11-16-2001

Between love and duty epilogue
By Cobaltblue Kitty
Disclaimer: Don't own them, wish I did. Not making any money off this either. Do own the kids, dog, and Beathan though.
Pairings: 1x2, 2x6/6x2, 1x2x6, mentioned 3x4 and OCx5

 

-----------
A.C. 201
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Her world was falling apart.

Piece by piece.

Crumbling away beneath her fingertips like weathered old masonry.

Everything had been so perfect. She had all she ever wanted in life. World peace. A unified humanity. The Sank Kingdom, the Peacecraft ancestral homeland, restored. And Heero Yui, her shining knight from the stars, at her side.

Then, in one horrible instant, everything changed.

It was all an accident. Just a stupid car crash.

No hired assassin or fanatical group bent on world domination. Just some drunken idiot who fell asleep behind the wheel.

Both drivers died in the collision. Her secretary, a dear sweet girl, never made it to the hospital. Relena herself remained hospitalized for 5 months, tended by the very best medical staff availible. And while the whole thing was a truly terrifying experiance she had come thru with dignity and grace as befitted one of her station. Save for worrying about scars Relena believed the worst was over..

Until two months later.

While in the hospital her advisors decided it would be best if the Princess wasn't told the full extent of her injuries or the measures taken to save her life. The Doctors agreed as they believed the knowledge might severly hamper her recovery. And, judging by her reaction when it finally surfaced, they had ever right to fear so. Relena became hysterical and had to be sedated.

The sheer scope of damage to her abdomen had been horrendous. And while the surgeons had managed to save her life even their skills weren't capable of repairing her shredded uterus and ovaries. Both had to be removed.

The fact that she could never give Heero children nearly drove Relena to suicide.

A number of options were quickly offered. They could try artificial gestation, as was once widely used in the colonies, or perhaps cloning. But the ancient laws of succession forbid children born these ways from inheriting the throne. A surrogate was suggested and violently rejected by the Princess. Relena was adamant on the matter; if anyone was going to bear Heero's child it would be her, and her alone!

Having exhausted all other options, Relena asked about the Tennison proceedure. It was a medical technique that gave gay couples a chance to have children of their very own. DNA was collected from both partners and used to create a fetus which was then transferred to an artifical womb already implanted in one of the men. Some special vitamins and hormones were needed as men didn't produce the levels nessasary for gestation but that was the extent of extra care required.

If it could work for men surely it could work for her. Right?

Wrong.

Relena listened with falling hopes as the Doctor explained. Due to the extensive scarring in her abdomial cavitity no implantation had a hope of taking.

After that crushing blow Relena sunk into a deep depression.

She was barren.

Lifeless.

Useless as a woman.

She now spent her days setting besides the window, watching the days pass. Ignoring everything and everyone around her.

During this bleak time Heero Yui, fiancee to the Princess, observed everything with a blank statement.

Relena, along with everyone else, belived the handsome pilot remained with the Princess because he loved her. His lack of reaction to the devastating news merely the result of his turbulent childhood.

They couldn't be further from the truth.

Thanks to Doctor J's brutal training methods Heero knew the all too well the arts of war. But the twisted scienctist never considered teaching his pupil about being human. What little the Japanese pilot did understand he learned from the other pilots, especially one in particular.

Perhaps this was his punishment. He had been given a priceless gift and tossed it aside. And for what? Love? He didn't love her, his heart belonged to another. Then why was he with her? Why had he purposed?

After two failed assassination attempts the leaders of the new world government were worried. If Relena Peacecraft, the living symbol of peace were to die so soon after to Mariemari incident it could be highly damaging to the peace.

When Heero first read his newest mission orders he couldn't believe his eyes....

 

Agents scattered as Heero stormed through the halls of Preventer Headquarters and strait into Une's office. Throwing the orders on her desk he demanded an explanation.

Shaking her head the former OZ officer truly felt sorry for this. Une knew Yui and Maxwell romantically involved. There were even rumors a marriage was in the works. Now this had to happen. Hadn't these children suffered enough? Hadn't they earned their happiness?

Evidently not.

Une had attempted every means she knew to have the order recinded. She called in all favors owed to her, contacted anyone even remotely sympathic to the former pilots. She even threatened a few officials with exposure of their dirty little secrets. Nothing worked.

Despite everything the orders remained.

Heero was to marry Relena. As her husband he had a perfect excuse to remain close to her.

Heero tried fighting it as well. But the orders were clear, as was the penality for his refusual to accept. So reluctantly Heero packed his clothes and left the appartment he'd shared with the one person he loved in all his short life.

 

Duo Maxwell didn't take the news of his lover abandoning him for Relena very well. He tried a dozen times to contact Heero, to discover why he'd left without one word or letter. Was it something he'd done? Something he hadn't done, or done well enough? He had to know the reason!!

Only the guards at Relena's estate refused him entrance. His letters all returned unopened and his calls were all cut off before they could reach the Japanese pilot. On his last attempt Relena herself answered. With malicious glee she gloated over how Heero had chosen her. Saying smugly to the braided youth Heero had never loved him. He was just using Duo to relieve his needs. After all, what would a wonderful man like Heero want with a filthy little street rat like him!

Despondant, Duo never called again.

Heero nearly abandoned his mission months later when the news reached him. Duo had tried to commit suicide not once but twice when the news of Heero and Relena's engagement was announced.

Risking everything Heero tried to visit Duo, to finally offer an explanation, only to find the other Gundam pilots already there.

With glares and harsh words they closed rank around their injured friend and ordered Heero to leave. He'd hurt Duo too much already and they weren't going to stand for it anymore. When Heero tried to force his way past Wufei nearly broke his jaw.

Furious over his cruel and callous treatment of Duo the Chinese youth promised if Heero ever came near Duo again he'd be a head shorter. Trowa didn't say it in quite that manner but his silent threat was clearly recognizable and understood. Even Quatre, the gentlest of them all, slapped Heero hard enough to rattle already loosened teeth. Heero left before the violence escalated any further.

Upon his release Duo promptly dissappeared, and all of Heero's vaulted computer skills couldn't find a trace of him.

Bereft of his lover and his friends Heero returned to Relena.

Now every day was like a nightmare he couldn't wake from, each worse than the one before. The thought of taking his own life was sweet. But his training kept interceeding, stopping him each time just short of oblivion's release.

Heero fell into depression.

Wraith-like, a shadow of his former self, he haunted the estate's halls; never speaking, never smiling.

Two people, trapped by circumstance and duty, in a miserable existance. Both longing desperately for a return to happier times, tortured by the knowledge it could never be so.

 

Pagan was deeply concerned. Both the Princess and Master Yui were so still and silent. They rarely ate and niether spoke often, even to each other. He cursed the cruel hand of fate which had brutally ripped away the young couple's happiness.

Without an heir to cement her claim the throne would now pass to Milliardo; or one of his children should he have any. The latter being more likely as the Prince still denied his birthright. The faithful old servant knew Milliardo had returned from Mars and was now living somewhere in the Mediterranean. Perhaps..perhaps a visit with her brother would help Miss Relena stir from this dreadful melancoly.

It was a slim hope at best, but at the moment it was all that he had.

 

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A.C. 197, October
-------

"Well Mr. Merquise, that arm is mending nicely. You're very lucky that was only a greenstick fracture. Given how easily this type heals you'll be out of that cast in no time. Are you having any problems with these ribs?"

Zechs couldn't help winching as the Doctor poked. "They're still sore."

"Hmm, yes. Well, they're likely to remain so for some time."

While the Doctor busied himself with adding notations to his chart Zechs struggled into his clothes. Even with the nurse's help it wasn't easy.

"Now I do hope you remember not to overexert yourself," the old physician warned his younger patient. "Those stitches won't hold under heavy stress."

"I understand Doctor. Thank you for your time."

"Just be more careful out there. What was it again? A car?"

"No, I was the copilot of the shuttle that crashed at New Edwards."

"Oh dear. I remember reading about that. Terrible thing really. So many dead. Were any of them friends?"

The platnium-haired man froze, the look on his face speaking volumes.

"Please forgive me, you have my deepest sympathies."

"Thank you."

For Zechs the memory of waking amist the twisted wreakage was still too raw to speak aloud. There were nights when the image of Noin's lifeless body hanging from it's safety harness rose to haunt his dreams. And while he didn't know the others all that well he mourned their loss as well.

After receiving a few final instructions and several perscriptions Zechs slowly made his way down the hospital's halls. Speed wasn't part of his volcabulary right now, the deep laceractions on his right hip and thigh forcing him to adopt a more languid pace. The cane was there to offer support when needed.

Hobbling along Zechs couldn't help but think of Lucrezia.

(My dear Noin, you were too young to die. I know we both accepted the possiblity of sudden death, but that was in battle. Not like this. It hurts so much. You should be here, smiling and teasing about this blasted cane, not buried in a cold cemetary plot.)

Tears blurred his vision and he stopped to wipe them away.

(I miss you. You balanced me like no other could, yet I could never give you what you wanted. Oh Noin, I'm sorry. Sorry I lived. Sorry I couldn't love you as you desired me to.)

Just then a commotion caught his attention. Curiousity got the better of him and he peered around the corner, grateful for the palm which concealed his position.

(What are they doing here? What's going on, I thought they were friends.)

Heero Yui was pulling himself up off the floor, his jaw already swelling from the hard right he'd just received.

Wufei Chang, clad in his Preventor's uniform, stood definantly before a door leading to a private room, flanked by his fellow pilots. All three were practically glaring death at the Japanese pilot.

(Four pilots. Where's Duo?)

"I really don't know what possessed Maxwell to love a heartless bastard such as you! Remember my words Yui, this is your ONLY warning. Come near Duo Maxwell again and I'll take my sword and relieve the burden your shoulders carry; namely your head! NOW LEAVE!!"

Wufei was nearly hissing in his rage. Right now he looked every bit the fiery dragon Trieze once compared him to.

Besides him Trowa Barton nodded in agreement, his one visible eye burning with tightly controlled fury. Zechs didn't need to hear any words from the silent pilot, that statement carried his promise of painful retribution very clearly.

Heero turned to Quatre. Zechs remembered him as being the gentlest of the five. Not today however. Zechs eyes widened as the small blonde slapped Yui so hard it nearly sent him back to the floor.

"LEAVE!" Wufei snarled.

 

Silently chanting pold proverbs did help to calm Wufei down, Otherwise he'd be running after Yui to beat the shit out of him.

How dare that miserable piece of human waste show his face here after what he'd done!

There was a time once when Wufei envied Heero Yui. Through means he had yet to fathom the Japanese boy had managed to claim one of the rarest of treasures; the love of Duo Maxwell. He watched from the shadows as the couple grew closer with each passing day. Wufei had never seen Duo so happy.

Only, deep down within his heart, Wufei wished he was the source of Duo's bliss.

He'd been as shocked as the others when Heero left. No matter how he looked at it Wufei couldn't find a reason for this disaster. Fury slowly built within him as he watched the life drain from Duo.

It was Wufei that found Duo that first time. Laying on the bed he once shared with Heero, blood draining from slashed wrists. So much blood....

"I'm going to check on Duo." Quatre's soft voice pulled Wufei back from those grisley memories.

As the blonde slipped inside Duo's room Trowa spoke up. "He will be back."

Wufei nodded, Heero wasn't one to give up so easily. "We need to move Duo somewhere Heero isn't familiar with."

Quatre had returned in time to hear Wufei's suggestion. "My family owns a private villa on Crete. It's nice and quiet there, very secluded."

"Perfect. Has Heero ever been there?"

"No, and I've never mentioned it to him either."

"Even better."

"Ahem, excuse me." A rich, cultured, and all too familiar voice came from behind them. "Could one of you tell me what's going on here?"

Zechs Merquise was standing there, looking a bit worse for wear. One arm was immobilized, limping with a cane, and various cuts and bruises marring exposed skin.

Wufei eyed the newcomer critically. "Zech, you look like shit."

"Why thank you Chang. It's nice to see you too."

"Oh my, what happened to you?" Quatre carefully touched the sling, feeling the cast beneath.

"An accident."

Though the tone was light Quatre's unique gift picked up the intense pain, guilt, and sadness he associated with his injuries.

"It's a long story."

"One I'd like very much to hear." From his tone Zechs wasn't about to take no for an answer.

"There's a private loungue down the hall. I'll stay here on guard." Trowa offered, knowing his lover was much better suited to explain all this than he was.

 

It took nearly two hours to hear the whole story. It left Zechs with an intense desire to strangle a certain Gundam pilot with his bare hands.

Zechs never had much contact with Duo Maxwell personally. His knowledge of the braided pilot came from secret observations and his friend Howard's tales. What he had seen however was more than enough to leave a very lasting impression.

One day early into the war Zechs found himself with some free time. Rather than spend it in some musty bar or hanger, he opted for a relaxing exploration of the woods surrounding the base. A hour into his walk the sound of splashing drew his attention to the small lake boardering the trail he was on. Curious, Zechs parted the shrubbery surrounding the shore. His breath stilled.

A young man was standing hip deep in the water bathing. Early morning sunlight polishing his smoth alabaster skin to a warm glow, softened by the fine whisps of lingering fog. Silken waves of chestnut hair spilled down his back, floating about his slim hips enticingly. Each small movement caused a myrid of highlights to appear in those glorious locks, so much so Zechs believed the boy had tiny jewels woven into his hair.

His heart pounded as he watched long elegant fingers ghost over the lean torso, sweeping up to linger about the slim neck and heart-shaped face. Despite the distance seperating them Zechs could clearly see his vivid blue-violet eyes.

So entranced by this earthly vision of heavenly beauty Zechs lost all track of time, only regaining his senses when the boy donned the black shirt with it's white priest's collar. Hadn't there been a report of a sighting of the Gundam pilot 02 in a priest's outfit?

By the time he had his wits about him the boy had vanished.

Since that day Zechs had harbored a secret longing in his heart, one he believed never had a chance of delevoping into something more. No one knew, not even his lover. And if he did Treize was an understanding man. After all the General had expressed a certain lingering fasination with a certain Chinese pilot; he certainly wouldn't begrudge Zechs his own.

Now Duo was free, and yet not free. For while Heero had cut all ties Duo still clung to his feelings for the absent boy. Perhaps, once he recovered from Noin's loss and Duo finally let go of Heero, there might be a chance for them.

On hearing of the accident and Noin's death Quatre inquired if Zechs would like to come with them to Crete. It would certainly be better than staying alone is some little apartment Une had given him, and he would have the time to heal surrounded by people who understood him and his loss. Zechs accepted the kind offer without much persuading.

-------

And while fate may indeed be cruel, she may be merciful as well, offering renewal of body and soul to those she has wounded...

 

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A.C. 197, November
-------

Duo panted, sweat glistening in the dim light.

Each powerful thrust reaching deeper that the one before, threatening to split him in half. His lover grabbed his hips, holding the braided youth tightly as he changed the angle of his thrusts.

"AAHHH!!" Duo screamed, lights blazing beneath his tightly closed eyelids, his body bucking against the stronge hands restraining him.

His lover grinned and rammed his thick shaft into Duo's thrashing body, the boy's screams and incoherent maons urging him on. Again and again he drove into that tight heat, his own body drenched in sweat and shaking with an ever-growing building need to reach the pinnacle.

Duo didn't know how much more of this he could take before passing out. His brain was on sensory overload. His entire world had collapsed to center around this moment; the feel of his lover's hands, his lips, his cock. It was too much. It was not enough. Fire pooled in his belly, spreading to his groin and ass. Almost, almost there....

Then his lover pulled out!

"NO! Dammit!" Duo struggled. "What're you..AH!!"

The slick pulsing shaft slid across his quivering entrance, slowly, over and over again.

"OOHHH!! STOP! Stop..stop teasing me...!"

His lover let out a wicked chuckle.. and plunged back into Duo without any warning.

"HAHN!! OH, GOD...HEERO!! YES! OH YES!!"

Fingers clenched so hard they were sure to leave bruises pulled Duo closer as Heero sped up his thrusts, pounding into Duo with all his strength.

"DEEPER! HARDER!! PLEASE HEEROOOO!!!"

Heero growled behind him. One calloused hand released Duo's hip and slid down to grab the American's heavily weeping erection and pumped it roughly.

"NNguUHHH!! I'M GONNA....AHH...AAAHHHNGG! HEERROOOO!!!"

Duo screamed loud enough to wake the dead as he came, his thick seed covering Heero's hand and the sheets below them. Internal muscles clenched tightly around Heero's straining shaft and that was all it took. Heero came roughly, coating Duo's insides with his hot essense. Both collapsed, sprawled across the disheveled sheets, gasping for breath.

Encased in his blissful afterglow Duo wiggled around to face his lover. He placed a sweet kiss on the cobalt-eyed pilot's lips. "Love you Heero."

Silence.

That wasn't right.

"Heero?"

Duo gave a startled yelp as light flooded the room, sending the pilot scurring to grab a sheet to cover his nude body.

Relena stood by the door, one hand on the lightswitch.

"There you are! Are you finished yet? We do have a dinner to go to tonight."

Heero got of bed and reached for his clothes. "Sorry, I forgot."

"Heero? Wha...?" Duo couldn't understand. What was happening? Why wasn't Heero mad at the crazy girl for barging in on them. Why was he talking to her at all! He should be reaching for his gun!

"Well, I suppose it'll be alright. We do have two hours, you can take a shower and I'll help you get dressed. I know just the suit I want to see you in." The blonde girl smiled as Heero caressed her cheek with the back of one hand.

"What are you doing??!"

Heero looked back at the boy sitting in the middle of the bed and a sneer came to his lips. "What does it look like?"

"But you love me!" This wasn't happening. This couldn't be HAPPENING!!!

Heero laughed, a chilling sound which froze Duo's heart. "Love you? What made you think I loved you? You're just a conveinent little fuck, that's all. Something to releave my frustrations on. Nothing more!"

"You won't be frustrated much longer love. The wedding is in two weeks." Relena purred, all the while sending Duo a sickly twisited smile of triumph.

"I think I can hold out that long now." Heero kissed her cheek. "Come on, I need to get this stench off me."

"Heero...Heero!! Wait!!" Duo cried as the pair walked out the door. "NO! NO! HEERO!!! NO! NNNOOOO....

 

"..OOOOO!!!" Duo screamed, bolting up in the bed.

Sweat soaked his skin and hair as he sat there huddled beneath the sheets. Duo shivered, clutching himself tightly as tears threatened to fall.

"Never again, never again," he whispered angrily. "I won't cry for that bastard. I won't give them the satisfaction..."

Remaining in the bed was useless. There would be no more sleep after that dream. He looked down at the sheets and their white stains with disgust; the bed needed changed again too.

Grabbing his robe, Duo stuffed his feet into a pair of fuzzy wolf paw slippers.

This was getting to be a habit now.

At least he hadn't woken any of the others this time around.

Duo slipped out of his room, moving quietly and keeping to the shadows. He wasn't doing it deliberately, training had made it a sort of instincual reaction now. Like flying on autopilot.

Wandering the estate's halls Duo tried to forget the dream and it's affects on him. It wasn't easy. These last two weeks had been a terrible time for the braided boy, not to mention his for his friends as well. They chose to ride the emotional rollercoaster right along with him, supporting him at every turn.

It was Wufei incredibly enough that finally was able to convince Duo suicide wasn't the answer here. It would merely end up giving Relena exactly what she wanted. This was probably the best thing the onyx-eyed boy could've said. There was no way in hell Duo would ever give the stupid bitch the satisfaction of his death. After that the others relaxed a bit as the fear of Duo taking his own life faded, only to have a new problem crop up; nightmares.

Peering outside one rain-pelted window Duo bowed his head in shame, remembering one of those first nightmares had caused him to hurt someone. Zechs had only been trying to wake him when Duo threw the older man across the room. The fall tore several of Zechs' stitches and completely snapped the nearly mended arm bone. He'd apologized several times, but relations were still strained between them.

He couldn't blame Zechs. The man didn't ask to have that crazy little shit as his sister. He'd hadn't done anything wrong. Zechs was civil and caring. He listened to Duo's rants, comforted him when he broke down sobbing. He made sure Duo ate and kept himself clean. He didn't lecture Duo about how he should never have gotten involved with Heero as Wufei did. No, Zechs kept any judgement he had on the matter to himself. Duo needed that; for one person just to be there. Quatre and Trowa and only spoken once about Heero and left it at that. But Wufei wouldn't let it go, and while he cared for the Chinese pilot his constant lectures were getting on Duo's remaining nerves.

Sighing, Duo resumed his walk, heading for the library.

 

Zechs couldn't sleep.

Again the nightmares came to plague him, an all too familiar event now.

Dark visions of charred corpses clawing at him with bloody hands, burnt faces twisted into stomach-churning masks of grotesque rage as they dammed him. Of their screams, overriding his own, as they dragged him down into the cold earth where they now resided.

But worst of all were those of Noin as her rotting corpse gathered him into her arms and begged for a kiss...

(Perhaps this is a night for nightmares.) He watched the rain strike against the windowpane. Thunder boomed in the distance, almost covering the sound of the door opening.

"Hey Zechs, what're you doin' up?"

"Couldn't sleep anymore." Zechs didn't turn around, he didn't want the younger man to see his tear-stained face.

He nearly jumped to the ceiling as Duo's hand settled on his arm. (I didn't even hear him move!)

Duo looked strait into his face and Zechs couldn't help but noticing this one too had been crying. "Nightmare huh?"

Zechs couldn't lie, not to this one. "Almost every night now.

"Wanna..talk about it?"

"No!...I mean.."

"Zechs," Duo hesitated, uncertainty in his eyes. It passed an instant later, resolve taking it's place. "If..if you talk about yours, I'll tell you about mine."

He smiled down at Duo, knowing how much it cost the other boy to promise that. He couldn't refuse, no matter how much it hurt.

"I keep seeing her." He said as Duo silently led him over to the couch.

"The rescue teams couldn't reach the cockpit right away, there was too much metal in the way. It was hours before they found me." Zechs voice dropped. Duo took his hand and squeezed it in reassurance. "Everything was upside down. I was lying on the ceiling, looking up at the seats. Noin's..Noin's harness was still intact, I still don't know why. She...was just...hanging.... there, I couldn't reach her...I couldn't..." His voice faltered, mind once more filled with memories he desperately wanted to forget.

Duo didn't say a word. He just pulled Zechs into his arms, rocking back and forth in a slow soothing pace. Duo remained silent, not urging him to continue, just waiting for Zechs to regain his composure.

"I knew she was dead. No one could sustain those kind of injuries and live. But I wanted to check, touch her, wake her up so we could get out of there. Only I couldn't. There was so much blood Duo, so much...I didn't think the body held that much. It pooled all around me, soaked my suit and hair. It was two days before I could get it washed out."

"That's why you wash your hair so much, to get the smell out."

Zechs nodded, Duo's voice was so soothing, especially right now.

"They didn't blame Noin did they?"

"No. On the shuttle's last maintence check a worker didn't replace a damaged circuit in the main computer. The stress of reentry caused the chip to malfunction. The whole core blew, taking most of the manual controls with it. There wasn't any way the shuttle could've landed safely in that codition." Unable to remain still Zechs rose and began pacing as best as his injuries would let him.

"Zechs?"

"It should've been me."

"Huh? You? What do you mean?"

"I should be me in the grave, not Noin. I should be dead." He whispered.

Duo rose but Zechs stepped out of his reach. "I was supposed to be the pilot, but I just didn't feel like flying that day so I asked Noin to take my place. I should be dead. It's my fault she's dead..my fault."

"You didn't know it was gonna crash Zechs, your're not responsib-"

"BUT I AM!!" He cried out. "Everyone I've ever loved has died! My family, my friends at the palace, Walker, Otto, Noin, and..and Trieze. It's my curse; if I love them they die."

"And here I thought I was the only one that believed that." Duo wrapped his arms around Zechs. "It's not true...R..Relena's alive. You love her don't you?"

He couldn't move without hurting Duo so Zechs just stood still. "I'm not sure anymore. The more I hear of her actions the less I like her."

"Can't argue with that. But you have to stop thinking like that. Your love doesn't damm people to death. Just like mine didn't.."

"Duo?"

"I used to think that you know? That anyone I loved was doomed to die. I was the God of Death, Shinigami. No one could love me or I love them without paying the price. It wasn't hard to believe. My parents whoever they were, Solo, Father Maxwell, Sister Helen, all my friends in the orphanage. All dead. I should've died of the plague with Solo but I have a natural immunity. I should've died with the others at the orphange but I was out trying to steal a mobile suit, to make the men go away."

"What about Heero?"

Duo stiffened. "He's the Perfect Soldier, if blowing himself up in his Gundam didn't kill him I doubted a simple curse would." His voice dropped to barely above a whisper. "I almost wish it had."

"You don't want that."

"Yes, yes I do! He used me, played with me like a some dammed toy. And when he got tired of me he went to Relena!" Duo hissed, a dark glint coming into his eyes. "I was nothing to him, my one redeeming quality was that I was cheaper that buying a street whore for the night!"

And then the anger was gone, replaced with an anguish Zechs had seen in his own eyes all too often. "I just don't want it to hurt anymore. Don't I deserve that much at least?" A single tear slid free.

Zechs wiped it away with his thumb. "You do. And maybe if you do, then so do I."

 

After that night Zechs and Duo began to spend more time together. They talked about their lives, discovering they weren't all that different, despite the differences in their origins. They took long walks together, ate together, watched tv and even read to each other. Duo's exuberant personality began to return, his eyes once more shining and bright. The halls rang with his laughter and all who heard it smiled in sheer relief. His influence on Zechs was amazing. The former OZ pilot loosened up and began reaching out to others.

It was only natural that their feelings of friendship develop into something deeper. Duo and Zechs knew each other, more so than many couples married decades did so. Their common histories and pain binding them. And friendship was the best basis for love to grow from.

That's not to say the path was easy. Several rough spots developed along the way, old pieces of their pasts cropping up to haunt them. But with the help of their friends Duo and Zechs made it through.

 

-------
A.C. 198, June
-------

Duo couldn't believe this day was really happening, he felt his heart would burst from the sheer joy he felt. He looked up into the eyes of his friend, lover, and now ..

"I now pronounce you wed. You may kiss your spouse." The priest smiled as bound the two before him together forever.

"You heard the man, kiss me." Duo smiled seductively. "And not just a peck either."

"Your wish is my command." Zechs purred before taking his husband's lips in a hot passionate kiss. Behind them the small group gathered to witness the event, if you can call 40 Magunacs, 14 staff members and their familes, 1 ex-rebel doctor,and 3 ex-Gundam pilots a small group, broke out in a rousing cheer which only got louder the longer the kiss lasted.

Breaking off the reluctantly the newly wed couple walked down the isle, laughing as they were showered with rice.

"Onto the reception now!" Quatre pushed Duo and Zechs. "Have I got a surprise for you two!"

"Do we have to?" Duo whined, his mind among other parts of his body wanting to move onto the honeymoon.

"Now Duo, they did go to all this trouble." His handsome spouse chastised him softly. "Besides, I can't wait to feed you your piece of cake."

That did it. A devilish smile came to Duo's face. "Oh yeah! I get to do that to you too don't I?"

"If you think you can!" Zechs laughed along with everyone else as Duo began dragging him towards the estate's ballroom.

 

Wufei sighed. He had truly lost the vibrant American. But he couldn't find it in himself to hate Zechs, rather he was silently thankful for his winning of Duo's heart.

He knew where he went wrong. Bringing Heero up all the time, demanding Duo to forget him and move on. He never stopped to ask if he wanted to talk, never listened when Duo tried to talk. Wufei didn't like the things Duo did, and a lot of his perferences weren't Duo's. And it was wrong to think Duo would change just for him. He wouldn't have been the Duo he loved if he did.

Zechs accepted him just the way he was. He never tried to change Duo. He listened, and more importantly he understood.

At least he had the satisfaction of seeing Duo happy once more.

In the middle of the dancefloor Zechs was kneeling and pulling off the frilly silk garter from around Duo slim leg. With a smile and wink the long-haired man turned his back and tossed the garter over his shoulder and into the waiting crowd.

Something slapped against his chest and Wufei reached up automatically to catch it. He looked down in bewilderment at the white ring of silk and lace in his hands.

"Way to go Wufei!" Duo cheered.

"Looks like you're next Chang!" Zechs smiled.

"Huh?"

"It's an old tradition," a silken voice breathed softly behind him. "To catch the garter means you'll be the next to get married."

Wufei frowned and turned to demand a better explanation. Only when he saw the speaker he couldn't think of a single thing to say.

If he didn't know any better he would've swore he was looking at a kin of Maxwell's. The same lean body, the same heart-shaped face. But there were differences. His skin was tanned from long hours under the sun, a warm honey which glowed under the hall's lights. Rich, deep red hair was gathered into a braid that reached almost to the young man's knees. His black suit with it's scottish sash molded to every inch of him. And his eyes! Wufei had never seen such a remarkable shade of emerald green! Not even Trowa's eyes sparkled so! They drew him, he couldn't look away.

The mysterious young man smiled, and Wufei's heart skipped a beat.

"Who...are you?" He finally managed to blurt out.

"Oh, sorry. I just flew in this morning. My name is Beathan Lander, my mother's the Cook here. I thought I would visit her now that I'm finished with my studies."

"Studies?" Gods! He felt like he was a parrot.

"I was accepted into college early. I've studied to be a cultural anthropologist."

Wufei couldn't believe it. He was a scholar??!!

"I don't believe we've been introduced yet."

Wufei blushed, which only made Beathan smile wider. "My name is Chang Wufei."

"Chang, the ruling family in the dragon clan, correct?"

This was too much! "Yes, how did you know that?"

"My focus is on oriental cultures, namely those of or from Japan and China."

"Beathan!" A woman's voice called out from the crowd.

"That's my mother, I have to go now. Perhaps we'll see each other again. You are staying here at Master Quatre's estate yes?"

Wufei could only nod.

"Then till next time Chang Wufei." He raised Wufei's hand to his lips in a parting gesture before dissappearing into the mass of dancers now on the floor. Wufei couldn't move, he just stood there with his hand still up in the air, blinking stupidly.

"Oh Wufei! You caught the gater!" Quatre ran up the stunned youth, Trowa right behind him. Niether had participated in the tosses since they were wed 4 months ago.

"I guess that means you're next for marriage." Trowa said and his husband giggled.

For a moment it seemed that their words hadn't registered then a slow wonderous grin spread across Wufei's face.

"You just might be right Trowa, you just might be right."

And with that he slipped the garter onto his arm and went off in search of a certain young scholar to see if he knew how to dance.

"I guess that means he's going to be okay." Quatre smiled after the retreating boy.

"Yep. Come on, let's dance."

Trowa spun his laughing husband out onto the dancefloor, waltzing right along side of the beautiful newlyweds, joined seconds later by their friend and the young scholar.

Life was wonderful.

 

-------
A.C. 201, Mid July
-------

Duo leaned back, basking in the warm breeze which wove it's way through the massive arbor above his head.

It was so peaceful out here beneath the wisteria vines, the only sounds he could hear were the sweet trilling of birds, the distant sound of waves on the rocks, and the tiny tinkle of the windchimes Quatre had given him as a housewarming gift.

It had been the little blonde who had pointed out the estate that bordered his here on the island was for sale. A few subtle hints was all it took to get Zechs interested. Not that it was a struggle, the long-haired man had taken quite a liking to Crete and it's quiet beauty. Despite the price, the former OZ officer had no trouble buying his and Duo's new home. He never had much to spend his salary on all those years so he just banked the stuff and let it compound. Between his savings and Duo sizable accounts money would never be a problem. They did work advising Quatre, but it was mainly to help their dear friend.

And Quatre did need some help, especially since little Calida came along.

Trowa and Quatre had been blessed with one of the sweetest and most beautiful little girls Duo had ever seen. With her wavy golden tresses and rich green eyes Calida Winner-Barton enchanted everyone she met. This didn't mean she didn't have her wild moments that drove her parents up the wall, only that they were few and far between.

It was Duo's fervent hope that he and Zechs would be equally blessed.

Getting up out chairs was a challange for him these days but he'd leaned to manage. Slowly he wandered along the garden's path. Duo stopped by the potted calamodins, noting with interest that some of the trees bore nearly ripe fruit. He'd have to remind the cook to make some more of that wonderful marmalade.

Barking announced the arrival of the other man in his life.

Shin, alias Shinigami the devil dog, came barreling around the corner, his little legs a blur.

"Hey Shin," Duo greeted his pet. "Where you been boy? Up to no good I bet."

Shin merely cocked him head and gave that devilish little grin, the one that had landed him the position as Duo's pet in the first place. Beathan had been thinking about getting Duo and Zechs a terrier for the first aniversary in their house. But when he saw the black, tan, and white Corgi pup's statement as he sat in his cage the scholar just couldn't resist. Both men loved the four-legged terror with all their hearts. Which was a good thing because he constantly had the gardeners in an uproar with his digging.

Shin followed his master through the potted trees, watching as Duo plucked several of the fragrent flowers and placed them in his hair.

Walking back to the house left him a little winded Duo stopped for a moment to catch his breath. It was here that Zechs found him.

"Duo? Are you alright?"

His younger husband looked up. "Hi Zechs. Yeah, I'm okay. Just a little bushed, that walk might be a little too far to handle for a while."

Zechs put his arm around Duo's waist and guided him towards the house. "You shouldn't tax yourself, you know what Sally said."

"I know, but I just can't stay in bed forever."

Platnium hair swayed as Zechs shook his head. "She didn't say to stay in bed all the time, just not to overdue things when you do get up."

"I'll be glad when this is over. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed it, even the morning sickness."

"Really?"

At his husband's amused smirk Duo laughed. "Okay, maybe not the morning sickness, but just you remember, the next time we do this it's your tur-Ow!"

"Duo?"

"Just one the kids kicking again. I swear Zechs if they come out holding a soccor ball you slipped them you're ass is mine!" Duo swore as he rubbed the impact site.

"But Duo, my ass is yours already."

"Yeah , but I haven't been able to have any fun with it for a month."

Duo looked so adorable when he pouted. "Just another two months and you can have as much fun with my ass as you want."

"I'm going to hold you to that promise lover."

"You do that." He led the braided youth into the den and eased him onto the couch. For several minutes Zechs busied himself with positioning pillows for his husband's comfort all under the watchful eyes of Shin.

"Only another month to go and we'll be holding our children," He smiled, placing one hand on Duo's swollen stomach which was immediately covered by Duo's slimmer one.

Not to be left out Shin hopped up on the couch and placed one paw atop his masters hands, eliciting a string of chuckles from both men.

"C'mon you little wiggler, hold still now." Quatre pleaded with his daughter as she moved her feet everywhere but where he needed them.

Calida's delighted laughter rang through the air. She loved playing this game with her Mommy! Especially since Daddy ususally got involved too!

Quatre sighed. Getting his daughter to hold still long enough to put her shoes on was next to impossible. But there wasn't any way she was going over to Zechs and Duo's without something on her feet other than socks.

"Here, let me try." Trowa took the tiny shoes out of Quatre's hands.

Oh goody! Daddy was here to play! Calida squealed and kicked, green eyes bright with excitement.

With a well practiced movement Trowa grabbed one foot and slipped on the shoe before his daughter knew what happened.

Drats! Daddy got one. Oh well, she still had one more.

He had to stuggle a bit for a few seconds before he succeeded with the other foot.

Sweet little bow lips pouted. Daddy got them, maybe next time she'd win.

"There, all done." Trowa gathered his daughter up into his arms. It never ceased to amaze him how he had come to have such a wonderful family. First Quatre, and now this sweet little darling.

"You really have to teach me that."

"Can't do that, it would spoil her fun. You have everything?"

Quatre checked his daughter's bag. "Yes, all here, and Rashid has already driven over our bags."

"Good, then let's go and see Duo."

"Doo! Uc Doo!" Calida clapped her hands in delight. They were going to see Doo! That made up for losing the shoe game.

"Somehow I think we're going to have trouble when she gets older." The blonde boy sighed and shook his head. "She adores Duo."

"What's wrong with that?" Trowa asked, keeping his eyes on the stairs as they desended.

"Do we really want our daughter growing a braid and running around yelling 'shinigami lives!' at the top of her lungs?"

His husband stopped to consider this. "He won't teach her that. It's reserved for his own family."

"Oh Allah! That's right! And he's having twins!"

Now that was a frightening thought.

Shinigami in stereo.

There were times when he thought maybe this family buisness wasn't such a good idea.

Like right now when it made his darling dragon a devout worshipper of the porcelain throne. Beathan was sure Wufei would be admitted to the hospital before this was over. Dehydration was always a risk with heavy and prolonged morning sickness. And boy did Wufei have morning sickness.

Morning, noon, night, and all hours in between!

Sally had assured him this phase would pass and just keep offering Wufei small snacks and plenty of water. She also suggested talking to Quatre and Duo since the two ex-pilots had already successfully passed thru this stage. They suggested peppermint, and while it did work there were times Wufei just couldn't avoid the nausea.

Wufei pulled his head away from the toilet and wiped his mouth on a towel.

"You okay love?" His husband knelt down by his side and aided him in rinsing his mouth.

His now pale dragon leaned against his husband's solid chest. "I'll survive."

"I'm starting to doubt that. This is still happening far too often. When Sally gets here I'm going to ask her if there's anything else she can do." Beathan gathered Wufei closed, picking up a cool washcloth to wipe his forehead. Onyx eyes closed in contentment as the cloth's soothing chill was run across heated skin.

"Maybe you're right, but I don't want any-"

"I know, I know, no drugs other than the hormones. But remember love, your body can't feed the baby if it's starved for nurishment itself."

Wufei grumbled but conceeded Beathan was right. "All right, now help me up. I need to get cleaned up, there's no way I'm going to let that woman see me like this."

Beathan shook his head and chuckled. His husband had yet to lose completely his attitude towards women. It drove Sally nuts, making Beathan wonder if Wufei retained it specifically for just that purpose.

He swayed a bit when he finally stood, but it seemed this round was over. Thank heavens they were already living at Zechs and Duo's house till construction of their own was finished. Wufei's condition didn't favor long walks at the moment.

"Not much farther now Miss Relena, you're brother's house is just down this road." Pagan called over his shoulder to the girl huddled in the limo's back seat.

Relena didn't reply. She really had nothing to say anyway. It didn't matter to her one way or another. What could her brother possibly do that would make things right. Could he give her back her fertility? Could he give her back the Heero she loved and take away this poor wreck that sat besides her?

Heero watched the countryside slip by with shadowed eyes. There was no anticipation in his heart for the coming reunion between himself and the former Lightening Count. The only thing that mattered at the moment was the fact this trip had given him a brief time outside of his dark imprisonment, and for now that was enough.

Pagan clutched the steering wheel and pushed down on the excelarator a little more. A disturbing thought kept popping up in his head each time he looked in the rearview mirror. He was driving a pair of zombies. Barely animated corpses. They breathed, they walked, and sometimes they ate or talked, but that was all.

(Please God, let this work. For if it doesn't I fear we shall eventually lose them both.)

"Wufei! How are you?" Quatre gave the black-haired boy a gentle hug.

Strong arms retuned the gesture. "The morning sickness is still a bother."

"Really, I thought that peppermint had done the trick." Duo said from his place stretched out on the couch.

Beathan hugged the heavily pregnant boy gently. "And how are you three this fine day?" He tenderly patted Duo's belly.

"Fine and dandy!" He beamed. "Hey! There's my sweetie! C'mere Cali!"

"Doo! Uc Doo!" The little girl wriggled about in her effort to reach her favorite uncle. Trowa sighed and carefully sat his daughter down beside Duo.

"Now be good Calida, remember what Uncle Duo has inside him."

But Trowa needn't have worried. The minute Calida was there she shimmied up to Duo and laid her head on his bulging midsection. She giggled and gave the skin beneath her head a tiny pat. "Babies. Bump, bump!"

Shin popped up from Duo's other side and demonstrated his famous ambush technique. The blonde girl laughed and rubbed the compact dog's head as he licked her face and hands. Every adult couldn't help but laugh as well.

Life was wonderful.

It was also about to go to hell in a handbasket!

The black limo pulled up to Milliardo's estate. Pagan was impressed. The building was far less ornate than the Sank palace and had a more inviting feel to it. This was a home, not a showcase. A short woman with white-streaked red hair greeted him at the door.

"May I help you Sir?" She asked politely enough but he could hear the underlying tone of suspision in her voice. Pagan knew that sound, having used it frequently in his own work.

"We are here to see Mr. Merquise. I have brought his sister here in hopes the visit would help in her recovery." He explained.

Beathan's mother Emma didn't know what to make of this. She knew Zechs did indeed have kin somewhere, but she was led to believe he had cut all ties with them. Could this be one of them? And what were they doing here?

Behind him two youngsters had just climbed out of the limo and waited. Oh dear! they looked so pale and exhausted! Wait, didn't this man say something about recovering? Had there been an accident, if so why wasn't Mr. Merquise or his husband notified.

"Come with me please. Leave your baggage outside till Mr. Merquise or his spouse comfirm who you are and if you'll be staying."

"Spouse?" Relena croaked out, this having been the first word she had uttered in over 30 hours. Milliardo had married? How utterly insulting! She hadn't been invited to the wedding!! He should have least done that. The proper thing to do would have been to allow her to test this girl he'd married to see if she was fit to admit into the family thru marriage. A small spark of life returned to her eyes and steadily grew as she fumed. Her brother had snubbed her, his own sister!

For Heero the news held little pleasure. Instead he was slightly jealous. Zechs obviously had found someone to love without his sister's interference. He wasn't chained down in a hopeless situation. And for that he was envious.

"Mr. Merquise is in the den with his spouse and guests."

Heero was automatically cataloged his surrounding as they went. Curious, he could've sworn that vase was familiar. Wasn't there one just like that in his and Du-no, now wasn't the time to let those memories come back.

Emma stopped at the den's double doors and knocked to annouce herself. "Excuse me Sir, but there are some people here to see you. One is supposed to be yo-"

Relena pushed aside the older woman, fully intent on reaming her brother a new orrifice only to stop dead in her tracks.

There was Trowa and Quatre, the blonde holding a little girl that was a perfect blend of both boys. That Chinese boy was opposite to them being held by a red-head with a long braid.

And her dear brother Milliardo was setting on the couch, holding the hand of..No....No..it just.. couldn't be. It couldn't BE!!!

"DUO??!!" She screeched at the top of her lungs, startling everyone and scaring the little girl. "YOU MARRIED THAT MISERABLE PIECE OF STREET PUKE??"

For Heero it was a bitter sight. His precious Duo had indeed moved on and found love once more. And by the looks of his midsection on the verge of creating a family as well.

Milliardo stood up while the other boys in the room moved to place themselves between the now enraged young woman and the vulnerable Duo. Shin was growling menacingly besides his master's leg.

"How dare you call my husband that! APOLOGIZE RELENA, NOW!"

Relena shook her head even as her eyes fell upon Duo's bulging belly. NO! It couldn't be! He..he just couldn't be pregnant! It wasn't FAIR!! She should be the one carrying, not that filthy slut! IT WASN'T FAIR!!!

Pagan saw the whole situation was about to go thermonucelar and quickly stepped in to defuse it before someone got hurt. "Please, everybody! Please, we must talk."

Pale blue eyes flickered over to the old servant. "Very well, we'll talk." Milliardo ground out from between clenched teeth. "We'll talk."

Relena never said another word as Pagan explained the last few months to Milliardo and the others. She didn't even notice the old servant or most of his audience. Her entire focus was locked solely of Duo's reclining form.

She watched as his hands unconsciously stroked his swolled belly in a gentle soothing manner. A tiny heaving of the skin on one side marked where a foot or hand had struck out. He lowered his eyes, such a sweet statement of absolute tenderness and love adorned his heart-shaped face as he crooned softly to the life within him. Duo radiated a joy she had never before seen.

And her jealousy and hatred knew no bounds.

(That should be me, not you. You don't deserve it, I do. I should be pregnant! I have everything in the world to give to a baby. What right do you have to carry? You're not a woman, you're certainly not fit to be a Peacecraft. What did you do to get my brother to marry you Duo? Did you get him drunk and fuck him senseless? Did he marry you for your talents in bed, you whore! I want to knw!!)

A cold rage desended on her soul. Somehow she would get her answers then find a way to purge this stain from the Peacecraft family.

For Heero the sight of his beloved Duo, so sweet and beautiful in his vulnerability, was a cruel twist of the knife in his heart. He longed to go to the braided youth and beg forgivness, plead on his knees that Duo at least listen to what he had to say. He could finally tell him why he left. Duo was safe now, Zechs would protect his husband and children, the council wouldn't dare touch him. Nothing was holding him back.

Funny about the irony of it all.

Now that he was free to tell Duo the truth he was beyond Heero's reach.

Duo kept his eyes down. He didn't want to look at Heero, didn't want to remember the memories he had worked so hard to put behind him. It was hard though, so hard.

His heart ached at the first sight of his former lover. Heero was a shadow of his former self. He'd lost weight and his skin had an unhealthy shade to it, kinda chalky-like. Shadows clung beneath his sullen eyes, the contrast stark between the two skin shades. Even his hair was dull and lifeless. He couldn't understand what had brought the strongest of all the pilots to such a level of poor health. Heero might've have ignored his body's needs when the mission called for it but he had never let it drop to such a dangerous level.

He wanted to know what had happened, but Duo wasn't sure he could bring himself to talk to Heero without loosing it again.

This was pure bullshit!

No doubt about it, bullshit.

Okay, so the little twit had to go and get into an accident and got herself fixed in the veterinary sense of the word. Now she couldn't have kids; in his opinion this was a blessing to all humanity. She'd probably have taught them to be just like her; obsessive, annoying, and lacking in anything that remotely resembled cognitive fuctions. In other words more idiots to add to a world already filled with 'em.

He could understand how this could upset her. She wanted to breed a litter of little Relena and Heero crossbreeds. That image alone was enough to make him nauseous.

But did they have to let her, Heero, and her tag-along servant stay with them till she regained some of her old self???

Duo had argued with Zechs about this for hours last night. His husband was distraught over his sister's situation and wanted to do something to help.

And while Duo professed to have no feeling towards Heero other than contempt he was worried about him.

So Duo conceeded defeat and gave his ok, but only so long as all three of their new house guests minded both their manners and their mouths.

He took another bite of his toast, savoring the rich maralade, and waited for Zechs to join him for breakfast. It might be a long wait though, Relena wanted to talk to him....

 

"...we've already been over this Relena, why won't you let it rest?" Zechs sighed in mild, but steadily growing, annoyance.

But Relena wasn't about to back down. "Why brother? Whatever in the world possessed you to marry someone like Duo Maxwell?" She shuddered at the mere mention of his name, as if it were something foul and replusive.

"Duo Maxwell is one of the most beautiful, amazing, and loving individuals I have ever met. I consider myself extremely lucky that he consented to be my husband and mother of my children."

Again Relena shuddered, only this time she also turned a decidedily distinct shade of green.

This didn't go unnoticed by her brother who narrowed his eyes and frowned at his sister. She didn't run his life. Relena had absolutely no right to tell him who he could and couldn't marry! This was especially true since he had renounced his position as Crown Prince.

But here she was, not eight feet away from him, spouting off nonsense about how awful this was and how was she going to talk about it when the press confronted her. Totally oblivious to her brother's mounting fury she continued, alternating between scolding him and condemming Duo. Relena seemed to take great pleasure in calling his husband, his loving PREGNANT husband, such horrible things as slut, whore, and filthy little cocksucker.

He took all he could, then....

"RELENA!!"

The blonde girl jumped at her brother's enraged bellow.

"Milliardo? What-"

"SHUT UP!"

"But-"

"I SAID SHUT UP!!"

For once a brain cell actually worked because she fell silent.

"You have been setting here for the last hour telling me how bad Duo is and poor my judgement was on this matter. Duo is my HUSBAND! The mother of my CHILDREN!! AND WHILE YOU AND THE OTHERS ARE HERE YOU WILL TREAT HIM WITH THE UTMOST COURTESY AND RESPECT!!" His voice dipped low into the menacing range. "And, sister or no sister, if you lay so much as one finger on Duo or the twins I will personally send you to an EARLY GRAVE! IS THAT CLEAR??"

Relena couldn't see straight, she was so mad. But no matter how mad she was Zechs was twenty times more so. And all of it was directed at her.

There are few things more terrifying in life than the site of a enraged male defending his mate and cubs. Zechs now fell into this catagory.

And Relena knew it. Knew it, and backed down.

At least for now.

 

"Hello Yui."

Heero raised his head to stare at the glowering Chinese man and his companion.

"Chang." He lowered his head, partly to avoid Wufei's black eyes and because it hurt to look up into the sun.

"I remember promising to you I'd behead you next time you came close to Duo." He took in Heero's ragged appearance. "But this seems more fitting, and more pleasurable by far than removing your skull. After all, why should I grant you a quick and painless death when I can watch you suffer, just I and the others had to watch Duo suffer when you left. Yes, much better than my original plan."

Heero didn't look up. "You're breaking a promise? Where is the justice in that?"

"Justice comes in many forms."

"It's still going back on your word."

"You sound dissappointed Heero, could it be you want to die?"

Now he raised his eyes and Wufei couldn't stop the little shiver that ran up his spine. It was like gazing into a dark pit; no light or warmth or happiness to fill their depths. Even during the darkest times during the war there had been a spark of emotion in Heero's eyes. Not anymore. Wufei was looking into the eyes of a dead soul.

"I've tried..tried many times to die. But it won't let me..."

"Wufei, what's he talking about?" The man besides his former friend asked, concern etched on his handsome features.

Wufei was getting angry now. "And what reason would you have to suicide Heero? Surely even with this little setback you're still with Relena so you must love her, happy to be at her side."

And Heero laughed. It wasn't the battle laugh that shot fear into his enemies. Nor was it the light peaceful chuckles he once shared with Duo.

No, this laugh was full of bitterness and anger. "Happy? Love her?" Shaking his head Heero rose from where he sat. "No, I haven't felt that emotion in years. It's been so long I'm not even sure I remember what it felt like. And as for love.."

Beathan stepped in front of sickly man and his husband as he once again locked eyes with Wufei.

"..I do not love her."

"WHAT?? Then in the name of all the heavens why did you leave Duo and get engaged to Relena??"

"It was for Duo's sake that I did it."

Wufei grabbed Heero's arm as he tried to walk away. "That makes no sense. Explain it."

"Why didn't you ask this then Chang!" In a rare burst of strength he pulled free from the other pilot's grasp. "Why didn't any of you ask. What made it so easy for you and everyone else to believe I would leave Duo for her the first opportunity I got. You tell me that!"

"Oh right Yui, after all those times you hit Duo or threatened to kill him during the war.."

"Duo knew I didn't mean it, any of it."

"So you say. And you also say it was for Duo's sake you left. What danger were you protecting him from.

"Loss of his sanity. Loss of his life. Loss of his innocence. Take your pick."

Before Wufei could figure out anything about Heero's cryptic statement the Wing pilot withdrew from the conversation and dissappeared into the garden.

 

"Do you feel all right now love?" Trowa whispered softly.

Quatre snuggled closer to his husband. "Yes, Heero's moving farther into the grounds. Oh Trowa, he's so full of pain and despair! I've never felt anything so intense before, not even from Duo."

That made Trowa's visible eye widen.

What was going here? What was everyone overlooking?

"Perhaps it's time we had a talk with Heero, something isn't right here."

"Yes, just not now. My head still hurts a little." Quatre rubbed his temples in an effort to lesson some of the pressure.

It was by sheer luck, or fate, that the path Heero chose led right to Duo.

Two sets of eyes locked.

The tension was thick enough to cut with a beam saber.

"Heero." The greeting was a cold one straight from the artic.

"Duo, I think we need to talk."

"Oh? You want to talk to me? Why couldn't you talk to me back then Heero? Tell me that!" Duo's voice began to rise. "Were you too busy with that mindless twit? Was that it? Did you have your head shoved so high up her ass that you couldn't how much you hurt us, HURT ME!"

"Please Duo-"

"NO! I don't want to hear you begging. I WANT TO HEAR THE REASON WHY YOU LEFT!!!

Years of pent up anger and hurt welled up inside Duo and this time he let it loose. No more indescision. Before he left this garden he was going to have the answers he'd been searching for.

"Fine, I'll tell you. I had no choice......"

 

The longer it took to find her finacee the more Relena's grew. He wasn't in their rooms and a search of the house turned up no trace. That only left the grounds.

(Damm him! Damm them all!!) She tore a branch of one of the potted oranges as she stormed past. (Why did Pagan have to bring us here?)

The branch in her hand slashed through the air and she imagined what might be the noises Duo would make as she beat him with it.

"..WHY YOU LEFT!!!"

(That's the little bastard now. Wonder what's got him upset.)

"Fine, I'll tell you..."

(Heero? Why is he talking to Duo.)

"..I had no choice.."

(No choice?) For the moment the branch was forgotten as she peeked through the bushes to spy on the pair.

Heero was looking straight into Duo's eyes as he began to speak.

"The council wanted Relena protected from any further assassination attempts so they assigned a bodyguard; me. Only I was to tell her I wanted to marry her so I could keep track of her movements."

(No, that can't be right.)

"You could've said no Heero, you DO understand the use of the word no, don't you?"

"As I said, I had no choice."

"Everyone has a choice Heero!" Duo snapped.

(That's right you sleezy braided-bitch. And he chose ME!)

"They threatened you."

Duo blinked. "Huh?"

(Huh?) Relena unconsciously echoed her unwelcome brother-in-law.

"They knew about our relationship, they knew our every move, every habit. They used you to force me to agree. If I didn't take the assignment, marry Relena and serve as her secret bodyguard they would..hurt you."

Duo didn't like where this was going, plainly evident by the draining color on his cheeks.

"They offered up several choices. Snipers were already following you. One phone call and your brains would be splattered all over the nearest wall. Or a poison could be introduced into your food that would drive you permenantly insane; a gibbering maniac locked away in some institute for the rest of your life. The last one was the worst."

(No, no, no, they wouldn't do that. Heero's with me because he loves me. He loves ME!)

"Heero...?" Duo struggled to rise out of his chair, only to be pushed down by Heero's gentle hand.

"They would order their men to kidnap you, rape you repeatedly, and beat you to death."

"Oh God Heero! Why didn't you tell me! We cou-"

"NO! If I told anyone, especially you, what they were using against me they promised you would be dead before the next sunrise. I COULDN'T TAKE THE RISK!." Heero sunk to his knees, arms wrapped around himself as he shivered despite the sun's warmth.

(He must be making this up to keep Duo off our backs...)

"Why, why now Heero? Why tell me now?"

"You're married to Zechs, Relena's brother. A Peacecraft! They don't dare touch you now."

Duo sighed, tears running down his face.

Relena couldn't move, shock freezing her place as Heero accepted Duo's offered hug. He lay cradled into those strong arms and cried, cried as he had wanted to ever since he received those thrice dammed orders.

(This isn't happening! Nothing but a nasty little nightmare! I'll just pinch myself and it will all go away.)

But it didn't go away. If anything it only got worse.

"There's nothing left for me now." Heero choked. "No friends, no family. You're married and about to become a mother."

"Heero....do..do you still love me?"

(NO, HE DOESN'T!! HE LOVES ME, HE'S MINE!!)

"I could ask the same question of you."

Duo closed his eyes, one tear escaping to moisten delicate long lashes.

"You hurt me Heero, hurt me so bad I was willing to die to escape the pain..."

(You should've died!)

"..And it's going to take a long time before I can really trust you again.."

Heero seemed to sink further into himself.

"..but I still love you. And it hurts to see you like this."

Heero's head shot up. He studied the American's face for signs of him lying.

(That's right, he's lying! Duo couldn't love you. I love you!!)

But Duo never lies.

"I never stopped loving you Duo, not even for a second."

And for the first time in nearly 4 years Heero shared a kiss with his one true love.

(NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!!!) And still she couldn't move, even as her mind screamed it's denial of the truths being revealed right in front of her.

"What do we do now?" Heero reluctantly pulled away, fingers lingering on Duo's smooth skin.

"We need to talk to Zechs and the others, they need to know this too. The more people who know about what the government leaders have done, the less likely it'll be they'll try something."

Heero helped Duo up. Together they began the walk back to the den where Zechs was sure to be, offering support to one another as it was needed.

Behind them, hidden in the bushes, Relena had collapsed. She huddled there, one hand still wrapped around the orange branch, rocking back and forth. Tears ran like rivers down her face, her misery equaled only by her anger and jealousy.

She sat there for a long time. Each passing minute her mind slipping further into it's own little world...

 

To say the others were angry was like saying the battle for Libra had been a beautifully staged production of Swan Lake.

Beathan had to physically restrain Wufei. His husband was all set to return to Preventer headquarters, pick up the largest pack of explosives he could lay his hands on and send those sadistic bastards straight to hell. And while Beathan was in a mind to help him they had Wufei's condidtion to consider.

Trowa had a few ideas involving a pit of hungry lions and a rope, but after careful consideration put that aside. He didn't want to make his feline friends sick from something they ate. He switched to Wufei's plan instead.

Zechs was coldly furious. All that pain Duo had suffered. The years of isolation and depression Heero endured without hope of release. And for what? So Relena could trot around like she hadn't a worry in the world? His estimation of her intelligence dropped another 100 points. It was due to her refusual to accept the original protection offered her that started this whole grim situation rolling. Thank heavens he renounced the Peacecraft name years ago, Zechs wanted nothing more to do with it, especially when the reporters got a whiff of this scandal.

Sally, who had arrived just after Relena left the den and was currently examining Heero, was swearing silently to report this to Une the first opportunity she got. These boys were out for blood and would need someone to at least clean up the pieces once they were done. No sense leaving filth like that laying around to stink up the place.

And Quatre. Delicate little gentle Quatre had them worried the most.

After he had the names of the councilmen involved Trowa's sweet husband began rambling off a list of contacts and legal documents he wanted found to Rashid. The giant Captain eagerly writing everything down. He and the other Magunacs were all very fond of Duo and desired to see the men responsible for his pain punished, and none could do it better than Master Quatre.

Once the big man left Qautre began pacing, all the while muttering a string of plans, interlaced with choice bits of profanity involving the enemy's lineage, health, and even sex life in such detail everyone went bright red with embarrassment.

It was a little known fact that Quatre had an absolutely brutal vindictive streak when it came to those who hurt his friends and family. The councilmen had efectively signed their own political deathwarrents when they wrote Heero's orders. And Quatre wanted to be the executioner.

As for Duo, he would have to set back and let Quatre and the others seek justice for him and Heero. Right now he had to think of the two lives nestled beneath his heart, his husband, and the thin figure laid out on the couch with his head in what was left of Duo's lap.

After hearing the truth about Heero and Duo's breakup Wufei apologized for his earlier remarks and asked forgivness for not digging deeper years ago. Trowa and Quatre echoed him, both ashamed of their actions towards Heero. It was going to be ackward between them for a while but each was positive that with time they could revive the friendship they once had.

Sally set her stethoscope aside. "Heero, when was the last time you ate, or slept for that matter?"

"Ate?" Heero mumbled. With the weight of his secret out, and the promise of getting his friends back, had removed much of the dark-haired boy's stress, leaving him very sleepy.

"Yes, and slept." Sally repeated.

"Two...um three days." He vaguely remembered trying to eat some soup, only to have it violently returned by his rebellious stomach, but had no idea when that had been.

The braided woman snarled in disgust. "Heero I want you in bed now!"

He blinked owlishly. "I didn't know you felt that way about me Sally."

Laughter broke out all around her as Sally shook her head. Of all the times for Heero to start developing a sense of humor it would have to be now. Still, it was better than him laying there as quiet as a corpse and looking only slightly better than one so she shouldn't complain.

"Heero, you're sick. You're underweight, malnourished, and suffering from stress and sleep deprivation. I want to start an IV with glucose to start with. You can sleep while that's going. Once the reports of the blood tests are back I'll have a better idea of what else I'm dealing with and we can go from there."

Heero didn't respond, he'd already fallen asleep.

Trowa was the one who offered to carry Heero to the nearest bedroom. He was rather shocked at how light the body in his arms was. Well, they'd fix that, and everything else.

Wufei, Beathan, and Quatre followed the three out, leaving Duo alone with his husband.

Zechs waited until the sound of their footsteps dissappeared.

"Duo..."

"I know Zechs. As much as I love you, I still love Heero. It never died over the years. Perhaps my heart knew there was something wrong and my brain just didn't listen well enough, but it's still there." He looked up to meet Zechs' worried gaze.

"Are you...leaving me..then?" He asked, voice uneven with emotion.

"No, oh no Zechs!" Duo heaved himself up and crossed the room. He pulled his husband as close to him as he could while still carrying the kids. "I'd never leave you Zechs, I love you. You're my friend, lover and father of my children and I'll be with you till the day I die. But.."

Zechs nuzzled his husband's hair tenderly. "But what?"

"Could you..that is, do you think you could.....learn to love Heero too?"

He pulled back in shock. Looking down he could see that Duo wasn't kidding, he really wanted him to....

"You see, I thought we could include Heero into our bond. But only if you think it might work. I mean you'd have to feel something for him.."

"Feel something for him." The taller man mulled it over.

"It'd have to be done slow, for everyone's sake. But if anyone could pull it off it would be the three of us..."

"Duo."

"I doubt Heero's ready for any sudden changes. God knows I'm not, but if we.."

"Duo." Zechs tried again, but his husband kept right on. There was only one thing to do when he got like this.

"..take it nice and slowmmmthff!" Duo's next words were muffled as Zechs took his mouth in a slow deep kiss which lasted over a minute. Both were a little winded as they parted.

"Duo, before you say anything else, I agree."

Violet eyes widened in astonishment. He thought he'd have to work a lot harder to get Zechs to agree. What was up?

Zechs had to chuckle at the look of perplexion Duo wore. "My love, I can see how much this means to you and I'm willing to try it for your sake. Who knows, I might just end up loving him as much as I love you."

Duo couldn't believe his ears. But Zechs had said it, he'd really said it!!

"YES!! Thank you Zechs my love!! Thank you!!" He hugged his husband, tears of joy welcomed as they fell from shining eyes.

 

(Yes, this will do. This will do nicely.) Relena tugged the thick door shut. (Now all I have to do is drag Duo here.)

The Princess of Sank had finally wandered away from the accursed area where she seen the unthinkable. Having no destination in mind she drifted from path to path till coming upon an old storage shed, long forgotten amongst the thick brush. As she studied the small building's tiny windows and thick oak door a dark and twisted idea blossomed in her mind.

Long months of depression, anger, and now betrayal had at last taken their toll on Relena's already fragile sanity. The final thread having snapped when Heero kissed Duo and professed his love. Her mind grasped the facts and twisted them into something that fit her world.

(Thief! You filthy little street rat! That's all that street rats are; thieves that steal what they can't earn. Heero's mine! He's always been mine. You couldn't stand that could you? IT WAS YOU!! You took away my family! You ripped out my womb for yourself so you could have Heero's children!! Those are my children! Mine and Heero's! AND I WANT THEM BACK!!!!)

She formed a plan right there. Duo was far enough along that the babies could survive outside the womb. She'd just find a way to get him here and then...she'd reclaim her rightful property. How hard could it really be?

Just take a knife and slice right?

Of course she'd have to make sure Duo couldn't move, she wouldn't want to hurt her children. Heero wouldn't like it if their new family had to have stiches because she was careless.

Sally should be here by now and could check the children out before she and Heero took them home. Her brother would be upset but Relena was sure he'd come to see what a favor she'd done him. Milliardo would be free to find some nice proper woman, one who was fitting of the Peacecraft name.

And in a way, she was grateful to the braided idiot.

He'd done all the hard work for her.

He'd had the morning sickness, the mood swings, weight gain, and all the other symptoms that went with pregnancy. Sparing her them and the loss of her trim figure.

Yes, she'd have to thank him before she left him there to bleed to death...

 

After his talk with Zechs Duo wandered out into the garden. He just wanted to settle himself a little before going to see how Heero was doing. And to ask Quatre exactly what his plans were. Maybe he could add a few things, just to make it more painful.

He stopped again at the oranges. Duo couldn't get enough of their heady fragrance.

So engrossed with smelling the fragrant blossoms he never heard Relena come up behind him. He went down like a ton of bricks when the makeshift club connected with his head.

Relena tossed the small log aside; it's usefulness was at an end. She stared at the sprawled figure at her feet and began laughing, and continued to laugh as she grabbed Duo's arms and dragged him onto the garden wagon she'd found in her little hideaway.

It was harder than she thought it would be, but her madness lent strength equal to the task. She'd just take him down there and tie him up. The kitchen should have some nice sharp knives that'd work, as well as clean towels. Relena would just gather up what she needed and come back later when it was convenient. Humming a lullaby Relena pulled on. The last thing to dissappear into the bushes was the tip of Duo's braid.....

 

Pain was the first thing he noticed. The second being that he was laying on a cold hard floor tied, gagged, and blindfolded.

What the hell was going on??! The last thing he remembered was getting ready to pick a few orange blossoms, then something...SOMEONE had hit him on the head!!

He'd have to figure out who later, right now the first order of business was getting out of these restraints and find out where he was.

A sharp twinge in his belly caused him to shift in an attempt to find a more comfortable position. His head throbbed something terrible. Whoever it was that had attacked him hadn't been too considerate of his comfort. The cords around his wrists and ankles was too tight, it was cutting off the circulation. He continued to wriggle about, shifting a stretching the cords and cloth until he managed to slip the blindfold off.

Old rusty tools hung about the walls and littered the corners, covered in thick layers of dust and spiderwebs. Sharp eyes picked out several that looked to still have an edge to their blades. With a little effort he could inch over there and use one to--

His stomach clenched.

He stopped immediately.

(No, oh God, no. Not now!)

Breathing slowly, Duo relaxed every muscle he could.

Maybe that was it; just his body protesting to the cold flooring it lay on.

He waited, praying that it really wasn't what he thought it was. But all the prayers in the world couldn't stop the next contraction from coming.

An extra element had just been added to his dilemma.

Duo was in labor.

 

Shinigami padded along the garden path, claws clicking against the stones. Today had been a good day, mostly. He'd made his rounds, gotten into and out of his ususal mischief. But the tri-colored Corgi couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, and the new humans were the cause.

The sick one wasn't bad, his Duo liked that one. There was some agression at the start but everything seemed all right now. The old one was obvisously the lowest of the pack, always doing as the others told him. Shin saw no reason to get closer to that one. But the last one, the female, she set his fur on edge.

There was a smell that clung to her, a sick scent nothing like Duo's friend had. It was like those infected with the foaming sickness- the smell of lingering madness and death. She looked on his Duo and Shin could smell her hate. She wanted to challenge and as heavy with pups as his Duo was he wouldn't stand a chance.

Well, if she wanted a fight he'd give her one!

He'd show her not mess with his pack!

But that would have to wait till later, right now he had to check on his humans, just to make sure they really were all right. He'd start with Duo.

 

Zechs leaned against the doorframe, watching as Sally set up the IV. Heero merely laid there and allowed her to move him as she needed. It was obvious to the long-haired man that Heero had been running on his last reserves of strength ever since he'd arrived and had nothing left to fight Sally's determined care. Not that he really wanted to fight it. Zechs firmly believed this was probably the first time in years that someone was helping him because they actually cared for him, not because they were ordered to.

For perhaps the hundredth time Duo's husband wondered if he really could go along with what Duo wanted.

Triple marriages were rare, but not so much so that they were frowned upon. Merely it was the low odds of such bonds lasting that kept the numbers down. If the participants all started together the odds were good they'd succeed, but bringing another into an already established marriage...

But Duo loved him, had promised him he'd be with him till the day he died. And while the years and advancing motherhood had mellowed the pilot of Deathscythe one thing remained steadfast and true; Duo Maxwell-Merquise never lied.

It was painfully obvious that Heero desperately needed people, especially Duo, to love him. Zechs could well imagine what life was like with Relena. It wasn't something he'd wish on his worst enemy, much less a pilot he'd come to respect and admire.

Given the chance to regain Duo's love and the other pilots friendship Heero would probably kill anyone who tried to stand in his way.

There was no disputing that Heero was very handsome. The same lean and muscled body as Duo and the other pilots, but agmented by those piercing cobalt eyes and wild mane of dark hair. He could envision himself partaking of that body, testing the limits of Heero's control, discovering just how much it took him to become a being of pure desire and want.

Intelligence wasn't a problem. The man was a first rate hacker and programmer. And Duo had once commented on how much Heero read after the first war, virtually anything he could get his hands on. He'd bet all his savings that Heero could hold his end of a conversation on just about any subject.

Reviewing these facts Zechs finally made his decision; he could indeed learn to love Heero Yui.

Now the only question that remained was could Heero Yui learn to love Zechs Merquise.

 

"C'mon, c'mon...Yes!" Duo shouted as the last rope thread parted.

Once he'd recovered from the lastest contraction Duo had managed to wriggle his way over to one pile of shears. Struggling he turned himself around far enough to grasp one tool and open the blades then lifted his bound hands up and in position. He didn't get it on the first try, but at least the cuts were small and hadn't bled much.

Duo quickly untied the ropes around his ankles, thankful that whoever was responsible for this hadn't much skill with knots. A moan escaped as another contraction hit, draining the color from his face. Automatically he fell into the breathing routinue he and Zechs had learned.

So far they were steady and nine minutes apart. But Duo knew they wouldn't stay that way. Sooner or later they would speed up, becoming longer and more painful. He had to get out of here before that happened or he wouldn't be in any shape to walk.

As the pain subsided he used the wall to steady himself as he got to his feet. A few unsteady steps brought him to the room's only door. Through the cracks he could see lots of greenery. That meant he was outside somewhere, but was he still near the house? Duo had no way to gauge. He tried to open the door and found it wouldn't budge. No real surprise there, but he had hoped maybe his kidnapper would think the ropes would be enough to detain him. Ramming the door was out of the question, he might end up hurting himself or the baby.

Maybe he could try calling for help. But that could be dangerous. What if the kidnapper was nearby and heard. He might decide to bind him heavier, or tie him down, or he might kill him and the twins. Better to wait a little bit and listen. If he didn't hear anybody around Duo would give yelling a try,

 

Relena stuffed some clean towels into the duffle bag while checking the list she'd made.

(Hmmm, let's see. I have the knife, more rope, towels, string, some sterile gauze pads, soap, and a bottle of water. That should do-no, wait. There is one more thing.)

Setting the bag down she crossed to where Heero's suitcase still sat. Opening it she ruffled through it's contents till she found it. For many months now Relena had been aware that Heero had taken to carrying this gun wherever he went. Most of the time it was on his person.

"Perfect."

For a weapon Relena found the gun to be quite beautiful. Here in the palm of her hand it shone with a cold light as the sun tried in vain to warm it. It was funny in a way, that something so beautiful was capable of dealing death.

She had no intention of using it, she was a pasifist after all, but was taking it anyway. Just in case Duo's wretched little friends decided to try and stop her. Really, she thought at least Quatre would have better taste in whom he chose as his friends. The boy was from one of oldest and richest families in space, he must have been taught who was socially acceptable.

She stowed the gun away with the other items she needed to reclaim her children.

"Miss Relena?" Pagan stood at the door. "You brother asked me to inform you that Master Yui is being tended by Doctor Po in one of the first floor rooms."

"Heero? What's wrong?!!" Now she didn't know what to do. Should she go and fetch their family or go to her beloved's side.

"Nothing too important Miss Relena, he's just exhausted and hasn't been eating right. Doctor Po has him on an IV drip to help him regain some of his strength. Add on a good long sleep and he will be much better. She assures me of this." He held up his hands in a placating manner.

A relieved sigh escaped her lips. Heero was going to get better. That was good, he'd need to be healthy to help take care of two newborns. They were his children and she expected him to help!

"That's wonderful news Pagan. Please inform Sally that I'll be down later to see Heero with a surprise for him." She smiled at her loyal servant.

Pagan saw her smile and heaved a grateful sigh of relief. He thanked the heavens his plan had worked. The Princess was on the mend and would soon be back to her old self. And so would Master Yui once Doctor Po was finished.

"Right away Miss Relena."

Relena watched him go. Well, he was looking more happy. He must have realized what Duo had stolen and guessed her plan. She could just see the old man playing with her children just as he must have with her. (I must remember to get that on video, it will be a memory to keep.)

 

Wrong. This was wrong. Duo wasn't in the house, he wasn't setting beneath the big vine. Shinigami sniffed to air, growling low in his thoart. He hopped down the steps into the gardens heading for his Duo's favorite place. Short legs moved as fast as they could as he ran for the potted trees. His Duo loved to smell the flowers and wove them into his fur all the time.

But he wasn't here either.

He sniffed again. There was something in the air, something familiar. Duo! Duo's scent! Following the invisible trail he squirmed under a bush and found a long piece of wood. There was Duo's scent and that strange girl's, and...there was blood. Duo's blood.

The low growl now broke into a full-fledged snarl of rage.

A further sniffing brought Shin to where something had been dragged off, something that had his Duo on it. Shinigami followed the trail.

 

Duo panted through the contraction, hands clutching wall beams. They were getting worse now. He felt as if an invisible hand had reached within and twisted his stomach in knots. He bit his lip, sweat beading his forehead, and rode it out.

As the pain subsided he tried breathing deeply but only ended up sobbing. Fear gripped him, fear for himself, for his children. He wasn't equipped to deliver the twins as a woman would. He needed a c-section and for that he needed a hospital. And he was only eight months along. Were the babies lungs developed? What about their other organs? He was terrified there'd be something wrong with them that might take them away before they even had a chance to live.

"No, please no," he pleaded, unaware of the tears trailing down his cheeks. "Please don't let them die, please. SOMEONE HELP ME!! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME??!!! PLEASE, I NEED HELP!!"

Shinigami's head shot up. That was his Duo's voice!

Heedless of the stinging branches he abandoned the trail and drove through the underbrush strait towards his Duo's voice. There! He was in that old place!!

The door rattled as Shinigami's 26 pound body slammed into it.

 

Duo jumped back as the door shook on it's hinges.

"Help me!" He cried out. "Whoever's out there please help!!"

Sharp barks and growls rang through the air as the doors shook again.

"SHIN!!" Duo sobbed in relief. If the faithful Corgi could find him then he wasn't too far from the house. "SHIN! GO GET ZECHS! GET ZECHS!!"

Shin panted, eyeing the door and snarling in rage. He couldn't reach the lock to release his Duo, and the door was too strong to push as he did at home. He could smell his Duo's fear and pain and knew what was happening. The pups were coming and he needed help to deliver them.

"SHIN! GO GET ZECHS! GET ZECHS!!"

Yes!! His other human Zechs would help! He was Duo's mate and sire of the pups! He was tall and strong, he could break the door and free Duo!! Giving one final bark Shinigami spun around and sped back to the house.


Duo couldn't help but feel lost as Shin barked and then was gone. A part of him wanted to call the dog back so he wouldn't be alone. But he couldn't. All his hopes rested on his pet. Shin would find Zechs and bring him here. Shin would do it! He tensed as another contraction began, letting out a low scream.

(Hurry Shin, hurry!)

 

"Have any of you seen Duo?" Zechs asked as he stepped into the living room.

"Not since the meeting earlier." Quatre replied, bouncing Calida on one knee.

"No, isn't he out by the arbor? He's usually there this time of day." Beathan asked even as he rose to look out the window.

Zechs shook his head. "I already looked. He's not in the house or anywhere close to the house. I'm worried. He can't walk too far now but he still keeps trying...."

"So he might have went out there, got tired, and needs help getting back." Wufei began putting his shoes on. "Typical of Duo. Maybe if we all searched the gardens one of us will find him."

"Right, I'll see if Emma can watch Cali." Quatre took his daughter to the kitchen in search of Beathan's mother.

"Trowa, could you tell Sally what's going on. We might need her."

Trowa nodded and raced up the stares.

Sally smiled down at her peacefully sleeping patient. Heero already looked better, there was some color to those previously pale cheeks. He was breathing a little better too. Checking the IV bag she noted it was almost empty. Sally was just considering whether to set up another when Trowa swung the door open.

"Don't you know how to knock?"

"Duo's missing, we may need you." He said, ignoring her light quip.

She blinked, then started muttering under her breath about stubborn patients and her desires to tie a certain one down to a bed by his hair even as she packed her bag.

On the bed Heero stirred. Did he hear that right? That Duo was missing? No! He couldn't lose Duo now, not when his braided love had offered him another chance! Old training kicked in and his body shifted into high gear.

Sally had just turned to leave with Trowa when a hand grabbed her arm. She looked back into a determined pair of cobalt eyes.

"I'm going with you."

"Heero!! You're not well enough to galavanting about! You need to rest and regain your strength." She tried to force the young man back into bed but was no match for Heero's strength which came from concern and determination. Oh, he'd pay for it later he knew that, but right now all that mattered was that Duo was found safe and sound.

"I'm going." His tone brooked no arguement.

Sally backed down. She knew that look.

"You take it easy, no running, and you try to set down a few times."

"Hn." He walked past her. "I need something from my suitcase."

A moment later he was back. "We have a problem. My gun is gone."

"Shit! Heero are you sure you brought it with you?" Sally shurgged past him into the hall.

"I packed it, the holster's still there, the gun is gone."

"Did Relena know you had a gun in your luggage?"

Both looked at Trowa, who just looked down the hall towards the Princess's room. Within seconds all three were racing down the hall. They nearly scared Pagan to death when they came barging in.

"Where's Relena?" Heero asked the old servant.

"Master Yui! You look much bet-"

Heero cut the servant's compliments off. "Where is she?"

Pagan blinked. "Why Miss Relena went for a walk. I suspect she'll be gone for a while."

"Did she have anything with her when she left?"

"Yes she did, a rather stuffed duffle bag. I asked her what it was for but she wouldn't say."

Before he could ask what they were so upset for all three were gone.

The others needed to know this.

Duo was missing. Relena was missing. Heero's gun was missing.

You didn't have to be a math genius to know this added up to danger for Duo and the twins.

 

Once again that little lullaby came to mind as Relena strolled down the trail. The duffle bag a comforting weight on her shoulder. Soon, soon she'd have her babies back, and with them in her arms Heero would come back to her and they'd be a family at last.

 

The news that Relena was missing and possibly had Heero's gun in her posession had everyone extremely worried for Duo.

"We've got to find Duo now! We split up into groups of two. Trowa and Quatre will take the stream path. Beathan and Wufei can search the forest path. Heero, Sally and myself will take the other. If you find Duo give a yell. We can-"

Zechs stopped as the sound of barking came to him.

Shinigami was barreling downt the forest path heading strait towards them. There was something different about his barks, a note of urgency not normally heard.

The Corgi traversed the last step and skidded to a halt at Zechs' feet. The tall blonde yelped as sharp teeth snagged his trousers and Shin began pulling violently, trying to drag him back the way he'd just come from. Inarticulate growls and grunts issued from his throat as he threw his weight behind each backwards lunge.

"Shin! What the Hell are you doing?? Let go! I don't have time to play!!" Zechs tried to yank his leg free, but Shin's grip was too strong.

Shin refused to let go, in fact he redoubled his efforts, nearly pulling Zechs off his feet.

"What's gotten into you Shin??!! Let GO!!"

And this time Shin did let go, only to race over to Heero and repeat the process. The Japanese boy didn't know what to make of the animal that was trying to drag him off.

Seeing his efforts were being wasted on Heero Shin switched to the one who had the most afinity for animals.

Trowa watched the dog grab his pants and tug. He knew what was going on now...

"Shinigami, lead us to him. Take us to Duo."

The Corgi released his hold and howled with relief. Finally, one of them understood!!

"Of course!!" Zechs smaked his head. "Go Shin!!"

Shinigami barked and almost flew down the steps.

 

Duo couldn't move when the door swung open and Relena stepped in, he being too busy with the most painful contraction yet. All he could do was pant and moan.

Relena looked down at the figure laying on the floor, an evil little smirk playing across her face. "Well, well, well. It looks like you've been a bad boy Duo. You were supposed to stay tied up till I got back. But I should've expected this; rats always squirm their way out of things."

"Wha..." Duo gasped and started to pant again.

She sat a thick duffle bag down. "Did you really think you'd get away with this?"

Duo could only manage a ragged groan.

Relena shurged and began unpacking. "You're nothing but a filthly little thief. You stole what is mine and I want it back."

"What..are you talking about Relena?" He looked up with pain clouded eyes.

Those same eyes widened in fright as she drew out a long wicked looking knife.

"You're carrying my babies, mine and Heero's, the ones you stole! Since you couldn't have Heero you took our children. Don't try to deny it!" She tested the blade's edge with her thumb and gave a satisfied grunt at the thin line of red.

(Oh God!! She's insane!!) Duo nearly screamed.

"Heero's MINE!! Those babies are MINE!! No one takes what's MINE!!"

Duo tried to scramble away from the psychotic girl. Relena lunged and snagged one foot, dragging the screaming youth back towards her. She grabbed the rope.

There was no way she could free her children with Duo thrashing about like this. He needed to be tied down.

 

The wailing scream from up ahead galvanized the rescuers to greater speed. Zechs and Heero were in the lead, their love for Duo lending them the extra speed.

"DUO!! DUO, HANG ON!! WE'RE COMING LOVE, HANG ON!!" Zechs yelled to his husband even as he prayed they were not too late. That Relena wasn't the cause of Duo's scream.

"ZECHS!!!"

 

He kept struggling. Blood trickled down his chin as Relena backhanded him again. His face twisted in a mask of pain as another contraction hit, but he couldn't stop. Relena had clearly gone off the deep end. She intended to cut him open right here and steal his children. Duo had no doubts what she'd do with him after she had the kids. He fought with a desperation born of fear, for if he lost...

"DUO!! DUO, HANG ON!! WE'RE COMING LOVE, HANG ON!!"

Hope bloomed in Duo's fevered eyes. "ZECHS!!!" He screamed at the top of his lungs.

Relena snarled. (Damm you brother, couldn't you have kept to the house just a little longer? it would have been over soon.) With one hand wrapped around Duo's wrist in an iron grip she yanked him to his feet, the other grabbed Heero's gun.

Everyone came to a screeching halt as Relena stepped out, one arm wrapped around Duo's neck the other pointing a gun strait at them.

"Relena!! Have you lost your mind? Let Duo go!!"

Relena just laughed. "You're the one whose lost his mind brother. How did he get you to go along with this obscene farce!! These are my children! Mine and Heero's. He stole them, and all of you helped him!!" Her face twisted as her rage surged to the fore.

"Relena.." Heero stepped forwards.

Instantly her mood flipped from anger to joy. "Oh Heero! You're here, and you look so much better!! Look Heero! I found our babies! We can be a family now. You, me, and the twins. Oh Heero it'll be so wonderful!!"

"I believe you Relena," Heero smiled as he slowly edged towards her. "We'll be a family, just like you said."

"We'll go on picnics and trips to the zoo," she babbled, unaware of just what Heero was doing. "Our children will want for nothing. The best schools and tutors. They'll learn to be pasifists and leaders for our kingdom. They'll--"

Heero lunged.

*CRACK!!*

Relena's head snapped back with the force of Heero's fist hitting her jaw.

She was lucky that her soon to be ex-fiancee wasn't at his full strength, otherwise her jaw would be broke and possibly her neck too. As it was he still managed to knock out three of her teeth. Heero grabbed Duo and pulled him free of her grasp, swinging him around into Zechs' waiting arms.

Duo clung to his husband like a man drowning. His legs couldn't hold him up as another contraction gripped him. He screamed and collapsed, instantly surrounded by his friends and a worried Sally Po.

Relena stumbled to her feet, the gun still firmly in her grasp. Seeing Duo laying there in her brother's arms circled by a ring of friends and being soothed by her own fiancee she screamed and leveled the gun. If she couldn't retrieve her babies, she'd make sure Sally did. After all, the good doctor certainly wouldn't leave them to die inside Duo after she blew his head off. Her finger squeezed the trigger. The gun fired..

Three voices rang out....

"NNOOO!!"

"NO HEERO!!!...IYAAAHHHH!!"

"RROOARRRWWW!!"

Heero slammed into the hard ground, cluthing one hand tightly to the gaping wound in his shoulder. Jaw clenched tightly in an effort not to scream.

Relena screamed in horror at the sight of her love bleeding at her feet, only to scream in pain and terror a second later.

Shinigami's compact body slammed into Relena's knees, knocking her to the ground, the gun flying out of her hand. The demented girl tried to defend herself from the raging demon which sprang upon her but all in vain.

Sharp teeth tore at whatever flesh came within reach. Claws ripped clothes and skin alike. He snarled and lunged, fangs sinking deep. A sharp twist of powerful muscles sheared another strip of flesh away. It didn't matter if it were face, hands, arms, or neck, all were equal targets.

Her screams were a sweet melody! Her blood the most wonderful flavor he'd ever tasted! Red stained his muzzle and paws as he howled his fury, his triumph. Shinigami was at last his namesake. He was the God of Death!

With jaws wide he sought to close them about her slim neck, intent upon ripping out her throat and thus ending her threat against his pack forever!

Only to have his prize snatched away as hands lifted him at the last moment!

Trowa struggled to keep his hold on the twisting animal. There was no doubt in his mind that Shinigami intended to kill Relena, and if he let go the dog would try it again. The poor girl looked like she'd been mauled by a lion rather than a simple Corgi. Some of the wounds were sure to leave scars if she survived.

Quatre was on his cell phone calling for Rashid to send transportation to their position.

Beathan and Wufei were helping Heero. The bullet must have nicked an artery. Heero was bleeding badly despite the pressure both were applying to the wound.

Duo screamed, his body twisted as agony lanced across his stomach.

"We need to get them to the hospital now!!" Sally shouted even as she gave the suffering American something to ease the pain.

"Help's on the way." Quatre pointed to the approaching helicopter.

 

A helicopter ride wasn't something he enjoyed even at the best of times. Adding a heavy dose of nausea and nerves just made it worse. But no matter how bad it got Wufei couldn't let it keep him from helping his friends.

Right now he was keeping pressure on hole in Heero's shoulder while Sally started an IV. The solution was only a stalling measure, for Heero to have any chance of survival he needed blood and he needed it as soon as possible. The Japanese man had slipped into unconsciousness shortly after takeoff. He looked so frail right now, skin whiter than the pillow beneath his head.

At least Duo was no longer feeling the pain of each contraction. He lay there cradled by Zechs' strong arms, rubbing at the clenching muscles of his stomach. While Sally's medicine had deadened his physical pain she could do nothing for his mental. He kept asking if Heero would make it, praying for Heero not to die, and promising dire retribution to the third patient in the aircraft.

His dear Beathan was having the worst time of them all. Relena was conscious. One minute she was struggling to reach Heero to comfort him the next she was trying to kill Duo for making her hurt her fiancee. He couldn't get a firm hold on her flailing arms, blood from her wounds having slicked her skin. Relena refused to allow Sally to treat her injuries, demanding the braided physician retrieve her children from quote 'that worthless slut' unquote. Luckily years of intense field work had rendered the red-head more than capable of overpowering even one who's strength was augmented by madness.

"Wufei, watch his breathing." Sally instructed. "Let me know the second it changes."

"Right."

Straitforward reply. This was no time for his usual game of teasing.

Quatre and Trowa would be meeting them at the hospital and he hoped their arrival would be greeted with good news.

"LET ME GO!! HHEEERROOOO!!" Relena screeched at the top of lungs. She flailed about, kicking and scratching at the one who was keeping her from her beloved Heero.

"STOP THAT DAMMIT!" Beathan cursed as he lost his grip on one arm which promptly smacked him. "You need to stay still! You're only making your injuries worse!"

Cold eyes, lacking any shred of sanity, narrowed in rage. "Get your rancid paws off me you stinking peasant!! Don't you know who I am?"

"Sure, you're the deluded little snot who couldn't accept reality and hurt my family because of it. And as for me being a peasent, I'll have you know that I am a direct descendant of the ancient royality of Scotland, a line far older and more distinguished than yours."

That probably wasn't the best thing to say to someone in Relena's condition, especially wearing that smile. It only served to make the girl even more livid. Just when it looked like Beathan might have to resort to violence to subdue her Sally managed to inject Relena with a sedative. A stronge one too judging by how fast it worked.

The red head let out a sigh of relief as he released Relena's now limp wrists. "Thank you Sally. For a moment there I thought I was going to have to hit her. Not that I would've minded that one bit."

Sally's answering smile was both pleasant and mischievous. "If I wasn't a doctor I might have joined you."

The helicopter settled onto the hospital's landing pad. As soon as the craft had touched down the medical staff were running forwards with gurneys for the wounded. Sally began barking orders immediately, directing what treatments were needed and where they were to go. One doctor would be taking Heero directly to surgery, while another would be seeing to Relena's wounds and making sure the dangerously deranged girl was properly confined. Sally herself would be assisting in the delivery of Duo's twins. Three gurneys were wheeled away to their destinations while Wufei and Beathan were escorted to the waiting louge.

 

Duo lay on the operating table, sterile drapes obscuring what Sally and the other doctor were doing. His husband Zechs was setting on a stool by his head, covered from head to toe in surgical garb, holding his hand and whispering words of comfort. He didn't feel anything, the anesthesiologist having already given him a spinal. The surgery was already underway. He couldn't feel the pain but Duo did feel the shift as the scalpel cut through the layers of muscle to reach the artifical womb and it's precious cargo.

"Duo, we're about to deliver the first baby. Do you want to watch?" Sally said from behind her mask.

"Yes!" Duo replied eagerly.

The drape was dropped and he could see Sally's hand began to ease a bloody little body from his stomach. The doctor suctioned the squirming infant's mouth and nose while Sally tied and cut the cord. Duo's heart nearly burst with happiness as his daughter announced her arrival into the world with a loud wail.

"Is she all right?" Zechs asked.

"She's perfect! Absolutely perfect." Sally handed Zechs the wrapped bundle. "See for yourself."

He held his newborn child as if she were made of the most fragile china. He was afraid to even breathe least he damage her in some way. She was the most beautiful little thing he'd ever seen and she was his and Duo's; their sweet little girl. One hand waved about. Zechs couldn't believe how small it was! And those tiny fingers and their even tinier nails! Her head was covered with a thick crop of platinum hair just like his. Little eyelids popped open revealing a pair of rich violet eyes just like her mother's.

"She's beautiful." He whispered reverently. "Thank you Duo, thank you for our children."

Tears were running from Duo's eyes as he drank in the sight of his child.

"And here's baby number two!" The Doctor lifted the second infant who started crying immediately. "Congraduations gentlemen, you have a son!"

"A boy and a girl Zechs!" Sally added her own congraduations before returning to the task of clearing out the placentas and closing Duo up.

"Oh, oh Zechs! They're so..so beautiful!" Duo wept and laughed as the nurse laid the little boy down besides him. He too was graced with a full head of platinum hair and violet eyes. They were going to be absolutely breathtaking when they grew up. Right now however all both parents were thinking about was this wonderful moment in their lives and how blessed they were to have been given such a precious pair to love and raise.

Doctor Lillian Sedon shook her head in disgust. The newest patient to the hospital's psychiatric ward was already showing signs of being a problematic case. The moment she came around from the sedative Doctor Po had given her during transit she tried to escape. It had taken three orderlies to restrain her as she screamed something about stolen babies and her fiancee needing her.

"Trouble?"

She turned to greet her co-worker Kaylie. "We're really gonna have it with this one."

"Oh oh! You got that right. That's Relena Peacecraft!"

"Oh hell!" Lillian rubbed her forehead, she could feel a headache coming on. "Another celebrity patient. When the press hears about this the hospital will be swamped with reporters."

"Only if they hear about it Lillie, only if they hear about it." She studied Relena's chart. "She's getting prepped from reconstructive surgery right? Well, that means lots of concealing bandages. If we can keep the staff from blabbing we might be able to keep this secret long enough to get her transferred to one of the mainland facilities."

"Which one you think would be best?"

Kaylie whistled low as she read further. "According to Doctor Po's note here we've got one sick puppy here. She kidnapped her brother-in-law and was going to cut out his unborn kids. When her brother and his friends tried to stop her she ended up shooting her own fiancee and getting mauled by the family dog."

"That's horrible!"

"I agree. With a case like this the only thing to do is send her to Ledgehorn. It's got the highest level of security."

"Ledgehorn it is then, I'll arrange for the transfer as soon as she's able to be moved."

 

Four young men paced and figited as they waited to hear about their friends. It had been over an hour since they'd taken Heero and Duo into surgery and since then not a single word had been heard. Beathan was setting on the couch with Wufei in his lap, his arms firmly wrapped around his husband. The Chinese youth needed the reassurance that Beathan was providing and it kept him from pacing like Trowa and Quatre were doing and wearing himself out.

"Do you think they're all right?" Wufei asked no one in particular.

"I can't feel anything much," Quatre stopped to stare at the sealed doors. "Heero's still unconscious. There's too much interference to get a clear reading from either of them."

"They will be fine, have faith in their strenght and Sally's skills." Trowa took his sweet lover into his arms.

All four jumped as the door burst open and Sally, still wearing her surgical scrubs, came striding out.

She held up her hand to call for silence before the barrage of questions could start. "Everything went smoothly. Duo and Zechs are now the proud parents of one boy and one girl. Mother and children are doing just fine."

Cheers and prayers of thanks erupted from four mouths. Sally was surrounded by laughing faces, accepting their hugs and kisses. "You'll be able to see Duo and the kids in about ten minutes, just as soon as they're settled into their room."

Wufei was the first to remember the other one they waited for news of. "And Heero?"

The braided woman's face took on a more somber statement. "I won't lie to you. Heero's lost a lot of blood, add to that his poor physical condition and the odds aren't good. But if there's anybody who could overcome such odds it's Heero Yui."

"We need to know Sally." Quatre pleaded. "I can't feel him, I can't tell how he is. Please, can you find out something?"

"Just wait here, I'll be right back." She patted the blonde's shoulder before returning to the surgery ward.

Five minutes later she returned to the four nervous youths. They all gave a massive sigh of relief when they saw her wide smile. "The surgery's went well, they're stitching him up right now. He'll have to stay here for a week but barring any complications Heero's going to be just fine."

"Thank Allah!" Quatre breathed. A sediment which was echoed by the others. "Sally, could you see that Heero's placed in the same room as Duo? It would be best for both of them if they could see each other."

"Already done." Sally replied with a wink.

The Arabian chuckled. He should've known Sally would've arranged for the two ex-pilots to share a room. Not that it was any guarantee either young man would stay put, but it was better than nothing. At the very least it meant the staff had only to keep watch on that one room with it's single exit rather than two rooms.

 

"Are you sure they're all right Doc?" Duo asked for the hudredth time.

"They're fine young man, just fine." Doctor Clay replied calmly. These constant repeating questions weren't new to the physician. All new parents worried about their newborn's health, especially under circumstances such as these. She'd be upset if Duo didn't ask.

"Twins sometimes come early due to the lack of room in the womb. You were past the 37 week mark so they're not considered premature babies."

The door opened and the nurse came in wheeling two babies in.

"Oh God Zechs, just look at them!" Duo felt the tears begining all over again.

"I'm looking my love, I'm looking." Zecsh wasn't too far behind his husband in the tear department.

"Here's your Mommy little one." The nurse cooed as she gently laid his daughter into Duo's waiting arms.

Now cleaned, dressed and wrapped in a soft pink blanket she looked even more beautiful than she had just minutes old.

"And here Daddy, you get to hold your son."

Zechs accepted the blue bundle and cradled him lovingly to his chest. He just couldn't believe this was real. That he was really here, Duo was okay, and they were holding their children.

"My name's Violet and I'm the nurse on duty right now, if there's anything you need you just hit the call button and I'll be right here." The kindly nurse smiled at the new family.

"Thanks Violet." Duo replied without looking up, being far too absorbed in stroking his child's soft cheek with one finger. Violet wasn't offended by this, she'd seen this kind of reaction more times than she could count.

"What about feeding them Doc? When do you think they'll get hungry?"

"Pretty soon, being born is hard work even for babies delivered by c-section. Just watch them, they'll let you know when they're hungry. I know most men don't like to hear this but it's best if you let them have breastmilk for their first meal. It contains the colostrum they need to help fight off diseases they might be exposed to. It carries the antibodies you yourself have developed over the years. After this you can switch to bottle feeding, which is what I recommend. Since you have twins, trying to feed both over a period of time would only wear you down."

Duo cringed slightly at the thought of breastfeeding, but it was this one time, and like the Doctor said the babies needed it. Quatre had done it. The blonde had fed Calida her first meal from his body and she was as healthy as they come. He wanted the same for his children.

In his arms his daughter turned her face towards his chest, her little mouth opening and closing as she rooted for her mother's nipple.

"I guess that means you want to eat." Duo chuckled. Violet helped him open his nightshirt to expose one pert little breast. He'd been warned he would develop breasts while on the hormone treatments but Sally promised they'd return to their previous shape soon after he stopped the shots. "I'm only doing this for you and your brother. This is a one time deal, after this it's bottle time."

His daughter didn't make reply, she was too busy latching onto the offered nipple.

It was probably one of the strangest feelings that Duo had ever experianced in his life. It wasn't unpleasent. Quite the opposite in fact. He felt he was again connected intimately to his child. His body was nurturing her, protecting her. All his attention was fixed on the suckling infant at his breast so he didn't hear the others come in.

Quatre was glad he had the good sense to grab his camcorder before they left as he stood there filming this special one of a kind moment for Duo and his children. This would be something both parents would treasure down the years, something to show the twins when they were older.

It didn't take long for her little tummy to fill up. She released her mother's nipple and gave a delicate burp as befitted a lady then drifted off to sleep. Duo cooed and placed a feather soft kiss on her forehead. When he looked up to ask Zechs if their son was hungry he saw his family and Sally standing around him.

"Any news on Heero?"

"He's in recovery. As soon as he's ready they'll be bringing him up here. Sally arranged for you and Heero to share a room." Beathan answered in a soft voice so as not to awaken the sleeping angel in Zechs' arms.

Duo felt the last weight lift from his shoulders. Heero was going to be fine. They still had a chance. Now all that remained was..

The American's voice hardened. "And Relena?"

Sally was the one with that answer. "She's being transferred to a high security institute just as soon as possible. She's just too violent to house here for any length of time. Relena's a danger to everyone around her, patients and staff alike."

"Can she get free? Is it safe for Duo and the children to be here?" Zechs hated to ask that. Hated the fact that his own sister had tried to murder his husband and steal their children. Hated the fact that in all likelyhood Relena would be spending many a coming year in some sterile ward wrapped in a straitjacket, raving at people who weren't there. But the safety of his family came first.

"She's strapped down, even Heero would have a hard time getting out of those restraints. And she's sedated too, just in case someone decided to listen to her. Relena's too persuasive to be allowed to sway some sympathic orderly into releasing her."

That was enough to satisfy both new parents.

"So Duo, Zechs, what are these two lovely's names?"

"Everyone, I'd like you to meet our children Alessandra and Darius."

 

Waking up wasn't something he used to have to think about.

It was just one second he was asleep, the next he was awake and alert, all thanks to years of training. Lately though it had changed, his body's deteriorating condition making it harder and harder to wake each morning.

And he had welcomed the lingering darkness.

Heero had courted it as one would a treasured lover. He wooed it with soft pleas and whispered longings, offered up his very soul just for a taste of oblivion it dangled before him each night. And each evening the darkness remained a little longer, wrapped itself about him a little tighter. He excepted the chilling embrace eagerly, and cried when it finally left him to the waking world full of loneliness and pain.

Now it came again, beckoning to him, calling in it's silken voice, offering him the peace of the grave he had craved for so long.

But now he had hope, he had another chance with Duo, with the others.

So Heero turned his back on his shadowy lover and fell once more into the old familiar pattern. He needed to wake up, so he did...

Duo blinked and peered at Heero. Had he really seen the Japanese youth move? Could he finally be waking up? One hand reached for the call button, hovering over it, trembling with excitement.

(Just one twitch Heero, just one more please?) He couldn't bring himself to speak aloud, Duo was biting his lip too hard right now to talk.

And Heero obliged. He drew in a deep breath and opened his eyes, squinting in even this soft light.

"Heero..Heero..." Duo couldn't stop repeating the other's name as tears ran down his face, fingers pressing the button eagerly. As soon as his eyes adjusted to the light he looked over to the one who healed his heart. Cobalt eyes eagerly drank in the sight of Duo, alive and safe, looking far better than the last time he'd seen him. That had been when he had been laying in his husband Zechs' arms screaming with the latest contraction. A slight tilting if his head let him get a good look at the other bed's occupant. His eyes widened as they beheld the now flat stomach.

Duo noticed where Heero was looking. "It's okay Heero, they're all right."

A shuddering sigh escaped him. "Thank God."

Before anything more could be said Sally and another doctor came in response to Duo's call.

"Well, It's about time you decided to wake up, you had us all worried." Sally admonished the young man in the bed.

"How long have I been out?" Heero was surprised to hear his voice, it was so raspy.

Sally offered him some water. "Small sips. You've been unconscious for the last four days."

"It really wasn't unexpected young man," the other doctor added. "Your health was quite poor at the time of your injury. This has affected your recovery. To be honest, I expected you to be out for at least another two days. As it is you'll be here for restricted to your bed till the end of the week."

Heero was never so thankful for the sweet coolness of water as it soothed his parched throat. "What happened, I don't remember."

"After Relena shot you she-" Sally began but Duo interrupted her.

"Got shredded by Shinigami! Good old Shin took her down faster than you can say Deathscythe and tore her up!! I wish you could have seen it Heero!" The braided youth was all but cheering.

Yes, that would be an sight to remember.

"Sally, why don't let Duo here fill his friend in on all that's happened while he's slept. You haven't had a decent meal or a good sleep since they were admitted."

Heero took note of her haggard appearance and agreed with the older doctor. "Sally, go."

"Heero?"

"Duo can brief me. Go, get some rest. You look like hell."

Duo started to snicker.

She couldn't help but smile. "Why thank you Heero, but you're no beauty queen yourself."

He was now chuckling behind a hastily raised hand.

"I got shot, what's your excuse?"

A full blown bout of laughter exploded from the other bed's occupant. Duo was laughing so hard he nearly fell out of the bed.

Sally had a sudden feeling of dejavu. "You guys are impossible. But I guess a sandwich and a nap wouldn't hurt."

"The cafeteria here does have some decent dishes if you pick carefully. I'll help you." Her companion offered.

"Okay." Sally agreed. "But I want you both to promise me you'll behave. No yelling, no throwing things, and both of you stay in your beds!"

"Yes Mommy! Will you be by later to read us a bedtime story?" Duo was the very soul of innocence as he gazed up at the braided woman with wide child-like eyes.

Sally groaned. "Duo, if you hadn't just given birth I'd spank you."

"Ooo, kinky! I'll take a raincheck!" He clapped his hands in anticipation.

There was just no winning with this kid. "Come on Herb, let's go eat before I end up strangling him with his own braid."

"Now, now, Sally. You can't kill patients that annoy you, it's against the rules."

"Rules are made to be broken." Sally said as the door closed, leaving the two former pilots alone together.

"You really all right?" Heero asked after a few moments.

"A little stiff and sore, nothing I can't handle." He replied, eyes downcast to his clasped hands. "How 'bout you? How do you feel?"

"There's no pain.."

"Oh, okay. That's good." Duo mumbled. Damm! This was hard. There were so many things he wanted to know but he didn't have a clue as to how to ask.

"What about Relena? What did they do with her?"

Duo flinched at the mention of the one who'd nearly taken both his family and his life but answered anyway. "She got patched up from Shin's attack and as soon as she was stable they transferred her to some high security complex on the mainland."

High security, that was good. Relena didn't have their training so she was stuck there.

"Heero, did you and..did you sleep.."

Heero shuddered in revulsion. "No, I never touched her in that way. A few kisses in public for the cameras but that was it."

Relief flooded Duo. "Her idea or yours?"

"Mine. She wanted to....but I couldn't. The mere thought was sickening."

"And I bet she didn't even notice huh? Just passed it off as you wanting to wait till your wedding night."

Heero pulled himself up a little higher onto the pillow as best he could with one good arm. "Correct, she thought I was protecting her reputation."

"Heero, what was it really like living with her?"

Heero closed his eyes, he didn't want to see what his words would do to Duo. "It was a hell, worse than any prison we 'visited' during the war. I had full run of the grounds but I always had to stick close to Relena to protect her. No matter where she went I was to follow her. I ate breakfast with her, watched as she chose her outfit for the day. I hate the very sight of bright pink! Pink this! Pink that! It's all she wanted to wear. And her room was drenched in it!"

"Then there were the meetings. Listening her ramble on, over and over again about peace and pacifism, hearing the delegates praising her every word. And if it wasn't them it was her high-class herd of twits complimenting every little thing she did."

Duo blinked in amazement. He'd never heard the usually quiet pilot talk so much, or with such emotion. He could hear the loathing and disgust in Heero's voice, as well as the pain.

"She kept trying to change me. Always picking out what she thought I should wear, what I should eat, and what would be proper for me to read or listen to. I never had any say in this, my opinions didn't matter. Relena would just say it was for my own good and that was the end of it."

"Oh Heero, she never should've have done that," he longed to hold Heero, to soothe away the pain Relena's callousness had inflicted. "You are your own person, if she truly loved you she would've accepted you just as you are. Love isn't about changing people, it's about accepting the one you love, faults and all."

"Relena can't do that Duo. If you're a part of her world you live by her rules."

"You're not a part of her world anymore Heero, you're back where you belong; with us, with me. And I'm never letting you go."

Heero couldn't find the words to express the emotions stirred by those words, he let his tears speak for him.

 

Six men sat in a private meeting hall.

Six men who had been through two days of absolute hell.

Each had watched in horror as their companies suffered terribly; losing valuable contracts, watching as their workers left in droves. Their supporters withdrew, severing all ties, denying to even speak with them. Long hidden affairs were suddenly spread over every tabloid in graphic detail. Assets they had embezzled, secrets they had paid so dearly to hide, had been dragged out before the public.

And they didn't know who was responsible.

At least not yet.

All six men had received an unsigned note saying if they wished to know why their lives were being torn apart all they had to do was meet here at the appointed time.

 

Quatre walked down the hall, looking neither left nor right, focused entirely on the door up ahead. Behind that door were the six men responsible for hurting his friends.

He had taken great pleasure in crushing their businesses, driving them to the brink of bankruptcy. Of course he made sure that the workers hadn't suffered; each and every one of them had a new job with better pay and benefits. Tearing apart their political support had been all too easy. Just a few revealed secrets and veiled threats had each man's supporters jumping like rats off of a sinking ship. Exposing their criminal activities had been sweet, adding on the countless affairs was just icing on the cake.

Now it was time for the final blow.

And Quatre could barely wait.

 

Each man gasped when the door opened and the delicate blonde walked in flanked by his loyal Magunacs. They were all familiar with the head of the Winner clan.

"You? You're the one?!!!" One man leaped to his feet, followed by his fellow councilmen.

Quatre didn't say a word. He merely walked calmly over to the chair at the head of the table and sat down. He leaned back, studying them each one at a time, totally ignoring their shouts and threats.

"What gave the right to tamper with our lives??!!"

Aqua eyes, glittering like tempered steel, locked on the outraged man.

"Your actions."

"WHAT?"

"It was your orders that led to one of my friends attempting suicide twice. Your orders that forced another away from the ones he loved, isolated him, till he too attempted suicide several times."

"You're talking about the Maxwell boy aren't you?"

"I knew we should've just killed the little shit to start with," muttered the councilman with the salt and pepper hair.

"Feel lucky that you didn't Mr. Stratmore," Quatre's voice was like ice; cold and hard. "If Duo had died I would be exacting a far more painful, and lethal, revenge."

"It was for the peace!" Another said. "We were only thinking of the people. They looked to Miss Peacecraft to-"

"Bullshit!" Quatre snarled and threw a heavy folder filled with paper onto the table. "You were only thinking of yourselves! Each one of you used Relena's peace talks to con investors into donating money which you then embezzled! It's all there!!"

Three of the men had the good sense to flinch when Quatre's temper flared. It showed they understood just how bad their position was right now. With his position as head of Winner Enterprises Quatre had the more than enough political and economical muscle to completely ruin them. He'd made a good start at it already. Push him too far and they would be lucky to walk out of this room with the shirt on their backs still in their possession.

"So long as Relena was happy and doing her little pacifist trip you had free rein, and you used it. Embezzlement wasn't your only criminal activity, you had your hands into the illegal drugs and assassination rings as well. I also have evidence that several companies you jointly owned were gearing up to manufacture weapons, something which the Preventers were VERY interested to hear about. I expect their agents are done raiding those facilities and have all the evidence they need to convict each and every one of you."

"You bastard!!"

And now Quatre did smile, but it wasn't a pretty one. This grin was very reminiscent of the one he sported while under the Zero system's effect. It was a chilling sight, one guaranteed to send shivers up even the most hardened of men's spines. With greedy cowards such as the ones before him it was even more effective.

"Mark my words gentlemen, and I do use that word in the loosest sense, this is just the beginning of the hell I will visit upon you," his voice dipped low. "You haven't suffered enough, not by far enough the pay for what you did to Duo and Heero."

"You've already ruined our businesses, our careers, and our social lives, what else can you do?"

"I'm going to take everything, not right away though. Just bit by bit, so you can feel the pain of it's loss. When I'm done with you a penniless beggar on L2 will be richer than the six of you put together."

Quatre rose and took one last measuring look around at the six men he'd just handed a death sentence to, noting with grim satisfaction the pallor each wore.

"Pleasant dreams gentlemen."

And Quatre left them there alone with the consequences of their actions.

He wanted to get home to his family. He wanted to lay there on the sofa, safe in Trowa's arms. He wanted to hold his daughter and listen to her sweet laughter.

And most of all, he wanted to be with his friends, all of them. Be the family they had once been.

It may take a while but this was one dream of his that Quatre was sure would come true.

 

-------
A.C. 205, December
-------
Journal entry: 12/21/205.......

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I could be this happy.

It's almost Christmas now, just a few more days. The move to the winter estate here in Germany wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Duo and Quatre both insisted we spend some time up north of Crete so the kids could experiance cold weather and learn about the seasons. Personally I think they just wanted to have another snowball fight like the one we had while waiting for the trial to end, which I find myself looking forwards to.

After all, I still owe Beathan for shoving that snow down my shirt.

The kids are about to drive everyone crazy. Calida is all the time asking Quatre if Santa is going to bring her a baby brother or sister this year. I don't think I've ever seen Trowa blush and Quatre stammer so much in all our years together, but they keep telling her maybe. I guess I'll just have to hack into Sally's medical records to see if my hunch is correct.

The twins are proving themselves to be excellent break and enter artists. Zechs and Duo have caught the pair three times sneaking peeks at the wrapped presents stored in the library closet. Seems Darius has inherited Duo's talent for picking locks. Maybe I should install a computer lock, just to see if he can break into that too.

Beathan and Wufei's son Iain has started showing signs he might be a gifted child. It isn't very surprising when one thinks about who his parents are. He's only three and he's already speaking and reading like a child almost three times his age. He's also developed some sort of crush on Calida. It's kinda funny to see this little red-haired, black-eyed boy toddling along after Quatre's daughter with a look of absolute devotion on his face. Beathan thinks it's just a phase and he'll grow into that girl-hating period one day, but I and Wufei are not so sure. Quatre and Trowa just smile at the whole thing.

Shinigami, our resident hero and child-herder, has started his own family. We just learned today that Beathan's Corgi Shenlong is pregnant. Shin seems very pleased, he struts around the grounds like a king. Not that he didn't do this before, he was just a little less obvious about it.

My check-up with Sally went well yesterday. She says everything is going just fine. They've all been so supportive, especially Duo and Zechs. I can never find enough words to say how much both have come to mean to me over the years-

"You don't have to say anything love, we know." Strong arms encircled his shoulders as long platinum hair tickled his cheek.

"Zechs," Heero leaned back against his husband's sweater clad chest. "I thought you were at the meeting still. Did it go well?"

"Well enough. I think I've finally convinced the council that I'll never take the throne of Sank, nor will any of my children. Sank's a democratic state now, let it remain so."

"Did they bring up..?" Heero didn't have to voice aloud who he was thinking of.

Zechs nodded sadly. "They still want to know where she is."

"We can't ever tell them! It'll be the same as last time. Some fanatical aristocrat will break her out and she'll-"

"No, she won't. We took care of that. There will be no repeats of last year. Especially since we have these little ones to consider." Zechs smiled as his large hands cupped the graceful curve of Heero's belly where his and Duo's children were growing.

He had initially been against Heero carrying twins so soon after the terrible events of the year before. But the Japanese youth was adamant on the matter. He would carry both his husbands children and that was that. It hadn't taken very long for Zechs to learn that when Heero set his mind to something the best thing to do was nod your head and go along with it. Duo had tried to warn him, but like many of life's lessons Zechs had to learn this by himself.

"Where is everybody?" Zechs didn't hear the usual bedlam that announced the other members of his family were home.

Heero snorted. "Most of them are asleep. Quatre and Duo went shopping earlier and-"

"Not more presents! Any more and the floor's going to cave in!"

"I didn't see what they brought back, but since I haven't heard anything disastorous I don't think it was gifts."

"With those two you can never be sure of anything."

"Wufei and Beathan have to kids in their room. They're all piled on the bed together taking a nap. If you go to look be careful. Shinigami and Shenlong are in there and Shin's on guard duty. He actually growled at me." Heero muttered irriatably.

Zechs had to laugh. It was too much. Heero Yui, the Perfect Soldier, had been intimidated by a dog that didn't even weigh in at 30 pounds!

Not that it was hard to understand. Shin had a protective streak in him ten miles wide when it came to the kids. Noboby, not even their own parents, messed with the kids when the tri-colored Corgi was in his mother-hen mode.

"He probably just wanted to make sure you didn't wake them."

"Probably. But I tend to think he remembers I wouldn't share my snack with him last night. Dog holds a gruge."

"After seeing some of the things you've been eating lately Shin should be thankful that you didn't share. I'd hate to try and find a vet around here for a case of indigestion." Zechs chuckle was cut short by the pillow which Heero hit him with.

 

In the library the fireplace was going, filling the whole room with it's soft glow and comforting warmth. Two young men lay draped over the long sofa, shoes off, sipping cups of hot chocolate.

"Do you think they'll kill us?" The blonde asked softly, unwilling to raise his voice and spoil the peaceful atmosphere.

"Nah. Don't fret it Quatre." Duo took a sip of the warm beverage and smiled in appreciation.

"But we promised not to buy anything more-"

"For the KIDS Q-man, we promised not to buy anything more for the kids. We never said anything about presents for the adults." Duo pointed out with all the flair of a defense lawyer.

"That's wicked Duo!"

"Ain't it though!" He gave an evil little laugh. "I can't wait for everyone to see the big one."

Now Quatre was laughing. "I'm sure that one at least will go over well."

"Not a doubt there! Our only problem will be where to hang it, here or at one of our houses in Crete." He looked over at the huge wrapped portrait he'd comissioned painted of the whole gang, dogs and all.


Shinigami raised his head as one of the children stirred, rousing the sleeping form of his mate with this movement.

Little Iain Xun Chang-Lander carefully slipped off the bed so as not to wake the others. Wufei and Beathan's son was such a remarkable child with his oriental features, stunning red hair, and quick mind. Despite being the youngest of the children of the Gundam pilots his intelligence more than made up for the difference in years.

Right now however all he needed was to be quiet. He just had to use the bathroom, no need to wake everyone else for something he could take of himself.

As he made his way across the room Iain was aware he had an escort.

"Sshhh. Shinigami be quiet." He cautioned the dog. "You might wake them."

Shinigami snorted and rolled his eyes. Who did the pup think he was talking to?

Once he finished in the bathroom Iain tiptoed back to the bed and crawled over to his previous position. Smiling happily the boy settled back down into slumber, little body drapped over his father's warm chest.

Beathan opened his eyes just a crack to watch as his son went back to sleep. Once more he found himself counting all his blessings. Thanking every God and Goddess he knew for the wonderful being who had consented to be his mate, for the beautiful little dragon their union had produced, and the dear friends that had become his family.

Wufei stirred and opened his eyes. He smiled at the sight of the two most important men in his life laying one atop the other. Beathan's green orbs met his own black ones. There was no need for words between them, their love spoke volumes all by itself. Wufei's husband took his hand and lifted it to his lips, the soft texture as they brushed across his skin sending little shivers up and down Wufei's spine. It never ceased to amaze him what effects Beathan could draw from his body with so simple a gesture.

"Rest love," he whispered. "They'll be up and running soon enough."

"And just think, Christmas is only four days away." Came Wufei's equally soft reply.

Both men shared a little look of fear. Having 4 children and their 7 parents, 2 dogs, 40 Magunacs, and 8 odd family members and friends under one roof was going to be quite a challange to keep everything in order.

Heaven help them if the twins got of ahold of the candy early. It was bad enough dealing with Duo on a sugar high on Christmas. Having to deal with Duo AND his two children on a sugar rush was a task equal to attacking a heavily armed base alone; very exhausting to say the least.

Both men drifted off, surrounded by the children, hands still clasped together.

 

On the floor by the foot of the bed Shinigami stood and shook himself.

He could sense the increasing air of anticipation that hung about the house and it was maiking him edgy.

Of course, this season was nothing new to the dog, he'd went through this, what did his Duo call it? Oh yes, Christmas. He'd been through Christmas before. There was always a lot of wrapped boxes around a strange tree that grew lights and odd shaped things on it's branches that weren't fruit. He'd tried to eat one that first year. It didn't taste good at all and was far too tough. But the boxes beneath the tree were different. His sensitive nose had found out that one or two boxes had good scents coming from them. All he had to do was rip the paper off and tear through the box beneath to get to the goodies hidden inside. After Zechs and Duo caught him munching on his presents they kept his up out of the Corgi's reach till it was offically time to open them.

Shinigami didn't like that, but there were consolations. For one thing Christmas always meant a really big meal, and with the pups around he could count on little hands sneaking him lots of tidbits under the table. He looked forwards to showing his mate all the tricks he'd picked up over the years.

Shenlong raised her head and stared at her mate, whuffing a little query. The tri-colored Corgi was quick to reassure his mate that all was well. He just needed to check around the house as was his habit now. She'd be safe here with the her Beathan and Wufei and the pups.

It was his duty to protect his pack, and Shinigami took that duty seriously. He still held a bit of a grudge against Trowa, the long-banged one, for stopping him from eliminating the threat the female Relena posed for his Duo. If he'd only kept his paws out of it the bad thing that Heero, the newest member of Shin's pack, had suffered wouldn't have been. Zechs had promised everything was okay now, but the loyal dog was taking no chances.

As he slipped out of the room some small part of the dog's mind wished the female would return. Then he could finish what he started that day the pups were born.

 

Throughout the warm house set amidst the snowy hills of Germany one family rested in preperation for the holiday. Bound together by bonds of friendship and love far stronger than many blood realitives possessed. They had passed through many dangers, overcome every obstacle. Now they could live their lives in peace.

 

Somewhere, far away from prying eyes, hidden deep in the bowels of the institute, a lone patient stared at the walls of her room. No visitors came to see her, no nurses or doctors tried to befriend her. She was classified as hopelessly insane and off limits to all but a few workers there.

Her tan-colored hair was cropped short for easier care, exposing the long scars that cut across her face and neck. Blue eyes, totally devoid of rational thought, seemed to be fixed on something only she could see. She rocked back and forth on her bed, holding her knees tightly to her chest. Her mouth moved every now and then, but the words were so soft one would have to be right on top of her to hear them.

"I want what is mine."

Over and over they were repeated, like a prayer, or a solemm promise.

"I want what is mine..."

"I want what is mine..."

"I want..."


End

 

I left quite a few openings in the story for other fics in this timeline to be written in the near future. I'll try to mark each so that it'll be easy to fit them into the proper order. Sorry that there wasn't all that much lemon, but I'm still a little unsure on that front, hopefully I'll get better with time.

I also have some other fics that I need to work on but I promise that there will be more to the love and duty universe. My thanks to all of you who encouraged me with your reviews, I couldn't have done it without you.

Cbc