldn't have taken him long to get there. It did this time though, as he drove slowly, his eyes sharp as he watched for a familiar figure. Duo wasn't stupid, so he knew the boy would take the quickest route to the church rather than risking the dangers of lesser-traveled areas. He kept reminding himself of this, as he got steadily closer to his destination with no sign of the boy. When he finally reached the church, he had to accept the fact that Duo must not have taken that path, as the boy hadn't had time to travel the distance on foot. On the off chance that he'd gotten a ride, Heero left his car to pound loudly on the gates of the church.

Seeing the intense boy who glared at her from outside the gates, the woman on watch turned and disappeared. Disbelief warring with anger, Heero stared after the woman who hadn't given him a chance to speak before bolting. He was just about to resume his pounding when an older woman approached him, her expression disapproving to say the least as she unfolded a pair of glasses and slipped them on so she could see the boy better in the dark.

"I assume this is important or you wouldn't be here at this time of the night," she said, voice warning him that if it wasn't he was in for trouble.

"I'm looking for Duo Maxwell," Heero ground out, not liking the woman's tone in the least but controlling himself in deference for her position.

Eyes narrowing abruptly, the woman looked him over slowly as she frowned. "And who might you be?"

"I am Captain Heero Yuy," Heero said, eyes narrowing as well as he glared. He was used to his age giving the wrong impression, but he didn't have the patience to deal with it at the moment. "You do know Duo Maxwell, don't you?"

Nodding, Une blinked as she stared at the young man before her. She'd had no idea he was so young. Then his question registered and she felt cold fear try to work it's way to her. "What happened to Duo?"

"There was an altercation," Heero said, not wanting to hear the outrage the specifics would result in. "He ran off." Seeing the way the woman glared at him, he wondered if he'd helped himself at all by sparing her the details. As it was, she looked ready to tear him apart.

"What did you do to him?" Une asked slowly, voice cold. "He's dedicated, he wouldn't have run without good reason."

"He's not here." Realizing that meant he was still out there somewhere, Heero turned to leave, his eyes widening in surprise when the woman reached through the gate to grab his arm. Turning back with a glare firmly in place, he noted that her glare rivaled his.

"Where do you think you're going? I want answers."

"I'm going to find him," Heero said sharply, pulling out of her grip. "I'll be back in case he manages to get by me and comes here." Not giving the woman another glance, he stalked toward his car.

"You won't find him if he doesn't want to be found!"

Stopping abruptly, Heero turned back.

Nodding sharply, Une frowned. "I speak from experience. He's very good at hiding and he can run faster than anyone I've seen."

"I could catch him." Pausing as he remembered pinning the boy on his grounds on a night similar to this one, Heero opened his car door. "And he can't hide from me."

"If you're determined to find him," Une called quickly, "he'll stick to the woods and fields." She didn't like helping the boy without knowing why Duo had run, but she could tell the he was the most likely candidate to search. "He'll stay away from any place that has people," she added as Heero nodded to her and started to climb into the car. "He doesn't like people..."

* * *

Hiding. The thought simply hadn't occurred to him. He'd assumed the boy would go to the church, to the place where he'd be safe and where he could take whatever penance he thought he deserved. Although Heero didn't attend church, he knew of their traditions and penance was one he was familiar with himself. He'd often viewed his growing hatred of war as penance for ever having fought.

Knowing that Duo wouldn't be on the road, Heero wasn't sure where to start looking. He hadn't discarded the possibility that he was making a beeline for the church though, and decided to head him off. Leaving his car on the side of the road, he entered the woods, moving in the direction of his estate. He would have liked to get Zechs and Treiz to help, but didn't want to risk missing Duo. Even if the boy wasn't planning to return to the church, Heero was basing his search plans on that being the direction he was moving in.

Not bothering with stealth yet, Heero moved through the woods at a steady pace, knowing that even a runner couldn't have moved that far in so short a time. //What do I plan to do when I find him? Of course I'll tell him that I'm not engaged, but that may not change things. Would he really run from me?// Glaring as he slowed and quieted his movements, Heero fumed at himself. //I shouldn't have kissed him. Even if I wanted him, I should not have moved so fast. I shocked him.// Picturing Duo's expression as it had been when the longhaired boy had left the music room, Heero clenched his fists. //I screwed up. I totally screwed up.//

* * *

Getting slowly to his feet, Duo berated himself for his thoughtless sprint. His legs felt unsteady beneath him, and his calf muscles were definitely aching something awful. It had been a long time since he'd run full-out for such a distance and his body simply wasn't used to it. Groaning as he trudged along, Duo wondered where he was going. His first thought had been the church, but as he'd run he'd begun to doubt the decision. //How could I ever explain what happened? I can't just go up to Une and tell her, 'Yeah, well, it's like this. I kissed the guy and I want to do it again and I don't care if he's getting married to someone else because I really really like him.'// Smacking himself on the forehead, Duo rolled his eyes. //Yeah right. I'd never have the nerve and if I did it'd probably kill her.//

Staring at the sky as he continued along the road, he realized where he wanted to go. It wasn't a permanent place, but it would be good enough until he decided what to do. Walking as quickly as he could without making his legs scream too loudly, he let a small smile come to his lips. At least he knew where he was going tonight, he could figure out everything else tomorrow. //Maybe I'll even figure out Heero.// Shaking his head, he grinned. //Doubt it. But at least I'm not sulking anymore.//

* * *

Destination in mind, Duo headed toward the road. If he crossed now, he could continue through the woods on that side and wouldn't have to worry about crossing later when he was in a more open area. It wasn't that he expected anyone to come after him, but he had been a kid, and he remembered the precautions to take when traveling alone. Rubbing his arms, he smirked as he wished he had kept the cloak. It wasn't as cold as it could have been, but it was cooler than he liked. //Well, I'll get my wind back in no time. As long as I'm moving I'll stay warm.//

Pausing, he checked the road carefully for lights before crossing, head moving as he glanced back and forth even as he reached the other side. He was just entering the grassy slope when he heard something coming from behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw a shadowy figure moving quickly through the trees, making its way toward the road, toward him. Panic, pure and simple and filled with a strong sense of self-preservation surged through him, and he whirled abruptly, sprinting for the cover of the trees. Reaching his peak speed, he stumbled as he heard a familiar voice, coming to a shaky stop as he turned. The figure had crossed the road, and he could see who it was, eyes widening as he recognized Heero.

Gripping a slender tree trunk as he let out an unsteady breath, he felt his panic give way, waiting for the boy to reach him. Relief filling his mind, he was confused by the blind anger in those dark eyes as Heero came to stand in front of him, arms folded over his chest. "H-hi. You nearly scared me to death." Blinking when the dark-haired boy took a harsh step forward, Duo flinched, and remembered why he was running. Blushing, he dropped his eyes, wondering if it would be better to just go rather than talk to the root of his problems.

"Baka!" Wincing when the boy lifted surprised violet eyes to his, Heero gritted his teeth. As much as he wanted to scream at the boy for taking such risks, he knew it wouldn't help his cause. Shoving his anger down, he pulled off his coat, moving forward to wrap it around Duo's shoulders before stepping back and meeting his uncertain gaze. "Do you have any idea, how dangerous it is to be out alone like this?"

Fingering the coat, Duo's eyes widened. "You were looking for me?" Seeing Heero's glare, he gave himself a quick, mental slap. //Of course! Why else would he be out here?// Flushing, he looked away, eyes moving over the road. "You don't have to worry. I can take care of myself."

Fighting the urge to snort in disbelief, Heero scowled for a moment. "You ran. I'm sorry." Seeing the boy's surprised and confused expression, he berated his mind for not working faster. He didn't know what to say to make things all right. "I never meant to hurt you," he ground out.

Flushing again, Duo shook his head quickly. "I didn't run because of you, not really. It's me."

"I'm not engaged to Relena. We were never engaged except in her mind."

Jerking at the vehement tone, Duo found himself wanting to smile with relief, but shoved the urge down. "It doesn't matter." Sighing, he glanced over his shoulder, thinking how close he was to where he wanted to be, in Heero's arms. "Look, this isn't your fault. I've got things to figure out, that's all. Don't worry about it."

"Not my fault?! I kissed you and you ran, how the hell could it be not be my fault?!" Heero demanded, eyes filled with self-condemnation. "I'm sorry, Duo. I shouldn't have done that. I don't want you to run from me."

"I'm glad you did." Flushing again as Heero's eyes flew to his, Duo looked down with a small smile on his lips. "At least now I know. I'm not cut out to be a priest. I just have to figure out what I am supposed to be. I don't know."

"Come back with me. You can think there as well as anywhere else."

Shaking his head, Duo wrapped his arms around himself, glancing over his shoulder again. "No, I think I need to be alone. I don't think I've ever been this confused."

"Where were you going?" Glancing in the direction the boy was looking, Heero frowned. "I thought you would go back to the church. I looked there first."

Eyes widening, Duo stiffened, turning to pin him with a horrified gaze. "Oh no...please say you didn't tell Une. She'll kill me..."

Frowning, Heero moved to the defensive. "I was trying to find you. All I told her was that you'd left. I didn't say why."

"Thank God." Heaving a relieved sigh as he gave Heero an ironic smile, Duo remembered his question. "I thought about going to the church, that's where I was headed at first, but...I didn't want to go back there a disgrace. Too humiliating."

"Where, then?" Heero asked, anything to keep the boy talking. He had no intention of letting him leave, especially not alone. So long as he was where he could see him, he knew he was safe.


Blinking, Heero's brows drew together as he realized that thought hadn't entered his mind. As far as he knew, the boy lived at the church. After all, his last name was the same as the church. "I thought that was your home," he said slowly, eyes taking in the boy's shielded look.

"No. Well, it is now, but there's another place I call home. I lived there when I was a kid. I wouldn't mind seeing if any of my old acquaintances are still around. So don't worry, Heero. It's not like I don't have a place to go. There's no reason for me to go back with you."

"What about the children," Heero asked, turning so the boy couldn't see his eyes. He didn't like using underhanded methods, but he'd do whatever it took. "You didn't even say good-bye to them. They don't even know you're gone yet. The least you could do is come back tonight. You could always leave tomorrow afternoon."

Wincing as he remembered the children, Duo clenched his fists. //Low blow, very low.// But he knew Heero was right. He didn't want to just disappear without explaining to them, it was cruel. //Kinda like I just disappeared without explaining to Heero?// Growling at his conscience, Duo glared at Heero for a moment before letting out a sigh. "You know what? I think you've had practice at this."

"At what?" Heero asked, turning to frown at the boy.

"Talking people into things. You pull a pretty good guilt trip."

Eyeing Duo's smirk, Heero took a step to him, gripping his arm. "Then you'll come back?"

"Yeah, but just for tonight, maybe tomorrow. If I'm going to figure things out, I'll have to do it quickly and there are too many distractions at your house. Man, I've never even thought about being anything but a priest. It's always been the only thing." Giving Heero a weak smile as he saw the satisfaction in those cobalt eyes, Duo shook his head. "I'm sorry for running off like that. I guess I'm not very brave."

"Duo, I want you to promise me something."

Blinking at the softness in the other's voice, Duo's eyes narrowed. "Wait, I just agreed to go back, didn't I? Now you want more?"

Glaring, Heero continued, "Before you leave again, you'll tell me why you ran."

Flinching, Duo gave him a disgruntled look before shaking his head quickly. "I won't promise that."

//But you'll still do it, or I won't let you leave.// Looking at the boy for a minute, Heero suddenly nodded. "Nevermind. Come on, we're closer to my car than we are to the house. We might as well go there and drive back."

Nodding, Duo followed him to the road, frowning when he realize Heero was still dressed in his finery. "I'm sorry you left your party for me."

Looking over in surprise, Heero snorted. "It wasn't my party. I don't like parties."

"If..." Licking his lips, Duo wondered is there was a proper way to ask without the embarrassment. "If Relena isn't your fiancé, then what is she? If it's alright to ask."

Stopping, Heero turned to look at the boy, eyes moving over his face. "I had a job protecting her a while back. When it was over, she started writing me, alot. I thought the children could use another parent in their lives. I don't care for her that much, but I do care about them." Remembering how Duo'd yelled at him only days before, he nodded sharply. "They are important to me, and I want them to grow up right. It's the least I can do."

Surprised that he'd share his emotions, Duo smiled a little. "You were going to marry someone they can't stand, someone you don't love, in order to make things better for them? Isn't that kind of like...defeating the purpose?"

Seeing the boy's smirk, Heero frowned. "I never really thought about it like that."

"I guess we have something in common then. We both rush into things without thinking them through first." Smiling, Duo started to continue down the road when he paused. "Want your coat back?"

Shaking his head, Heero looked at the boy as they continued walking. "Why didn't you bring one? It's too cold for that outfit."

"I didn't want to take anything. Too close to stealing."

Glaring suddenly, Heero gripped Duo's shoulder, turning him. "What I gave you is yours, whether you stay or not." Nodding at the wide-eyed look, Heero waited. Finally, Duo gave a hesitant smile.


"Hn." Releasing his grip, they moved together, Heero affecting not to notice the glances Duo was throwing at him as they walked along the edge of the road. //At least he didn't complain about charity. He must not be used to getting things.// Glancing at the boy's moonlit profile, Heero smirked. //But that just makes me want to give him more. I'll have to make sure he stays long enough for that. I don't think I can let him leave again...//

* * *

The trees passed on either side of the illuminated road, and Heero's foot eased up on the accelerator as he let the car move slower. He was in no hurry to get back to the house as his eyes returned again and again to the boy beside him. Mouth open as he breathed deeply, Duo was asleep, his head tilted against the back of the seat. His lashes were dark against his cheeks and Heero found himself admiring the boy's smooth features. As much as he had come to enjoy the boy's smiles, he was held by the peaceful look on the American's face. It wasn't difficult to watch both the road and Duo, and he let a hand slip from the wheel as he gently brushed the dark bangs away from the boy's face, marvelling at the smoothness of the pale moonlit skin.

//He's beautiful. Completely.// Speeding up slightly, he reminded himself that a carseat wasn't a comfortable place to sleep as he slowly returned his hand to the wheel. He had to be content with what he had, whether or not he got to keep it depended on his actions once they reached the house. Shooting another glance at Duo's profile, he felt his fingers tighten on the steering wheel as he tore his eyes away. //It's impossible. I can't let him go. Even if it means I never touch him, just having him there will suffice.//

* * *

Duo's eyes moved around the table as he looked at the children. They were acting normally, and he saw no evidence that they had heard of his flight the night before. Having woken up in his bed, Duo was embarrased and not able to look at Heero as he imagined the boy carrying him inside. But he couldn't just ignore him, and he glanced around the table again in a sweeping move that took in the Japanese boy without actually focusing on him. He was watching his plate as he ate, obviously deep in thought. Sighing as he turned his own attention to his food, Duo couldn't help but notice that Relena was absent. Surely Heero wouldn't have kicked her out at night, but he couldn't imagine the girl not coming to breakfast. Knowing he'd never ask, he resigned himself to wondering as he looked again to the children.

As usual, none spoke while they ate, and although the children smiled at him when they noticed his gaze, he couldn't read anything from their eyes. Then he noticed that Quatre wasn't smiling at him, wasn't even looking up from his plate where he seemed to be playing with his food. The blonde boy's statement was masked, but his eyes were dull and Duo wanted nothing more than to demand to know what was wrong. But he couldn't do that at the table with Heero sitting not three feet away from him, especially since he was sure the boy's problems involved Trowa. No, he'd have to be patient. Frowning, Duo ate some of the rice on his plate with a distasteful statement as he shook his head slighlty. //Patient. I don't have the time to be patient. I won't be here much longer.//

As they finished eating, the children began to ask permission to be excused, and Duo hurried to join them. Catching them in the hall, he asked them to join him in the music room, not wanting to wait before telling them about his eminent departure. Reminding himself that he would have the time for a private talk with Quatre afterward, he managed to give them a smile when their curious gazes fell on him. "Come on, I have to tell you something."

As soon as they were seated on the couch and chairs, Duo shut the door and took up a stance before them. He didn't know a gentle way to tell them, so he took the direct approach. "I'm going to be leaving, very soon."

"Where are you going?" Catherine asked curiously as she sat near Dorothy on the couch.

"Back to the church," Duo said slowly, surprised and not a little bit hurt by her careless tone.

"When are you coming back?"

Realization dawning, Duo shook his head quickly as he looked from the red-haired girl to the others. "I'm not coming back." This gained the reaction he'd expected and he was a bit relieved to see how upset they were. It wasn't that he wanted them unhappy, but he was reassured that they cared about him as much as he did about them. "I mean, I won't be living here anymore but...I'll come and visit you if I can."

"Why?" Quatre spoke quickly, standing. "I thought things were going well. Why would you go?"

"No! You can't leave!" Face reddening as she got up quickly, Hilde glared at him. "You're supposed to stay here with us."

Crossing the room, Duo knelt beside the girl, wrapping his arms around her as his eyes burned and she slammed her small fists against him. "Hey, Hilde. Don't be mad at me, please? Honey?" He sighed in relief when she slowly stilled, but when he looked at her face, she was staring at his neck. His eyes widened when she suddenly jerked away from him. "Hilde?"

Not looking up, the girl turned her back on him, small hands curled into fists. "I don't like you," she whispered, "You're leaving me and I hate you."

Choking as his throat hurt, Duo's hand shot out to steady him as he sat on the wooden floor. He raised blurry eyes to the others and flinched when Cathy glared at him as she moved to hug the dark-haired girl standing so close yet so far from him. Voice breaking, he reached a hand towards them. "I..."

"Just go," Dorothy said coldly as she went to the two girls, laying a hand on Catherine's shoulder.

"Please..." Gasping as his throat closed, he felt tears on his cheeks. "I'll stay," he whispered, "Anything, just please don't...don't hate me..." His hand fell as he bent forward, head bowed. "Oh God...I can't--" Choking as he couldn't seem to breathe, he didn't notice when an arm moved around him. "I--can't---bear---it--"

Eyes wide at the boy's words, Hilde turned swiping her arm over her eyes as she stared at Duo. Shaking off Cathy's arms, she moved to him and crouched so she could see his face. "You're crying."

Opening his eyes, Duo pushed himself back, swallowing roughly as he wiped his eyes. "Don't hate me."

"I lied!" Her face screwing up as she cried, she threw her arms around his waist. "I was mad, you weren't supposed to cry...I don't want you to go."

"I'll stay." Rubbing the girl's back, he looked up as he noticed the arm around him. Blinking at Quatre, he searched the boy's eyes but found only a sad understanding. Looking to the others, he shook his head, voice soft. "I'm sorry, guys. I was only thinking about myself." He was wondering what to say when the door was opened, and he straightened when Heero paused in the doorway. Feeling as if he'd been caught committing a crime, he flushed and looked down at Hilde who'd glanced over his shoulder to see her brother.

Taking in the scene, Heero's eyes narrowed as he stared at Hilde's tear-streaked cheeks before looking to Duo's equally red eyes. "Duo, can I speak with you?" Raising an eyebrow when Quatre glared at him, he watched the blonde boy slowly move back as Duo stood an released Hilde. Stepping to the side, he followed Duo out the door and gestured toward his office.

* * *

"Duo, what happened?" His hands were held tightly in his lap as he sat across the desk from the boy, wanting nothing more than to hold him.

"I can't go."

"What?" Eyes widening, Heero waited impatiently.

"Can I stay? Heero...I can't leave them." Flushing, Duo lowered his eyes as he imagined how hurt the children would have been if the boy hadn't brought him back.

"Of course," Heero said quickly, nodding when relieved violet eyes met his. "I didn't want you to go, you know that. You don't have to ask." Remembering why he'd sought him out, he raised an eyebrow. "I guess I assumed you'd stay for a little while anyway. I wanted to ask you something."

"Go ahead," Duo said, wondering why he'd hesitate.

"I've never done anything with the children, but I want to. There's a concert tonight and I thought we could go, all of us." Jerking back when Duo jumped out of his chair, Heero's eyes widened as he wasn't sure what he'd done wrong. Then the long-haired boy was hugging him and he stopped thinking till he was slowly released.

"Oh Heero, that's wonderful. They'd love that." Grinning as his previous sadness lifted, he stepped away from Heero. "Can I tell them now?"

Heero nodded and watched as Duo left the room quickly, standing as he sighed. There was something about making him happy that he liked. And he wanted to go and hug the children for making his task easier. It was obvious that Duo wouldn't be trying to leave in the near future, and while he wasn't going to take any chances, he was still appreciative. Remembering how Hilde's tears had angered him, he understood how much it must have hurt Duo to cause them. //I may not have a hold over him, but they certainly do.//

* * *

"They're not very good."

Clapping a hand over Hilde's mouth, Duo grinned down at the girl sitting in his lap before glancing around to see if anyone had heard her. Cathy smiled, but when his gaze moved to the people sitting in the row behind them, they weren't paying attention to anything except the singers on the stage. Looking to Heero who sat beside him, he shook his head at the girl's antics as the cobalt-eyed boy smirked.

"You know," Zechs whispered from the other side of him, "She's right. Treiz agrees with me. These singers aren't as good as some I've seen."

"There's a contest a month from now," Treiz put in, leaning so he could see around the long-haired man. "It's for singers from around the country. Heero, I've been to them in the past and these kids could destroy the competition."

"Us?" Eyes widening, Hilde looked to where Sally and Cathy were watching, turned around in their seats. "You want us to sing on stage? Like they are?"

"No." Glaring at Treiz, Heero frowned as he took in the children's eager expressions. "I won't have them making fools of themselves in such a display."

"Now Heero, don't go being so hasty," Treiz said smoothly, not the least bit discouraged. "It's just an idea, give it some consideration. I've heard them, they're actually very good."

"The answer is no. Now watch the concert." Turning, he stared at the stage where three people were singing. His comand earned him at least three groans, but a glance to the girls showed that they were obediantly watching the stage. Glancing at Duo, his statement softened at the way the long-haired boy was stroking Hilde's short hair.

//They like him, no, love him. Even Wufei though he'd never admit it.// Sighing, Heero resigned himself to watching Duo from the corner of his eye as he faced forward. //They all like him. And so do I. He's become a part of our lives, an integral part.//

* * *

It was late, but Duo couldn't sleep. He was thinking about their excursion that evening. Heero had never taken the children anywhere; they'd told him that numerous times. Gazing out his bedroom window, Duo sighed as he stared up at the bright moon. He was glad he was staying. Actually, he could almost thank Hilde for the guilt trip she'd pulled on him since it made it easy for him to stay. His eyes were caught by some movement and he smiled as he recognized the tall form as Trowa. Then his smile faded as he remembered that Quatre hadn't been expecting the boy and he wondered how long Trowa would wait for him. Frowning, Duo pushed up his window with the intentions of going to meet him. Or he would have pushed it up if it had budged.

"I don't believe it," Duo whispered, a grin gracing his face as he leaned close, looking at the bolts holding the window closed. Laughing softly, he had trouble standing for a moment before he reminded himself of Trowa and managed to calm a bit. Throwing on a coat, he opened his door silently, looking up and down the hall before slipping out of the room. Moving quietly down the stairs, he was surprised by how much he disliked the idea of sneaking. It was strange, because he hadn't minded it before, but now it made him feel...dirty somehow. Shoving the thought aside, he unlocked the front door and pulled it open, pausing suddenly.

Duo couldn't actually see them, but he could hear Heero's low voice and his heart dropped as he recognized the furious tone. //Heero...don't...// There was nothing he could do, as he knew going to them would only make the boy angrier. He understood why Heero would be furious that they'd hid their relationship from him, but he worried about how Quatre would react to his having found out. He couldn't help but remember that the lovers planned to elope if Heero found out and he couldn't stand to see the family torn apart. Then his thoughts were interrupted as the voices ceased abruptly and he hurried to get inside, locking the door as he'd found it before racing as quickly and quietly as he could. In the hall, however, he paused as one of the doors opened a crack.


Seeing the pale boy's shimmering eyes, Duo pushed Quatre into his room, shutting the door behind him. "Did you see that?"

"What...what did he say to him?" Quatre demanded, his voice breaking as he bordered between anger and tears. "Trowa just...left. He was supposed to wait for me if this happened, we were supposed to go together."

"I'm sure he'll be back," Duo said weakly.

"You don't understand." Sitting on the edge od his bed, Quatre wrapped his arms around himself. "Trowa's...well, he doubts himself sometimes. He doesn't think he deserves me. That's why he decided to join the army, so he could take care of me." Duo's eyes widened, but Quatre continued quickly, his damp eyes wide. "Only God knows what Heero said to him, Duo. What if...what if he doesn't come back?" His voice breaking, Quatre sobbed suddenly, hiding his face in his hands.

Hurrying to sit beside the boy, Duo pulled him up against him, not knowing how to comfort him. "Quatre, he'll be back. He loves you, remember?"

"I'll run away."

Wincing as he heard the muffled threat, Duo was sure he'd given the boy the idea. "Don't do that. It won't solve anything. Quatre, just let me talk to Heero, okay?"

The blonde boy pulled back sharply, his eyes wide in his pale face. "He won't listen."

"Now we don't know that if I don't try, right? Besides, we don't even know what Heero said to him. Just give me a chance. The worst thing that'll happen is he won't listen to me."

* * *

He was wrong, the worst thing was that he couldn't find him. It was the first time since coming to the house that Heero didn't join them at breakfast and even Zechs and Treiz seemed nervous. Except for Quatre, the others took his absence in stride, talking quietly while they ate and Duo used their sounds as an excuse to move closer to the two men.

"Where's Heero?"

The boy's statement was nervous and Zechs couldn't bring himself to smile. "He's in a really bad mood this morning, Duo. I wouldn't bother him." Duo winced and he raised an eyebrow in curiousity. "If you really have to speak with him, he was outside earlier."

"Got it." Pushing back from the table, Duo didn't allow for hesitation. The prospect of trying to talk sense into an angry Heero wasn't pretty and he knew he could end up hesitating too long if he thought about it. A glance at Quatre's red eyes and he nodded sharply to the children before disappearing out the door. If the boy was outside, Duo had a good guess where he was and he didn't bother to get a coat as he walked out the front door and across the wide lawn. Sure enough, he could see someone sitting on the round bench of the gazebo and he slowed a bit as he walked.

Turning sharply, Heero's glare lessened a bit as he caught sight of Duo. "Why aren't you eating breakfast?"

"Why aren't you?" Duo countered, wondering if the boy would tell him what had happened last night. He doubted it, though, since Heero didn't know he'd already found out about Trowa. "I know you're angry, but sitting by yourself isn't going to help." Heero's eyes narrowed and Duo took a deep breath as he stepped forward and sat on the bench across from the boy. "I guess I never thought you'd take it so badly. I knew about Trowa and Quatre."

Breath quickening at the betrayal, Heero couldn't get past it. "You knew. And you said nothing. You let them meet without telling me?!"

"I didn't think you'd be angry, Heero." Raising his hands, Duo flinched back from the boy's anger. "I honestly didn't. I thought...I thought you'd be happy for them. They were afraid you'd find out, but I never really thought--"

"You didn't think. It's obvious. Why?" Biting back his anger, Heero stood suddenly, arms folded tightly over his chest as he scowled at the seated boy. "Why would you think I'd be happy for them? Do you have any idea...who that boy is? He's a soldier for OZ."

"Is that why you're angry?" Duo asked in surprise. "Then...if he wasn't, would you still be against them?"

"Yes, Damnit!" Duo paled and he flushed despite his anger. "Duo, Quatre is a child, he doesn't know anything about people. I won't have him taken advantage of."

"He's not that young. Boys his age are married and starting families. Besides...they're in love."

"Did Quatre tell you that?" Letting out a soft snort, Heero turned a bit so he could look to the house. "He doesn't know what love is." From the corner of his eye, he could tell the long-haired boy didn't appreciate his opinion as Duo glared suddenly.

"How would you know?" Frowning, Duo found himself getting angry. "You've never seen them together, you don't know how they feel about each other. Heero, when's the last time you talked to Quatre, about anything? He's not a baby, he's a young man. And he's in love."

"He thinks he is." Heero muttered, keeping an eye on the boy's statement as Duo's glare darkened.

"I think so too."

The boy looked so angry and defensive that Heero turned back too him, raising an eyebrow. "And how would you know?" Duo's lips thinned for a second and he knew he'd pushed too hard.

"Because I've seen them. I've watched them together, the way they look at each other like that's all they see. But even if they hadn't told me I'd still have known. I knew the first time I saw them kiss." Duo closed his mouth quickly as Heero stiffened and he wondered if he hadn't just made things worse. The boy was watching him, cobalt eyes narrowed and shining with an intensity that was unnerving.

"Are you saying that because they kissed, that means they're in love?" Duo flushed and looked down. Heero smirked suddenly. "We kissed."

Blushing so dark his cheeks were almost painfully hot, Duo stood quickly. He hadn't actually forgotten about their kiss, but it had been the last thing on his mind and the odd tone to Heero's voice made him feel even more embarrassed. As much as he hated not having helped Quatre, he felt the sudden need to put distance between him and the boy smirking at him. Not looking up, he turned quickly, almost running back to the house. He got all of five feet before his wrist was caught.

Holding the boy's wrist lightly, Heero tugged him back, eyes glinting. "Duo...what does that mean? You said you didn't mind my kissing you, and I sure as--I didn't mind. So tell me," he nudged the boy's chin up as he closed the distance between them. "What does that mean according to your theory of love?" Slipping an arm around the boy's waist, he drew him closer as he looked into Duo's wide eyes. The boy didn't blink, and he slowly brushed his lips over Duo's. It was difficult to stop there, but he wouldn't risk scaring the boy again. "Well?"

"You...bolted my window..."

Heero blinked sharply and he frowned at the boy as it hadn't been the answer he was hoping for. "I'm not taking any chances."

Running the fingertips of one hand over Heero's shoulder, Duo frowned, his voice thoughtful. "Maybe you're right. You're so cold one minute, then you're nice. You order me around, you haven't told me anything about you. I don't even know your middle name. I can't be in love with you. Maybe kissing has nothing to do with love." He didn't push back from Heero as he thought about it, remembering what Relena had said about lust. "I'm young, so is Quatre. Maybe it is just...lust."

"No!" Duo looked up sharply and Heero loosened his suddenly tight hold a bit as he shook his head. "I don't know anything about love, but I know lust. Duo, lust is when you want to touch someone, it's all body and no thought. I admit, lust is there, but there's much more than that. Do you want to know what I feel when I think of you?"

Blushing lightly, Duo shook his head. "I'm not sure..." he said slowly, statement uncertain.

"You're imature," Heero said slowly, smirking when Duo's mouth dropped open, "You do whatever you want. You're naieve to a fault, sometimes I get the feeling you go out of your way to irritate me." The violet-eyed boy was definitely glaring, and he placed his fingers over Duo's lips before he could speak. "You're also beautiful and sweet. You love the children and they obviously love you. I haven't seen them so happy since my parents died. I can't stand thinking of you gone. When I look at you...all I want to do is hold onto you and make you smile." He was smiling now, and Heero nodded sharply, statement very sober. "I love your smile."

"Heero..." Still smiling, Duo's arms moved around the boy's neck as they kissed again, the lightest of touches and he felt a bit of disappointment when Heero broke away much too soon.

"Duo, I can't lose you. Ai shiteru, Duo." Scowling when the violet-eyed boy looked confused, Heero gave a disgruntled look. "That means I love you."

"Oh!" Grinning wildly, Duo pulled the boy to him, burying his face against Heero's neck. "God loves me." Sighing happily, he pressed his lips to the soft skin. "And I love you."

* * *

They were getting married. The actual announcement had taken place as soon as they'd come inside and they'd told their news while the others were still eating breakfast. Needless to say, decorum was broken for the occasion as a shocked silence passed before being quickly replaced with loud talking. The youngest were excited, but they knew the least about adult relationships, so they got over their shock more rapidly than the older ones. Rashid and Quatre were, of course, the best contained as they were older and better acquainted with these sort of things. For the moment, Quatre pushed aside his worries as he allowed himself to simply be happy.

Blushing when Zechs whirled him in a circle, Duo grinned widely, shaking his head. "We haven't set a date yet, we just decided about five minutes ago." A quick glance to Heero showed the Japanese boy was the calmest in the room besides Treiz as they both watched the two long-haired males express their excitement. Heero's statement was softer than Duo was used to, but the smug smile floating on his lips and in his eyes told what he was really feeling. Then he looked away from his new fiancé as he bent to pick Hilde up.

"You're going to be my daddy now?" Hilde asked, her wide eyes shining as she placed her hands on Duo's chest.

"Um, more like an uncle," Duo laughed, glancing at Heero in time to see the boy's smirk. "But your favorite uncle, right?"

Hilde nodded vehemently, "Now you'll never leave!"

"Oh joy," Dorothy said, statement deadpanned.

Duo laughed again when the sweet girl in his arms suddenly glared over her shoulder at Dorothy's smirking face. "Shut up onna!"

"Hilde! Where did you..." Frowning, Quatre turned slowly to stare at Wufei who was studiously ignoring everyone, his arms folded over his chest. "Great, Wufei. That's just great."

Turning, the black-haired boy raised an eyebrow and smirked. "So she's smart, that's nothing to complain about. Hilde has good taste."

"Weakling," Dorothy taunted, edging away from the boy.

"Hey! Stop that right now." Frowning when Heero made a soft sound that sounded suspiciously like a laugh, Duo glared first at Wufei and then Dorothy. "You guys will have plenty of time to argue, just be nice for now, okay?"

"Really, Wufei," Treiz said lightly, smirking as he and Zechs moved to stand beside Duo. "Picking on a woman? Not exactly manly of you, is it?"

"You don't have to stand up for me," Dorothy said quickly, trying to be subtle as she shifted the brown-haired man's gaze to her. Wufei was glaring daggers and looked ready to tackle him. "We'll just fight it out later."

"Well, I wouldn't want either of you getting hurt," Treiz frowned, not exactly pleased at the idea of Wufei fighting the girl. For the last fifteen months he'd been teaching him how to fence and his honor told him it was wrong for a man to fight the weaker sex. If something had caused the boy to change his views, Treiz wondered if he actually enjoyed fighting the girl. "Do you fight often?" He couldn't imagine what would lead the proud boy to attack his own sister unless he intended to defeat her and thereby shut her up. That, or he'd found that being female didn't necessarily equate to being weak.

"Sure," Dorothy said proudly, folding her arms over her chest and adopting a stance identical to Wufei's, although she didn't know it. "As long as no one leaves a mark or...seriously injures the other, it's all right."

Listening to them, Duo grinned as he heard his own words repeated. He was surprised when he'd caught the two wrestling on the lawn after that first excursion, but he'd found that they continue to follow his rules. Blinking when Quatre caught his gaze, Duo set Hilde on her feet and moved to talk to the boy, grateful that Heero seemed interested in what Dorothy was saying. When he reached the blonde boy, he noticed that Rashid immediately moved to the others and struck up a conversation, diverting Heero's attention further.

"I talked to him a little," Duo said in an apologetic tone, "but...I kinda got sidetracked. I promise, though, just give me some time to wear him down."

"It's all right," Quatre smiled, stepping forward and giving Duo a warm hug. "I understand completely. You look just like I felt the first time Trowa told me he loved me. I can wait." Sighing, the boy moved back and gave a sad smile. "I think it would be better to wait until things settle down, then I want to talk to Heero myself." Duo looked like he would argue, but he beat him to it. "Once you two are married, I'm sure Heero will understand more about how I feel about Trowa. You know, I think you're the first person he's really liked. I don't mind the wait."

"Are you sure?" Duo asked uncertainly. "It could be a while before we actually get married."

"I doubt it. I don't think Heero's that patient." Smiling when Duo looked confused, Quatre shrugged. "I'd wait forever for Trowa."


With his back to Heero, Duo gave the pale boy a quick, playful grimace before turning to smile at his fiancé. "You called?" Quatre smiled again at him, and moved to stand near Zechs, joining in their discussion and laughing at something Hilde said.

"I want to make a trip to the church." Duo made a face and he stepped forward, placing his hands on the boy's shoulders. "I know you're not eager to see them, but I'm not hiding anything. Besides, I need to know if they give their permission for the wedding."

"What if they don't?" Duo asked, tilting his head curiously. He knew Une wouldn't argue and he guessed that she might even be happy although he was sure she'd hide it. Still, he wondered what Heero would do if they refused.

"Then we go to a different church." His eyes narrowed when Duo smiled, but he didn't ask about it. "I want to go now."

"What's the rush? I mean, we could wait until lunch, go later in the afternoon." It wasn't like him to procrastinate as he believed chores should be done quickly so there was more time for fun things, but Duo wasn't looking forward to a lecture. Not about the wedding, but about his running away. He'd been grateful that Treiz and Zechs had gone in his stead to tell Une that he was safe, and he knew he deserved a lecture for being too cowardly to face the music himself. Looking at Heero's blank face, Duo sighed. "Okay, let's go."

Smirking suddenly, Heero took the boy's arm as he turned and caught Zechs's eye, waiting until the man had quieted things before speaking. "We're going to the church to tell them about the wedding. We'll be back later."

"Good luck," Zechs said, smirking when Treiz snorted. "That woman doesn't like you much, Heero."

"I know."

* * *

"You've gone insane, there's no other explanation." statement carefully guarded, Une watched Duo scuff one foot on the floor of her office, waiting for him to look up. She didn't so much as glance at the stiff-backed boy standing beside him. "First I find out you ran off, leaving your assigned post, and now you're not only leaving the order, you're getting married. To him."

Wincing at the emphasis she put on the last word, Duo glanced at Heero before meeting Une's eyes. "Well, you remember how you said you wanted me to go so I'd know for sure if being a priest was what I wanted? See, that's what I did and I found out that I'm not...priest material." The woman snorted and glanced to Noin who stood beside her, a hand covering her mouth. Looking at her for a minute, Duo relaxed a bit as he realized she was hiding either a smile or a smirk.

"Duo, this boy is the first person you've had contact with in years. I worry that you're jumping into this decision without testing the waters first. If you don't want to be a priest, I support you in that, but you have other options. You don't have to marry the first person you meet." Judging her words carefully, Une knew the moment Heero realized what she was saying and she nearly smiled at the look of angered outrage that flitted across his face. She knew that Duo wouldn't dream of marrying if it wasn't for love, but she didn't know Heero.

"He's marrying me," Heero said slowly, voice cold as he stared into the woman's brown eyes. He'd definitely understood what she was hinting at and he couldn't get the image of Duo kissing other men until he found the one he liked best out of his mind. He knew where she was coming from, but it was unwarranted. As unworldly as the American was, Heero didn't think Duo had fallen for him just because he was the first to come along. "If you have any specific reasons to object, state them clearly."

"All right. Duo, you are the most carefree person to step foot inside these walls. That's one of the reasons I sent you to work with Captain Yuy's family in the first place as the notice said they were very disciplined. I can't see you being happy leading a disciplined life." Watching Duo, she saw Noin nod and waited to hear what the boy would say.

Flushing slightly, Duo glanced at Heero before smiling at the black-garbed woman. "I don't have to be disciplined. Heero loves me the way that I am." The boy beside him nodded sharply and he barely kept from grinning at the warmth that spread through him. "So I want to get married. I thought you'd be more...well no, not lenient...um, happy?"

The boy turned uncertain abruptly and Une dropped the act as Noin laid a light hand on her shoulder. "I am, Duo, I am. I just don't want you rushing into something you'll regret. But if you're certain you want to marry this young man, then yes, I'm happy for you. It'll be a fine wedding."

"I bet you'll look wonderful in white," Noin said, her hand dropping as she no longer hid her smile. "Although I always thought black was your color."

"Well, shall we discus the wedding then?" Une asked, her eyes leaving Duo as she looked to the intense boy standing beside him. It was true that she had become rather protective of the lively American, but she couldn't forget how concerned the dark-haired boy had been when he'd come to the church searching for him. "I assume you'll want to negotiate an appropriate dowry."

"No, all I want is Duo. I have enough money." Glancing to his left when Duo sighed, he smirked at the very pleased smile over that lovely face. "As for the wedding, we want to marry as soon as possible."

"Why are you in such a hurry?" Duo asked suddenly, frowning at Heero. He liked the fact that the boy was eager to wed him, but he couldn't help wonder why he was so rushed. "I'm not going to change my mind if that's what you're afraid of."

Heero continued to stare at Une and he could tell that despite her chaste life as a nun, she knew about life as she smirked at him. "How soon can it be done?"

Glancing at Noin, Une's eyes shone as the woman was blushing lightly. "I think a week is about right. That'll be enough time to get the proper forms and there'll still be time for either of you to change your mind. Not that I expect you will." Duo shook his head firmly and Heero didn't so much as blink. "All right." She stood slowly, motioning for the long-haired boy to come to her side. He did so with obvious reluctance and wary eyes, but she simply smiled and hugged him suddenly, causing him to blush bright red. "We'll miss you."

* * *

The wedding wasn't going to be held at the Maxwell Church since it was more of a monastery than an actual chapel. Instead, they made plans for a larger establishment, one with enough room for all of the children to take part in the ceremony. Since Duo didn't invite anyone beside the nuns, Heero left his acquaintances out of it. He hadn't wanted them to come anyway, and with the children being his only family, there were no isles of guests. Witnesses were required, however, and Zechs and Treiz were more than happy to oblige as they made plans to sit on Heero's side of the church opposite Une and Noin. While it wasn't often that she left her sanctuary, Une had agreed to go, not wanting to miss it anyway and Noin naturally went as well.

Leaving the children to decide the colors of the wedding, Duo had quickly realized his mistake as they'd barely gotten the re-designed outfits done in time. Yet the finished product was nothing to scoff at as he made certain each child looked his and her best. He did, in fact, spend more time on their clothing than he did on his own outfit, but he'd never been much on appearances. Luckily, Quatre must have spent a lot of time around Zechs because the boy seemed to know everything about the current style and where to get the best in men's attire. Duo had been at a loss as to which colors to choose that wouldn't clash, especially since his favorite color was automatically ruled out. His suggestion was a common joke during the long week as he was reminded again and again that it was unlucky to wear black to a wedding and that he had to wear white whether he liked it or not.

Duo had never been to a wedding, and he'd been more than a little irritated when he was informed that only the one's getting married were allowed to wear white. Zechs should have been more polite when he told him, however, as Duo had been rather angry. Still, he knew the children were very excited about the wedding and he didn't want to ruin it by breaking any taboos. The fact that Heero could have cared less what colors the children wore didn't help either, but Duo took one of the comments he threw out to heart and went about planning the colors with a better mood.

In the end, no one was unhappy. The girls wore long dresses of varying shades of lavender, the lightest, of course, went to Hilde and Duo made certain her dress abounded in ruffles. She seemed to have a fetish for ruffles and he knew she'd look adorable in them. Since Treiz had offered to take pictures, he made sure the dresses were perfect. This meant they were modeled according to each girl's preferences and he was glad they knew what they liked. He didn't want them all to wear the same type and while Zechs was quick to inform him that it was customary, he'd kindly ignored him. So Sally got the ruffle-free, short sleeved dress she wanted and Catherine wore a wore a dress with a wide skirt and a line of ruffles at the bottom and around the neck. As much as it surprised him, Duo even saw to it that Dorothy had a dress that was rather different from the others. With a more narrow skirt and an elegant bodice, it made her look much older and more feminine than he'd imagined she could look. While she was defensive about it, he could tell she wanted to look mature and he did nothing to hinder her. She was growing up.

The boys were also dressed in purple, but theirs were much darker. Zechs had fought diligently to explain that the color was too close to black, but Duo wouldn't listen. He knew what black was and it wasn't purple. Besides, there was no way he'd get Wufei to wear some light, pastel color. He knew the boy would have been at ease in white, but that had been denied so he did what he could. As with the girls, he wanted them to wear clothing that they liked, things they chose themselves. So he was satisfied with the simple outfit Rashid wore, defending it when Zechs complained that the boy's vest wasn't formal enough. It looked good, and it suited him. While he thought the outfit would have been better if the shirt had been white, he was still pleased with the way the boy looked. Quatre, of course, looked wonderful and his simple suit was used as an example by the white-haired man as to how people should dress for weddings. Zechs eventually gave up, as he didn't even try to change what Wufei chose, moaning when he found the boy was going to wear a simple loose, long-sleeved shirt and pants set. He wouldn't even tuck in the shirt and the tall man hid from the sight, not listening when Duo said it looked nice. As far as he was concerned, they were all hopeless with no fashion sense. Treiz, of course, agreed with him but he was biased as he enjoyed the fancy way his pale-haired lover chose to dress.

The most difficult part of the preparations regarded Duo who, as the only one of the two being married who cared to dress up, was to wear something wonderful. Having seen the boys' outfits, Heero had decided to wear a simple-cut suit of the same color and nothing anyone said would change his mind. Of course, Duo didn't try to change his mind as he liked the way the cobalt-eyed boy looked in the dark color. As for himself, he had planned to let Quatre and Zechs plan his outfit, but he quickly discarded the idea when he found himself dressed in an outrageously fancy white...outfit. He couldn't call it a suit and he didn't know what to say about it that wouldn't hurt the two's feelings. Instead, he admitted that he had other ideas in mind and they helped him find something that he happier with. They eventually reached a compromise that consisted of a ruffle-free shirt and pants. The coat was Zechs's contribution as it practically reached the floor and made the boy seem taller somehow rather than shorter as long coats usually do.

So much time was spent on the clothing, that it was a day before the wedding when Treiz inquired how the boy would wear his hair. What resulted was close to panic on Duo's part as he had trouble keeping the two fashion-crazed males away from him. He knew his customary braid was hardly appropriate, but the intricate styles they wove his hair into all seemed to have been made for women. In fact, Zechs admitted that there weren't any styles for men with hair as long as Duo's. As luck would have it, Quatre had a solution that even Duo could live with and Zechs was satisfied with the boy's choice. It seemed that the boy was interested in other cultures and having seen the types of veils women wore, Quatre quickly described a head-dress that was similar yet suited for a man. In fact, the transparent cloth was sewn to match the styles worn by Arabian men, and while it was lengthened so it would cover the boy's long hair, the front remained untouched so Duo's dark bangs showed where the headpiece ended.

The wedding itself was anticlimactic for Duo, as he watched the children file down the carpeted isle, so pretty in their finery. He'd expected more from the fuss made over the preparations, and it wasn't until it was his turn that he felt the beginnings of a nervous flutter in his stomach. Maybe it was the way Heero's eyes seemed to glow as he walked to him, but he found his hands trying to shake and it was difficult to hold the flowers Quatre had given him. Then he was standing next to Heero and his sudden apprehensions melted away as the intense boy actually smiled a bit. Repeating the vows was suddenly easy and he grew impatient as he could feel the boy standing next to him radiating intensity. Somehow, he kept from sighing or shuffling and the ending came as a surprise.

Turning to face Duo, Heero slowly pulled the boy to him, wrapping his arms around his waist. Resplendent in white, the boy beamed and his violet eyes closed as their lips touched in a slow kiss.

* * *

They left immediately after the wedding, traveling by car through the countryside until they reached the cabin. A simple place in Treiz's home country, it was perfect for the newly-wedded couple as neither had wanted anything fancy. Even the drive was their choice as they'd chosen to take their time, most of it spent in silence. It took hours, but Heero wasn't the least bit tired and he enjoyed the way Duo rested against him. The boy had been up late hours during the past week and he was glad he could get some rest. As he'd expected, the normally talkative boy had gotten quiet the moment they left the church behind and he was obviously nervous. Heero wasn't sure what the best way to handle him was, but there was supposed to be enough food in the cabin to last two weeks and he thought if he distracted his husband, the rest would follow naturally.

When they got there, Duo smiled and sat up slowly, hopping out of the car as he looked around. As Heero had warned, it was a simple cabin and the forest hadn't been culled back too far, so it seemed to surround the small building. Cozy was the word that came to mind, and Duo didn't hesitate when the boy opened the door, asking if he was going to come in. He was still feeling jittery, but he wasn't the most calm person on normal days, so he didn't worry about it too much. The cabin was almost quaint compared to Heero's home, but the few pieces of furniture were hand-crafted and looked comfortable. There was even a small alcove that had been made into a kitchen and Duo moved toward the refridgerator with a small smile to Heero.

"I'm starving," Duo said, his eyes widening when he saw how much food was piled into the refridgerator. "Wow, how long are we staying again?"

Smirking, Heero shut the door and moved to stand next to the boy. "I guess they went all out. Treiz got the cabin, but Zechs took care of the food."

"Does he ever do anything without being so...extravagant?" Duo asked, still staring at the different dishes as he tried to figure out what was in them without opening them. Finally, he simply grabbed two and carried them to the table. "Are you feeling picky?" Heero raised an eyebrow and he grinned as he peeked under the lid of a large pan. "Well, this is some kind of meat...thing, but I don't know what this stuff is." He frowned, peering warily at the pinkish-melon colored substance in the bowl.

Joining the boy, Heero smirked as he looked over the food and pointed at the pink stuff. "That's mashed potatoes." Duo continued to stare at it, an eyebrow raised. "Really. I think there's cheese or something that they mix in with it. It's not bad tasting." Looking to the pan, he nodded. "You'll like that. I don't know the name for it, but it has beef and vegetables. It's good and it shouldn't be hard to reheat."

"Okay," Duo smiled. "As long as there are pans," he took one off a hook over the stove and set it on one of the burners before picking up the bowl. "I think I can reheat this without burning anything. Though I have to admit, it's been a while since I've cooked."

Lifting the large pan, Heero joined him at the stove. "I've never cooked anything besides simple things. I'm not picky about food. That's why I never cared what the food I eat is called." It was strange to be talking for the sake of talking, but he found that it wasn't difficult. Especially since Duo smiled at his words.

"That's okay. When I first ate with you guys, I didn't recognize half the food." Stirring as he spoke, Duo marvelled at how nice it was to be cooking with the cobalt-eyed boy. Already, Heero had said more than he usually did in an hour and rather than question it, he decided to take advantage of it. "I was wondering, what do you plan to do?"

"About what?"

"I don't know, in general. Zechs told me you were a mercanary but that you didn't fight any more. What do you plan to do now?"

"I haven't decided," Heero said slowly. Inside, he fumed at Zechs for his mouth and vowed to have a talk with the man. It wasn't that he didn't want Duo to know about his past, but the word mercenary had bad connotations to it. While most were appropriate, he didn't like the thought of the long-haired boy seeing him in such a bad light. "With the money my parents left us, I don't actually have to work. I just...didn't like not doing anything. It seems wrong not to have to work for things."

"I see. I thought maybe you worked so you wouldn't have to spend time with the children." Heero looked up sharply, and Duo met his gaze evenly. "I know you care about them, but they probably reminded you of your responsibility. And your parents."

"I...don't know how you can know so much."

Smiling, Duo put an arm around the dark-haired boy's shoulders, leaning over as he pressed a quick kiss to Heero's cheek. "I'm wise for my age, aren't I?" Smirking, he looked to the food and took the pan off the burner. "No, I just notice things. Plus the children tell me a lot. Is that done yet?"

Heero nodded as he turned off the stove and got two plates out of the cabinet. Getting some food, they sat at the table and ate in relative silence.

* * *

"You know, I promised Quatre I'd talk to you about Trowa."

"Now?" Frowning, Heero stared at the table a minute before sighing. Having finished their dinner, they'd been sitting in silence for the past ten minutes and he was enjoying simply watching the boy.

"Come on, Heero, you know me. I'm not used to being quiet. Anyway, why not now? We're not doing anything, besides, I figure you're going to get angry and I'd rather it be now and not tommorow."

"I'm not going to get angry," Heero said slowly, "but I don't think you're going to change my mind. I've been watching Quatre this last week and I've made up my mind about him." Glaring suddenly, Heero dropped his eyes to the clean tabletop. "Do you know Rashid is almost as old as I am? And Quatre...I really didn't notice how much they've all aged."


"You don't have to fight Quatre's battle for him, Duo. When we get back I plan to talk to him myself."

"Oh, I was just..." Smiling, Duo shrugged. "I'll leave you alone about it, but be warned. If I don't like what you decide, you'll never hear the end of it." Heero raised an eyebrow and he grinned. "Hey, at least I'm honest, right?"

"Yes." The boy seemed at ease and Heero wondered if now wasn't the best time to approach him. Admittedly eager, he didn't want to rush the boy and he was willing to wait if necessary. Still, Duo was generally outspoken and Heero wondered if the direct approach wouldn't be best. Standing, he walked around the table and leaned against it as he looked down at Duo. "Are you ready for bed?"

"Huh? I'm not tired." Blinking when Heero flashed one of his rare smiles, Duo frowned.

"Good." Leaning down, Heero brushed his mouth over Duo's lips, wetting them with the tip of his tongue. "Come to bed with me?"

"Okay..." Smiling tentatively, Duo stood. Then he laughed when Heero suddenly bent and lifted him into his arms. "This is nice, I could get used to this."

Relieved by the boy's happy statement, Heero carried him into the cabin's only bedroom, pushing the door shut out of habit. Crossing, he was pleased the bed was made and he sat on it, holding Duo on his lap as he kissed him again. Running his tongue over the boy's soft lips, he felt his previous impatience melt away and he sighed when Duo's arms moved around his neck as the boy opened his mouth. He tasted so sweet, reminiscent of the glass of wine they'd had with dinner and he explored the boy's mouth slowly. With one arm around the boy's waist, he trailed his other up Duo's shoulder, following the curve of his arm to where his hands were behind Heero's neck. Undoing the cuffs of Duo's long sleeves, he reached down and lifted him into his arms again as he released his mouth.

Looking up at Heero with passion-glazed eyes, Duo sighed as he rested his cheek against his husband's chest. Any fear he might have had was soothed away when the boy kissed his forehead, gentle fingers brushing his bangs away from his eyes. Pulling back the blankets, Heero laid the boy onto the soft bed, stretching out beside him before covering them both. As much as he wanted to see what he was doing, he knew there'd be plenty of time to overcome any of Duo's shyness and he was patient. "You were beautiful today," he said softly, framing the boy's heart-shaped face with his hands as he kissed the boy's mouth lightly. With a sigh, Duo's gave entrance to him, his arms moving around him again as the boy kissed him back with tentative yet alluring brushes of his tongue.

Unbuttoning the boy's shirt as he kissed him, Heero slowly pushed it back, lifting his head so he could see the smooth skin he uncovered. His eyes blazed and he ducked his head, brushing his mouth over the boy's exposed neck as his hands ran back to the boy's shoulders. Lifting Duo's back off the bed, he kissed his lips as he took one of the boy's hands and slid the shirt off, the violet-eyed boy paying attention as he was lowered again. Blushing at the way Heero's cobalt eyes moved over him, Duo sighed when he was kissed yet again. Then he felt palms running over his chest and he shivered slightly, his eyes snapping open when they paused, fingers circling his nipples.

Nudging Duo's chin up with his forehead, Heero sighed against the boy's neck. "I've wanted to do this since the first time I saw you in that blasted tank-top. I knew your skin would be so soft." A glance to the boy's flushed face showed his embarrassment, but his lips were curled in a small smile and Heero pinched the boy's nipples lightly, rewarded with a startled statement and a small gasp. Lowering his head, Heero took a detour into Duo's mouth before trailing his lips back to the boy's neck. Moving downward, brushed his tongue over Duo's right nipple, sucking on it as the boy flinched beneath him and gave another gasping cry. He braced himself with one hand, his tongue circling the other nub as his hands massaged the light muscles of the American's flat stomach. His fingers undid the clasp to Duo's pants and he paused as he saw those violet eyes close, the boy's cheeks darker than ever from his blush.

"Duo?" Lifting his head, he brushed a soft kiss over those parted lips, watching as Duo slowly looked up at him. "Let me love you? You're so beautiful, koi."

"Heero..." Eyes widening at the soft quality to the boy's voice, Duo sighed. "I'm yours," he whispered, kissing Heero's chin, "You're my husband."

Lifting the boy's hips as he pushed down the last of the boy's clothing, Heero paused to kiss him again, "There's no need for embarassment, Duo. Everything about you is beautiful."

Despite his words, Duo couldn't stop his blush as the boy's hot eyes moved over him and he distracted himself as he realized Heero was still dressed. "Aren't you going to..." Blinking, he touched the boy's chest lightly, pulling at his shirt and he gave a small smile when Heero immediately removed it. Following the curve of the boy's neck, he flushed as he gazed at him, not sure why the sight affected him so.

With slow movements, Heero undid his pants and pushed them down, pausing as Duo stared at him with wide eyes. For a moment, the boy didn't move then he jerked and his eyes flew away quickly causing Heero to give a tiny smile as he pulled the covers up again and kissed him. "I love you," he whispered, watching those averted eyes until they returned to him.

Sighing blissfully, Duo gave a small smile as he shook his head. "I'll never tire of hearing you say that."

"I'll say it often then," Heero murmered, letting his hand travel down the boy until his fingers touched his length lightly and Duo gasped. Curling his fingers around the soft skin, he carressed it in a slow stroke, the long-haired boy pushing up against him with very wide eyes. Tightening his hold as he felt the boy harden, his own body reacted similarly and he leaned forward, mouth next to Duo's ear. "Do you like this? I don't want to do anything wrong, so tell me if you don't like it." The boy was silent, but he gave a breathless nod when their eyes met, causing Heero to give in to a pleased smirk. Speeding his movements a bit, he let the boy's low moan flow over him, loving the knowledge that he was responsible for it. He didn't pause as he kissed the boy's chest and his hand closed over him when he came with a shocked cry, violet eyes so wide they seemed to fill his face.

"It's all right," Heero whispered, kissing the boy as he used the slick evidence of the boy's pleasure to prepare him. "This might hurt a little." Duo jerked as he slid a finger into him, and he paused as he kissed away the boy's aprehensions. Then he moved again and the boy gasped as he found the right spot, leading him to carress it until the violet-eyed American gave a thick moan. Taking his time, he widened the boy carefully, not proceeding until Duo arched up against him. Withdrawing his fingers, he pushed into him, letting out a muffled moan as he was sheathed in exquisite tightness and he halted. Duo's small whimper tore at his heart and he kissed his closed eyes, "It will...get better," he whispered, wincing at the way the boy tightened around him as he adjusted, "I promise..." Duo nodded and he closed his hand around the boy's length, stroking it quickly until the boy moaned.

With painful slowness, he pushed into him further until he was embedded in the boy and he lifted Duo's hips as he pressed against him, touching the right spot. Gasping roughly, the long-haired boy blinked at Heero then suddenly lifted his head as he pressed their mouths together. Kissing him, Heero moved, pulling out of him a bit before entering him again. Duo's head moved back against the bed and he bent to taste the smooth neck curved beneath him as he looked over the boy's closed eyes, watching for any sign of pain before he moved. Withdrawing again, he was more forceful as the boy's hips rose to meet him and they fell into the ancient art of love-making as they moved together.

This was what he'd imagined heaven to be, and while their movements caused a slow uncomfortable burn, each time Heero filled him he was consumed in an exquisite fire. Thought fell back as Duo felt lips move over his and he opened his mouth, looking into Heero's beautiful eyes. Moaning into the boy's mouth, he closed his eyes as the pleasure overwhelmed him, seeming to increase without bounds.

They came together, their moans muffled by their kiss and Heero pulled the boy up against him as he slowly calmed. With exhausted eyes, he gazed at Duo's flushed face, brushing his lips over the boy's cheeks before carressing his mouth gently. "Ai shiteru Duo, zutto." A sigh was his only response, but he smiled at the pleased note in it and held Duo close, content with the boy in his arms. Pressing a kiss to the head hidden against his neck, his eyes closed as Duo curled against him.

* * *

"Bastard." Treiz glared out the window as he watched the man walk to his car. "What does he plan to accomplish? Coming here while Heero's gone. As if we'd tell them where he went."

"We probably should get in touch with him," Zechs muttered, arms folded over his chest as he sat behind Heero's desk. "I know he'd want to know but..."

"It's his honeymoon. We'll just keep them at bay until he returns. The real problem is keeping this from the children. They don't need to worry about this, not now." Turning, Treiz frowned. "Rashid notices everything, he's been asking questions."

"Oh, you can tell him, just make sure the others don't get wind of it. I don't think there's any reason to worry just yet, though. OZ knows Heero just got married, they'll be expecting him to be gone for a while." In fact, it had been less than a week since the wedding, but that meant Heero would be back within another week. As much as he tried to act otherwise, he was worried too. The soldiers who accompanied the general had sent threatening glances around, not caring if their gaze fell on one of the men or a passing child.

"Zechs, that's easier said than done. They've seen Tuberov, he's come every day, four days straight. They don't have anything to do, it's natural for them to be curious. What we need is something to keep them occupied. And I have just the thing." Smiling wryly, Treiz nodded when the blonde man raised an eyebrow. "We'll enter them into the contest."

"You know Heero said no to that," Zechs reminded him, smirking. "Let me guess, you'd already signed them up when you meantioned it, hadn't you."


* * *

"Quatre?" Knocking very lightly, Wufei's black eyes scanned the hall, watching for Zechs or Treiz. That would be all he needed. While he normally enjoyed teasing his brother about his secret boyfriend, he'd given it up as Quatre had become retidient since Heero and Duo's departure. He knew there hadn't been any more midnight meetings and he'd taken to keeping a watch out just in case. As much as he liked to tease the boy, he didn't like seeing Quatre so depressed. Turning the doorknob, he sighed in relief as he found the door unlocked and he entered the room quietly.

Slipping across the room silently, he leaned over the bed, placing a hand over the blonde boy's mouth. "It's me." Wide eyes glinted in the dark and he didn't let go until the boy nodded. "Quatre, Trowa's outside."

Gasping, Quatre sat up quickly, only pausing to put on his shoes and throw on a coat. "Thank you, Wufei. Really." The black-haired boy nodded slowly, watching as he pushed up his window and climbed out. He'd scaled the tressle so many times it might as well have been a ladder and he was on the ground in seconds. Looking around, he couldn't see anyone and he didn't wait as he nearly ran to the gazebo. As he got nearer, he could see the all shadow and he smiled as he recognized the boy, pausing in the doorway. "Trowa," he said a little out of breath, "I was afraid you wouldn't come back."

Turning slowly, Trowa's eyes moved over the boy and he flinched when Quatre wrapped his arms around him and pressed his face to his chest. He couldn't stop his hands from touching the boy's back as he lowered his head, breathing into the boy's soft blonde hair.

Stepping back a bit, Quatre looked up at the green-eyed boy sadly, taking in his seemingly emotionless statement. "Trowa, I'm so sorry about Heero. I don't know what he said to you, but--"

"It doesn't matter." Releasing the boy, Trowa stepped back sharply, eyes narrowing as he gazed over Quatre's shoulder. "That's not why I'm here. OZ is planning to force your brother to fight for them. They plan to get him as soon as he comes back. I just came to warn you."

"Thank you, Trowa, but why did you wait so long to come see me? I've missed you. I was beginning to think you didn't...that is..."

"Quatre..." Closing his eyes, Trowa turned suddenly. "I have to go now."

"What? Why? You just got here." Eyes widening, Quatre caught him quickly. "Trowa, what's wrong?" Staring up at him, he could feel the muscles under his hand tensing as he held the tall boy's arm. Trowa hadn't looked at him, his green eyes directed straight forward, but Quatre could see that his jaw was clenched. "Please, tell me? Whatever he said, you know I love you."

"I don't--" Meeting the boy's wide eyes, Trowa stopped. He simply couldn't lie to the boy. "We can't see each other anymore." He tried to leave, but Quatre grabbed his arm in a surprisingly strong grip and he closed his eyes against the pain that surged through him. "It's over, Quatre."

"No! You don't mean that, I know you don't. Trowa, we talked about this, remember?" His breath caught in his throat and he shoved it down as he jerked on the boy's arm. "Forget whatever he said, he doesn't know you." Trowa pulled away from him and he blinked back tears as the boy turned, glaring at him. "Trowa..."

"He was right. He didn't say anything that wasn't true." Letting out a slow breath, Trowa tore his eyes away from the boy's pale face, unable to look at him. "It's over."

"It can't be," Quatre whispered, shaking his head. "I won't let it be. We were supposed to run away if this happened. You said...you wouldn't leave me."

"I lied." He didn't glance back as he left the shelter of the gazebo and his pace was steady as he crossed the lawn. He should have run, as the boy caught his arm again.

"You can't! I won't let you." Gasping, Quatre held on when the boy tried to pull away. "Trowa please? You promised you'd--"

"Let go!" Ripping his arm away, he choked as the blonde boy was knocked to the ground, watching tears slip down from his pale blue-green eyes as Quatre stared at him in disbelief. "Qua--" Closing his mouth, he turned and ran, knowing he couldn't stand there and watch the boy cry.

"Trowa!?" His vision blurred as the boy disappeared from sight and he moaned, a hand clenching over his burning chest. "Trowa...don't. Don't go..." The boy was gone, but it didn't matter as he clamped another hand over his heart, gasping from the pain. "Oh God--don't go! Come back...please..." Sobbing roughly, he choked as his throat closed on him, "D-don't leave me...please don't leave me..."

* * *

Stopping the car, Heero moved to open Duo's door for him as he'd found it made the boy blush. Eyes glinting warmly, he left the car for the valet and followed him toward the house. Then he halted abruptly as his eyes fell on the banner hung over the door. Passing Duo, who'd halted as well, he grabbed the end of the cloth and ripped it down, wadding it up as he entered the house. Once inside, he handed the wadded cloth to one of the servants and shoved the anger from his mind as the children converged on him and Duo. To his surprise, he found himself being hugged by Sally of all people.

Kneeling, Duo spread his arms as he was nearly knocked over by Hilde and Catherine. Laughing, he picked them up, a bit unsteady from the weight, but it was worth it from the way they giggled. "Did you miss me?"

"No," Catherine grinned, laughing when Duo acted like he was going to drop her.

"Yes! I missed you." With her arm around his neck, Hilde placed sloppy kisses on his cheek.

Not sure how to react, Heero blinked at the brown-haired girl as she let him go and smiled. "Are you all right?"

Still smiling, Sally nodded and moved to Duo who'd set the two girls down. "Hi, Duo. I'm glad you're back."

Heero continued to stare at her for a minute, then he turned as the sound of steps echoed through the hall and he spotted Zechs and Treiz near the stairs. Remembering the banner, his eyes narrowed and he nodded to Duo before crossing to the two men. "We have to talk," he said, softly so the others wouldn't hear. He didn't want to ruin their reunion although he noticed that the eldest four were absent. The two men glanced at each other and nodded before turning. Together, they moved to his office.

"Duo?" Leaning over the balcony, Dorothy smiled a bit, then glanced around. "Come up stairs, okay?"

"Sure." Holding Hilde's hand, he followed the girls upstairs, his eyes widening when he spotted Wufei and Rashid standing behind Dorothy. "What's wrong, guys? You look like someone died."

Snorting, Dorothy glared when Wufei smacked the back of her head lightly. "Well, he might as well have," she said defensively, rubbing her head. Looking to Duo, she waved him toward the hall. "Quatre hasn't come out of his room in days."

"I found him outside," Wufei said slowly, staring at the floor. He blamed himself for having told the blonde boy since he probably would never have found out if he hadn't. "I don't know what happened, but he was crying."

"Okay." Patting Hilde's head, Duo let her go and passed the others as he went to Quatre's door. Not receiving an answer when he knocked, he tried again, harder. "Quatre? Let me in?" He sighed when he heard movement, but his relief gave way to concern when the boy opened the door, his red-rimmed eyes wide in his pale face. "Oh Quatre..." Moving into the room, shutting the door firmly as he watched the boy sit down on the bed, crossing his legs under him. "What happened?" he asked softly, joining him.

"I don't know," Quatre said softly, shaking his head as he looked at his folded hands. "I must have done something..." Duo put an arm around him and he hugged the boy hard. "Trowa doesn't want me anymore."

"Tell me what happened, Quatre, specifically."

"He said he came to warn me about OZ." Stopping, Quatre realized the message was more important than his problem. "They want Heero to fight for them, a general's been coming here almost every day since you left."

As much as the boy's news worried him, Duo knew Heero had probably already found out. "Then what happened?" he asked, "After he warned you."

"He just left," Quatre said dully. He'd stopped crying days ago and while the pain was still fresh in his mind, he couldn't pay it much attention. "I thought he was hurt or angry by whatever Heero said to him, but that wasn't it. He just doesn't care about me anymore. He left without me."

"I don't believe it." Shaking his head, Duo stood and frowned at Quatre's surprised statement. "You haven't given up, have you?"

"What else can I do?"

"I...actually," Duo admitted sadly, shaking his head, "I don't know. But you shouldn't just give up. Maybe if we could talk to him."

"Please don't," Quatre pleaded, eyes wide. "I just want to forget. I can't go through that again...it hurt too much."

Sighing, Duo pulled the boy to him, hugging him lightly. "I'm so sorry, Quatre."

* * *

"What the hell is going on?" Heero demanded the moment the he stepped into the office and had closed the door. "Would one of you like to explain to me why there was an OZ banner over my door?"

"I'm sorry Heero," Zechs said, watching the boy sit down behind the desk. "Tuberov showed up here not two hours after you left. It seems OZ is widening its rule in this country and their fame and popularity will grow if they have the Yuy name on their side."

"We had to put the flag up," Treiz said, "because they threatened the children if we didn't."

"What?!" Cobalt eyes narrowed to slits, Heero growled softly. "I'll kill him..."

"When he comes he brings no less than ten soldiers. A fight here is just going to put them at risk. Luckily," Zechs hurried to add, raising a hand so Heero wouldn't destroy anything, "He always comes at the same time. If we're gone by then, he just seeks us out wherever we are."

"Gone? Where have you been going?"

"It doesn't matter," Treiz said quickly, "We simply kept the children out in public places where there were plenty of witnesses. That way we didn't have to worry about him trying anything. More important is where do you want to go? You can't stay here. Tuberov plans to take you into custody as soon as you get back, and you're back."

"You have a suggestion." It wasn't a question as he knew the man too well to miss the fact that he was holding something.

"Come home with me," Treiz said, nodding to Zechs. "As you know, my country isn't involved in this war and we've the capabilities to stay uninvolved. You know we can keep the children safe. It's the only thing I can think of."

"Fine. I'll have Duo get the children ready." Moving fast, Heero paused at the door. "When does he show up?"

"At six," Zechs said quickly, "But don't worry. If he gets here sooner we have a back-up plan."

Staring at the faint quirk at the corner of Treiz's mouth, Heero's eyes narrowed. "I'll bet you do."

* * *

The news was a harsh blow, coming on what should have been a happy day. This was added to the fact that they were planning to leave the only home they'd ever known, so the children were in very dark moods. Yet there was an underlining of excitement that Duo did his best to feed as he convinced the youngest ones that it was an adventure they were embarking on. As they had little more than an hour, they didn't pack anything, getting the children dressed in travel clothes only too keep them occupied. Heero and Zechs were busy getting all of the cash they had on hand and arming themselves although they had no intention of letting the children know. Not wasting any time, they piled into two cars, half in each. But they were stopped before they made it through the gates.

Recognizing the uniforms, Heero and Treiz got out of the cars, Zechs joining them as they waited for Tuberov to reach them.

"Going somewhere?" Eyes glinting, the man stepped forward. "Heero Yuy, it's nice to see you've finally come back. But where are you off to? And with the whole family?" Heero glared and he gestured toward the soldiers. "It's time to go, Yuy. I'm sure you've been told why I'm here."

"I'm afraid you'll have to wait." Smiling politely, Treiz moved to stand in front of Heero, raising an eyebrow when the soldiers directed their guns at him. "You see, we have an engagement that we simply can't miss."

"Stand aside," Tuberov said coldly as the soldiers moved forward a step. "I'm not going to let him escape. He's going with me to OZ headquaters. And then he's going to be the captain of our army. Or...well, you know the consequences." Gesturing to the soldiers, he gave the cars a pointed look.

"General, I don't think you understand. I though you wanted Heero because of his name, so you could garner the support of this nation." The man frowned and Treiz continued, "Well, if we miss this engagement, I'm afraid you won't be getting what you want. You see, we're scheduled to perform at the concert this evening. I'm sure you know which one I'm speaking of, singers from this country win every year. I don't think the masses would appreciate you preventing the family from competing."

"What are you babbling about?" Tuberov demanded, scowling at the man. He did indeed know what concert he was speaking of and he could see how OZ could be turned into a public enemy. Yet he knew Heero had just returned from his honeymoon and there was no way the boy could have made prior arrangements. Besides, he'd seen the boy in action and he knew he was a fighter. He refused to believe the boy was planning to get up on a stage and sing.

"This." Reaching inside his jacket, Treiz froze for a second when the soldiers stiffened, then slowly pulled out a folded piece of paper. He unfolded it and handed it to the general, statement carefully void of any humor as he felt Heero's glare on the back of his head. As much as the boy had been against the idea, he knew Heero was now indebted to him.

"This..." Staring at the paper, Tuberov gnashed his teeth for a moment before he reread it and smiled. "This lists the names of the children. It doesn't say anything about the Captain."

"It says 'The Yuy Family Singers'," Zechs murmured, watching the man. "The entire family."

"All right. Yes, that's fine. I'll see to it that you have an escort to your concert, but immediately afterward, you," he pointed to Heero, "come with us."

"Of course," Treiz said. "It's nice of you to make sure we get there. Well, shall we? The concert starts in forty minutes. We'd better hurry."

* * *

"Heero, what's going on?" Turning so he could look back at the cars following them, Duo gazed at the boy beside him. "Where are we going?"

"To a concert," Heero muttered, his hands gripping the steering wheel tightly. "We have Treiz to thank for that."

"We still get to sing?" Hilde asked, smiling a bit as some of her worry was lost. While she didn't know what was happening, she could tell it wasn't good from the expressions on Heero and Duo's faces.

"I thought..." Frowning, Duo glanced back at the three kids in the back before looking to Heero. "The children are going to sing in a concert?"

Looking at the violet-eyed boy, Heero's left eye twitched. "We all are."

* * *

The auditorium was huge and formed a semi-circle around the large stage. The rows of seats were filled, and Duo could see people sneaking glares at the soldiers who were posted at each of the many exits. Tuberov was standing to the side, right up front, and Duo fought the need to glare at the man as so many of the audience were. When he'd announced them, Treiz had been kind enough to inform the audience of Heero's eminent departure, explaining that Tuberov and the soldiers were waiting to escort him after the concert. While he didn't think it had been planned, Duo could tell the man's words had sparked a large amount of bad feelings in the crowd and it pleased him that these were directed to the soldiers. It was also obvious that Tuberov was not happy.

Heero wasn't happy either, and Duo gave the tense boy a light squeeze of his arm as they stood in the dark beyond the spotlight. The children were currently singing, their harmony beautiful as it had even the soldiers paying attention to them. He knew they would have to join in soon, and Duo was worried. It was true that his own singing voice was good, he didn't have to be conceited to admit that, but he had never heard Heero sing. Glancing at those narrowed cobalt eyes, he winced a bit but managed to give a small smile when the boy turned to him.

"Are you going to be able to do this, Heero?"

The violet-eyed boy's worry was evident, and Heero sighed as it bothered him. Moving a bit closer, he brushed a hand over Duo's cheek. "I will. And afterward, we'll make our escape."

"What if we get caught? Oh, Heero, I don't want to lose you." Sighing, Duo allowed himself to relax for a moment as his husband held him. Then he straightened as he took a deep breath, hearing the song reaching the right point. Catherine had told him what they'd planned to sing, and he'd decided they would jump in toward the end. Mostly it was to spare Heero, but he still worried. "It's time," he whispered, and he was surprised when Heero's eyes narrowed.


Taking a strong hold on Heero's arm, Duo slowly drew him forward until they were illuminated by the bright spotlight that surrounded the children. Hilde smiled at them as she continued to sing, and Duo managed his own smile as he joined them. He could hear Heero beside him, and the boy's voice was as wonderful as any of the children's. Unfortunately, it was so soft he knew it wasn't reaching the audience and that was almost a good thing as it was tinted with fury. Still singing, Duo gave the arm beneath his hand another light squeeze as he glanced at him from the corner of his eyes.

Heero's throat hurt. It wasn't that he'd never sung, but the knowledge that so many eyes were on him made him want to scream and hurt someone. Then he felt Duo's gaze and he looked at the boy, taking in his warm eyes as he felt himself calm. Not caring how it looked, he turned a bit so that he could imagine himself singing only to Duo. It was much easier, and he could tell by the boy's smile that his voice had risen and filled out as he was no longer consumed with his anger. Instead, he did his best to put his love for the boy into his song and for the next few moments he actually forgot the uncertain future.

When the song came to a close, the sound of applause nearly deafened them, and Duo's wide grin had even Heero giving a tiny smile. The children seemed to drink up the ovation and it was only with a nudge from Duo that they slowly made their way out of the spotlight. Bowing, they exited one by one, Heero and Duo going last as they bowed together, their hands clasped as they too left the stage.

* * *

The crowd was silent while the judges made their decision, but it wasn't out of any excitement as most already knew who would receive first place. The only question was who would get the other places and even those competing were a bit unexcited. After all, they had heard the performance, they knew they wouldn't be placing first and for many that was enough to make them want nothing more than for the evening to be over. Still, the judges managed to look secretive as they whispered together, and when they handed their decision over tothe announcer, they did so with blank expressions.

Tuberov was getting impatient, but he forced himself to calm as the announcer slowly made his way to the mike. The delay hadn't really cost him anything, but he was irritated that Treiz had managed to delay him at all. He'd planned to have had Heero in custody already, and he didn't like having his plans interfered with. Still, he knew what the crowd seemed to know and having the winner of the concert as their front-line captain would be a great moral booster. Especially since the country's citizens seemed so sympathetic toward the boy. It was obvious that they all knew who he was, and Tuberov smirked as he realized Treiz's delay had actually worked in his favor. And in Oz's favor. Then the announcer finally seemed ready, and the man leaned back against the wall, a glance at the soldiers showing they too were ready. As soon as the family had been named, they would move to escort the Captain out of the auditorium, and his job would be done. At least for the night. There was still the problem of keeping Heero's cooperation, but there were simple methods that could easily be employed. It was the boy's disadvantage to have so many siblings, especially so many who were at tender ages.

"And now," the announcer said with a large smile, "the third place prize of our annual contest goes to...."

* * *

Treiz hadn't been kidding when he'd said he had a back-up plan. In fact, he even knew a way out of the hall that bypassed the traditional exits. While the small window they ended up climbing through barely fit them, it was even with the ground and shadowed by a tall oak tree. Leaving the children with Duo, Heero followed the two men as they made certain there weren't any guards near enough to sound an alarm. There were two, but they were easily taken care of and they were soon lost among the hundreds of cars that filled the parking lots. Those who saw the two cars leaving slowly didn't even think to check them as the soldiers were waiting for Tuberov to give them the signal. The possibility of their target slipping by in such a noticeable manner was inconceivable.

* * *

//It's about time.// Tuberov glared as the second place winners slowly made their way off stage and the man announced the Yuy family singers as the contest's winners. Of course, everyone already knew this, but the crowd still screamed loudly enough for the general to wince and his glare darkened. Nearly two minutes went by before people realized the winners weren't making their way onto the stage. "There's no way..." The announcer was patiently calling for them again, but Tuberov had gone cold, and he knew Heero wasn't going to be coming. "Check the performers' rooms," he growled to one of his soldiers even as he ran for the exit. He knew they wouldn't find them inside. The question, was where such a large and well-known family would be going and who would hide them. Unfortunately, he was convinced any person in the audience would have been happy to give the family assistance as the crowd was suddenly milling in the aisles and slowing down their progress.

"Get these people out of the way," he hissed to the two men beside him. Then he lifted his radio, calling for back-up. The city wasn't that large, they'd find them.

* * *

"Duo?" Une's eyes narrowed as she marched to the inside courtyard. She'd been woken by the woman who's turn it was to watch the gate, and the news that Duo was there had made her hurry. "What's going on?" The children looked both worried and excited, but her gaze halted on the long-haired boy as she took in his pale face.

"I didn't know where else to go," Duo admitted, staring up at her. "I'm sorry, but we need somewhere to hide. OZ is going to force Heero to fight for them and they've..." He moved a bit closer to her, dropping his voice so the younger children wouldn't hear. "They plan to use the kids to make him cooperate. Can we hide here? Just for a while?"

"Don't be stupid," Une said sharply, managing a tight smile as she glanced at Catherine who was looking scared. "Of course you are all welcome."

"We should hurry," Zechs nodded, glancing to Treiz. "They'd have called in troops by now to search for us and it won't take them long to link Duo to this place."

"Is there somewhere inside that we could hide? A place where we could go unnoticed even if they decide to search?" The woman was staring at the ground, and Treiz blinked in surprise when Duo let out a small laugh. The violet-eyed boy was grinning widely, his face flushed with excitement.

"I know!" Grabbing Hilde, who was very happy to be held, Duo nodded quickly at Une. "What about the tombs? I know I used to..." The boy flushed quickly when the brown-haired woman raised an eyebrow, but he shrugged. "Well, no one ever unlocks the gate and I know it's easy to hide in there."

"You are an awful boy, Duo Maxwell." The words were said coldly, but her eyes sparkled and she nodded. "Come on, then. If we can hide you in there and keep them from finding you, won't they go farther away to search after looking here?"

"That's the plan," Heero said.

"Well, then. Where do you plan to go after that?" Another dark clothed woman was standing near the fountain, and Une sighed as she recognized Noin. "They're in trouble. We're going to hide them."

Noin wanted to ask for details, but the two tall men were looking around warily, and she could tell they were in a hurry. "Fine." With a quick smile, she leaned down a bit before taking Catherine and Sally's hands.

"We're going to cross the countryside by foot," Treiz remarked, answering Une's question. "They'd never expect that, and we wouldn't have to hurry. Of course, if you could lend us any supplies it would be much easier."

"I'm sure we could manage something," Noin murmured, exchanging glances with Une. It hadn't been more than three days ago when they'd received a young man whose hobbies had included hiking. Obviously, God was on their side since the coincidence left them with just the sort of things the family would no doubt need.

The room turned out to be more of a hall of sorts, lined on both sides by tall iron fences that had ancient locks on them. Behind these was about five feet of space before another wall rose up, black doors carved into it at random. There were also pillars ever three feet, and Heero couldn't' help but nod in satisfaction as he knew they would be able to hide in the shadows of the tall marble. Of course, if OZ decided to break the locks they'd be in trouble, but that was a risk they would have to take.

"Are we going to climb the fence, Duo?" Hilde frowned, wrinkling her nose as she stared up at the pointed black metal that lined the top of the fence. "That looks bad."

"It's not so hard," Duo smiled, hefting her as he made a face. "Tell you what, you can go over with me, kay?" He could tell that Heero wasn't happy with the idea of the children scaling the fence, but by the way the boy's cobalt eyes were narrowed he knew that his husband also realized they had little choice. Heero stepped to him, and Duo leaned forward when Hilde was moved to his back, her arms wrapped around his neck. "This'll be fun."

It wasn't fun, and there were a few scrapes by the time they all got over, but they did make it. Luckily, Une had thought to get some clothes which were spread over the sharp tips, making it a bit easier to get over. And Wufei and Dorothy had both managed to make the climb on their own. Duo wasn't surprised, though. He'd done it often enough when he'd first come and he hadn't been much older than them. The fence looked much worse than it actually was, and there were sideways metal pieces that worked well as foot-holds. It would have been almost impossible if the fence hadn't had them.

Since the marble columns they hid behind were each nearly three feet wide, they split into four groups. It might have been better if they'd had half of them on one side of the hall, but Heero didn't want them separated. He could well imagine what would happen if they did and OZ found the other group first. They'd managed to get two guns from the guards they'd found outside the concert-hall, but these would be very loud and using them would no doubt rouse the attention of additional soldiers. And he was certain Tuberov would come to the church to search. It was just a matter of time.

* * *

"Open this door!" Tuberov's face had grown red as he glared at the woman who stood on the other side of the large gate, and he was tempted to pull his gun on her. This was just a foolish dream, however, since he knew he'd never get away with injuring a member of the church. Still, she could have moved a lot faster, and it was nearly fifteen minutes before he caught sight of the Mother Superior. She too seemed to be in no hurry and he gnashed his teeth. "We have to search this premises," he said quickly when she got within hearing distance. "Under the orders of OZ."

"I see," Une said smoothly. Her statement was carefully controlled, and she managed to look both surprised and curious. "And what are you looking for, so late in the evening. And with so many soldiers? This is a house of God, it isn't right to enter it."

"I said, we have orders to search."

"Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to let you in," the woman said, after waiting another long minute. "But you must give your word to treat this edifice with the respect it's due. I'll not have my children frightened by you, and you aren't to damage any of our relics. I really must insist on this."

"Ma'am, we will not take the lord's anger upon us. We simply must follow our orders. You have our word that we will treat your home with care."

Une blinked at the soft, respectful voice and she noticed that the general seemed surprised as he turned to stare at one of the soldiers standing beside him. Vivid green eyes met her and she was caught off-guard by the straightforward gaze in one so young. "Very well, then."

* * *

It was going well. There had been a moment when Duo had been forced to cover Hilde's mouth as a group of soldiers had suddenly appeared in the hall, but the small girl had nodded. When he released her, she was as quiet as a mouth, and he felt himself grow tenser by the second as the men came nearer to where they hid. But they passed right by them, not even glancing behind the fences as he continued down the hall at a quick run. //They aren't very thorough//, Duo thought with relief, and he allowed himself a long look to where Heero hid a few feet away. //We're going to make it...//

He could see the boy's relief, but Heero didn't allow himself to share it as the search wasn't over. He expected more from OZ, and he fully expected that the men who'd gone by had orders to search in a different area. They'd be back, and when they were, the search would be more intricate. Then he heard the tiniest of gasps, and his eyes flew to the blonde boy beside him. Quatre was staring toward the end of the hall, and the boy's eyes filled his white face. Following his gaze, Heero tensed as he recognized the tall figure in the dim light.

Trowa's eyes narrowed as he looked at the dark fence that lined the hall. Stepping to the fence on one side, he reached out a hand and touched the large lock, feeling the rust that corroded it. It obviously hadn't been opened in years. With the back of his rifle, he busted the lock with a sharp blow, and his eyes were dull as he pulled it away. The gate groaned audibly when he opened it, and he was convinced they weren't behind it. His breath was harsh when he scanned the dark shadows, and he sighed as he found nothing aside from years of dust.

//No, please don't let him look. God, don't let him look over here.// Duo couldn't even manage a reassuring face as Hilde stared up at him, her confusion evident. She recognized the boy, and he knew she wanted to say something to him. //And why not? After all, he's supposed to be their friend.// His prayers must have went unheard, and he closed his eyes when the tall boy walked resolutely toward the fence they hid behind. Then the lock was broken.


Duo looked up, and his heart stopped when the tall boy's arm raised. His statement seemed dead, somehow, and Trowa's gun was aimed at Heero.

He was still beautiful. Trowa tried to center himself, and his hand never faltered, but his eyes strayed, for the tiniest of moments as he stole a glance at Quatre. Even with his shimmering eyes, pools of pain, the boy was ethereal; pale beauty shining through the darkness, and he didn't deserve him. Ice filled his veins, numbing him and his eyes bore into dark blue ones as he faced Heero. "Let's go," he said softly, his tone void of anything. "Don't involve them."

"Listen to me." He couldn't move since he wouldn't put it past the boy to shoot him out of pure reflex, but Heero's eyes widened a bit. "If I am taken, they will be involved. You know that, you must. You don't have to do this. I..." His jaw tightened a bit, and he wanted nothing more than to drop his eyes as shame poured over him. "I had no right to say what I did to you...Trowa."

"No," Trowa whispered, his face clear, "You were right. Everything you said was true. But that doesn't matter." His back straightened and he glared. "I have my orders. Either you come now, or I call for the others."

Heero's arm started to move when Quatre suddenly pushed past him, but he froze as the click echoed in the hall, his eyes snapping to where Trowa had thrown back the hammer. The blonde boy never hesitated, and he tried to convince himself that the Trowa wouldn't hurt him, not him. If anything they'd told him was true, he wouldn't hurt Quatre.

"Trowa." The tall boy didn't blink, and Quatre stopped a foot from him, his hand curled into fists. "You're killing me..." Green eyes widened as Trowa suddenly looked at him, and the boy's arm actually shook a bit. A step brought them together, and he traced his fingertips over the tall boy's shoulder, his gaze delving in green eyes. "I'm sorry, for whatever I did, but Trowa? If you don't love me...point your gun here." He pressed a hand over his aching heart, bowing his head. "I can't take this pain. It hurts...too much. My love for you."

"You....know I...wouldn't..."

Trowa was staring down at him, his face stricken and pale and Quatre shook his head. "Hurt me? I thought you would never do that. The day you said you loved me, I felt as if I'd been given the world. You are the most important person in my life, and I gave you my heart. And now..." His voice broke, and his breath caught in his throat as he choked. "You don't want it and I don't know why! Why, Trowa? How can you do this?!"

"Because I can't have you." His hand was shaking, and he steadied it fiercely, tearing his eyes away from those soul-searing pools. "I have no purpose now...but...I have my orders."

"You joined OZ for me!" Quatre said harshly, his whisper not giving evidence to his fury. "So we could have a life together. Their orders have no hold on you, that's not what this is about and you know it! You can't have me? You threw me away, Trowa! Why?"

"Because I love you," Trowa whispered. The blonde boy flinched, then he closed his eyes, swaying a bit as Quatre's arms wrapped around him in a tight embrace. Warmth crept into him and he couldn't fight it, his free arm moving around the boy's slender shoulders. "I don't know what to do," he breathed, his lips mere inches from the boy's ear. "I'm nobody, but that isn't it. Even if you had no name, Quatre, I still wouldn't be worthy. I can't give you anything."

The muscles trembled beneath his hands in a way Quatre had never imagined possible, but he held the boy closer. His face was pressed to the rough cloth of Trowa's uniform and he smiled against it. As many times as they'd talked about it and the doubts were still there. But that was something he'd grown accustomed to. To him, his contribution to the strong yet vulnerable boy wasn't just his love but his continuous reassurances. "You know, Trowa. All I want, all I've ever needed is you. Just you. I've been dead these past weeks, but I can live if all I have is you. I'd give the world for that, because I love you."

"You always..." Tilting his head back, Trowa's eyes narrowed and his body loosened a bit. Pale blue green eyes rose to meet his own and his lips twitched at that familiar curve to the boy's lips. "You never let me hate myself. And you're so stubborn."

"And you love me more because of it, right?" The boy nodded slowly and Quatre sighed, wanting to melt into him again. But reality was harsh and he turned his head, looking to his family. His eyes halted on his brother, taking in that intense gaze. Then Duo spoke and he flushed, wondering if he should be embarrassed for having spoken before them all. But Trowa's body was growing more relaxed in his arms and he didn't care, so long as the boy didn't push him away.

"Come with us."

Heero blinked sharply, glancing to the side as Duo stepped forward, Hilde still in his arms. The long-haired boy wasn't looking at him, and he stared at the floor again, knowing he was to blame for both of the boys' pain. Then his husband issued that soft invitation again and Trowa dropped the gun, both arms moving around Quatre as he hid his head.

For a moment, he reveled in having his embrace returned, then the boy against him stiffened suddenly, and Quatre's eyes opened as the sound of footsteps reached him. He was pushed towards his brother, and he nearly resisted Heero's hold on his wrist when he saw Trowa turn towards the hall. "Trowa! Don't go..."

"If I were to turn up missing now, they'd know you were here," Trowa murmured, his eyes glinting for a moment as he looked at the pale boy. "I'll be back, Quatre."

* * *

The search, which seemed so thorough, left a single hall untouched. Rather, it was pronounced empty by a young man who, while new to the faction, had made a place for himself and was rightfully believed. They never looked there. Instead, the church was deemed clear and the soldiers were separated, sent to search other places. The general himself went to the Yuy manor, hopeful that he might reveal anything that would point toward the family's destination. Days passed before he even noticed that one soldier had turned up missing after the separation, and he was so angry with his inability to capture Heero Yuy that he paid the news no heed. It didn't matter, though, as the fugitives were, by that time, already crossing the border. On foot, they found a path that no one had even imagined.

* * *

Crickets. If there was one thing Duo hated about their forced flight, it was the night sounds that kept him awake. But hate was really too strong a word, and he had to admit that there were better things to do than sleep. He smiled as he partook in one such pastime, leaning his elbows on Heero's chest as he leaned over the man. Dark blue eyes met his and he sighed, the softness of that gaze warming his heart. "I'll never get tired of looking at you," he said softly, mindful of the tents not far from their own. "And to think, you're all mine."

Heero smirked, raising an eyebrow at the boy as he curved an arm over Duo's back, fingering the thick braid before curving it around his wrist. He gave it a soft tug, then kissed the boy quickly. Violet eyes closed immediately, and he gave a soft laugh at Duo's pout when he leaned back again after just that brief touch. "It's a good thing we're only days away from Treiz's land. I want to make love to you." Duo grinned, a happy flush staining his cheeks and Heero's overplayed sigh contradicted his sparkling eyes. "You're just too loud with everyone so nearby."

"I could be quiet," Duo argued, but he didn't push, laying his chin on his hands. "But it'll be nice to get there. Although, the kids seem to enjoy this little trip." His husband's eyes had closed, and he wrinkled his nose. He knew he wasn't ready to sleep yet and he racked his mind for something they could talk about that would keep the man's interest. His eyes sparked suddenly. "It really is a good thing that we'll be there soon. We have to get Quatre and Trowa married. I mean, if I didn't know Quatre, I'd be afraid of how close they're getting. Too bad there wasn't a way to marry them before we left."

"That's why they have separate tents," Heero muttered, not opening his eyes. He too had noticed the way the two boys touched and he'd had to reign in his fury more than once. While he had reconciled himself to the fact that his little brother had grown up, he couldn't stand to see Trowa kiss him. It hit a nerve. "They can be married as soon as we get there. If I were you, I'd be more worried about Dorothy."

"So you did notice!" Duo grinned, not minding the glare Heero gave him as he propped himself up on the man's chest. "Quatre actually yelled at her yesterday for staring at Trowa."

"He shouldn't worry," Heero said, his voice smooth. "She's just noticing him." He closed his eyes again, and his sigh was wholehearted this time. "They're growing up so fast. I completely missed their childhood."

"Well, I know one thing for sure. Hilde's never getting married. Not till she's at least twenty." Heero laughed suddenly and Duo slapped a hand over the man's mouth, glaring at him. "Shh!"

"You're pathetic," Heero murmured. "Now go to sleep." The boy smiled and he pulled him close, shifting beneath the covers. The tent was small, but they didn't need room. "I love you, Duo, but you're horrible when you don't get enough sleep."

"You say such wonderful things," Duo said, snickering against the man's neck as he curled against him. "What a romantic..." The arms wrapped around him tightened for a second and he sighed, snuggling closer. "I love you too. With all my heart."