3-19-2002

title: Living Legends
author: dragon_gal
warnings: mythical creatures, post EW... can't think of anything else I should mention
parings: 3x4, eventually 1x2
Archived at: Gundam Wing: On the Wings of Imagination http://gundamgal.envy.nu
Tales From The Death Scribe http://www.angelfire.com/sc2/deathfics/menu.html
Mystickal Archives http://www.mystickalarchives.0catch.com

Living Legends
Prologue


Duo drifted in and out of sleep, under the influence of painkillers. During his few lucid moments, he knew that the dimly lit room he was in was the bolt hole Heero had found after freeing him from his Oz prison on death row. He knew he was lucky to feel disembodied by medicines, his body was banged up rather badly.

During his many less than lucid moments, he thought Heero was an angel with multicoloured wings. The dim light in the dark room, which strangely comforted him, came from Angel Heero. He also thought he saw worry, concern and caring feelings clearly etched on the face of the expressionless, antisocial Japanese teen – directed at him no less! These things told the drugged teenaged terrorist his mind was being affected. Which also explained Heero's gentle touch as he tended him.

Duo was drifting back to sleep as Angel Heero approached with a resolved, but caring statement. Duo fought vainly to keep his eyes open to behold the beautiful sight. His eyes closed and he felt Heero place his index and middle finger against his neck. He felt pain well up under Heero's fingers.

The painkillers must be wearing off, Duo thought distantly as sleep claimed him.

****

Living Legends

 

It was late as Duo pushed his bangs out of his eyes with a sigh, leaving the smoky atmosphere of the bar and heading home, only slightly intoxicated. The young ex-gundam pilot turned mechanic turned a corner and began to cut through a dark and deserted park.

It's been three years since the war ended, Duo thought as he walked past a swing set, swaying in the breeze. I haven't seen the guys since then. Quatre and I have kept in touch… and through Quatre I know how Trowa's doing. I wonder what happened to Wufei and Heero… they just seemed to cease to exist. Duo felt a familiar lonely ache when his thoughts touched on the mysterious perfect soldier. The only one to ever survive Shinigami's love, mostly likely, in Duo's opinion, because Duo had never admitted to it out loud that he loved the Wing pilot.

God, but I miss him, Duo thought as the image of the cobalt eyed pilot appeared in Duo's mind's eye, drawing Duo's attention inward, away from the exit of the park, which had just come into view among the trees up ahead.

Out of the dark shadows among the trees, five figures leapt at Duo, shaking him from his thoughts. Before Duo Maxwell, former pilot of Deathscythe Hell, could register what was happening, he found himself in an inhumanly strong grip, unable to escape. Duo felt hot breath on his neck and sharp teeth graze his skin. The juncture of his neck was kissed lightly. A hand over his mouth muffled his vocal resistance.

As Duo felt the sharp teeth graze the skin over an artery, something deep within the young man snapped. Instincts buried deep within the braided teen clawed their way to the surface and over road thought.

Duo screamed. The scream, however, was only half-human in sound and carried a power in it older than human civilization. The power threw Duo's attacker off of him as he levitated into the air. The scream left the five figures crouched on the ground in pain, unable to even escape.

The scream ended and Duo hit the ground. He picked himself up and saw the five shivering on the ground. What the Hell happened? Duo wondered, remembering nothing he had just done, and ran from his attackers before they had a chance to regain themselves.

Duo was certain he sensed someone behind him just before he lost consciousness.

Duo awoke on a cold stone floor and sat up, taking in his surroundings. He was in a dark, torch lit room made of rough rock blocks that reminded him of the dungeon of an ancient castle he had seen during the war. Okay, where am I? This isn't a Colony building. He turned around to find two figures standing in the room's doorway.

In the back of his mind, he took in every detail of the pair. One was a young woman, dressed in a black leather outfit so tight her skin almost looked loose. She had hourglass figure and was slightly shorter than her companion. She had short blond hair and icy blue eyes. Her companion was a man in his late twenties or early thirties. He was tall and thin, with well-built muscle. He had ordinary brown hair cut short in an elegant style. He had handsome features, or they would have been if his eyes, a hard, unforgiving and malevolent green, were not his dominant features.

However, Duo would note all that at a later time. His attention was fixated on their teeth. Sticking out of their mouths were dangerous looking fangs. Although the conclusion was rejected by reason, Duo knew what he was looking at with increasing dread. Vampires.

The woman approached with inhuman speed and grabbed hold of Duo. She drew blood by digging her fingernails into his arm and began to chant.

Duo struggled uselessly against the vampire's strength as he felt magic build up around him. His instincts were on the verge of taking control once more as he felt heat on his neck. It felt as if a brand was being applied to his neck as a second magic resisted the first. The second magic failed and instinct took over.

Duo screamed once again, unleashing super natural power on those who threatened him. However, the woman continued to chant as she feebly covered her ears against the pain. Mid-scream, the spell was complete and Duo fell silent. Thought returned to Duo and he found his voice did not work.

What the Hell did they do to me? Duo's hand moved to his throat in horror.

Deep and chilling laughter brought Duo's attention back to the man. His fangs were bared as he laughed malevolently at Duo's distress. Duo was torn between trying to run for his life and trying to kill the demon.

"You're mine, little banshee," the vampire informed Duo. He moved closer and grabbed Duo's neck, only to release it with a hiss when he came in contact with the chain of Duo's cross. Instead, he gripped Duo's chin as the ex-pilot's attempts to avoid the monster caused him to back into the second one. "Learn it fast, little banshee. I am Lord Vittoria and you are my slave." Lord Vittoria looked at the vampire behind Duo. "Finish it."

I'm no banshee! Duo thought frantically as the woman began chanting once more. Aren't banshees female creatures of Earth legend? What do they want with me? Duo found Lord Vittoria's grip to be as impossible to escape as that of his servant.

Once again Duo felt as if his neck was being attacked by a branding iron as a second magic tried to fight off that of the vampire. Once again it failed.

The spell was completed and Lord Vittoria smiled evilly at Duo as he released him. The vampire stepped back, still smiling, his eyes cold enough to freeze the blood in Duo's veins.

Nothing's blocking the door, I can make a break for it! Duo thought desperately, yet he remained paralyzed where he was, unable to escape.

"Remove the cross," Lord Vittoria ordered.

Like Hell I will! Duo thought then realized he was removing it, unable to stop himself.

Lord Vittoria laughed at Duo's horror stricken face. "Destroy it."

No! Duo voicelessly wailed as his hands twisted and destroyed his necklace. What have they done to me?

"You belong to me, little banshee," Lord Vittoria informed Duo again, laughing once more as Duo gave him a look of pure hatred. "Yes, hate me. The more obvious it is that I hold you against your will, the better. You can do nothing against me. You are my slave. No matter what you want or feel, you will obey me. My will controls you now, little banshee, and I have left you fully aware to know it. You can not escape me and can not use your voice unless given permission."

What's going on? Why me? Why does he keep calling me a banshee? Why would vampire want a mechanic for a slave?

Lord Vittoria smiled almost indulgently at Duo's confusion, hatred and fear. "You have no idea why this is happening, do you? How amusing! You don't know your heritage. You, little human, are something that will increase my status among the vampire lords. You are a human descendant of a banshee." Lord Vittoria's smile grew wider as he watched disbelief race across his captive's face.

He's got to be kidding me! Duo shook his head. I'm an ex-terrorist, not a super natural creature!

"You don't believe me. That will change quickly enough. Soon you'll be trained in your heritage."

The two vampires left and Duo found he controlled his body but still had no voice. Duo looked down at the twisted piece of jewelry and broken chain in his hands and sank to the floor. The now broken cross had been all he had of Maxwell church. The physical embodiment of his memories of his massacred family lay destroyed before him. Not even when he was captured during the war had things looked so dark.

You have the upper hand now, Vittoria, Duo thought as his shock and fear were replaced with a rage, which fed his growing hatred. But I am Shinigami and I won't submit to you. I'll regain my freedom. You have made an enemy, Vittoria. A very dangerous enemy.

"My lord, was it wise to enslave that crossbreed? You saw his neck as I cast the spells. If -"

"You'll say nothing of what happened in there."

"Ignoring that, my lord, he is still a banshee crossbreed. Banshees cannot be enslaved! The dangers of playing games of will against a vengeful creature like a ban-"

"He – and I remind you that he is a he and therefore not a true banshee – is part human. Humans are easily enslaved. Unless you have not done your job, witch, he poses no threat. Enough."

"Yes, my lord."

"And, Lisa?"

"Lord Vittoria?"

"Keep your opinions to yourself. He must never get the impression that he holds any impressive power."

"Yes, my lord."

Duo wished he could use his banshee wail against Vittoria as the vampire lord inspected him like a prize stallion. He no longer thought Lord Vittoria was crazy to say he was part banshee. His two months of training in his powers had proven he wasn't human. He had enough control over his powers that Lord Vittoria told him he was now to be counted among the numbers of the banshee.

Lord Vittoria shot forward with super natural speed and struck Duo hard enough to send him skidding across the floor. Past the pain, Duo cursed the spells that prevented him from even ducking a blow. His powers unlocked, Duo could have easily dodged the blow, if he controlled his own responses.

"Your braid is too loose. Fix it and attend me in my office." Lord Vittoria left Duo to pick himself up.

There's not a damn thing wrong with my braid. Damn vampire's making up excuses to hit me again, Duo thought angrily. I don't even know why he even bothers to make excuses. Who's he afraid is going to punish him for it? He's certainly not worried that I'll ever be in a position to extract some revenge out of his hide… Duo sighed heavily. Better not make him pour his own blood, Duo thought with disgust, or I'll be losing plenty of mine to the floor. He never tries to drink mine, at least. Duo thought of the poor souls who, hypnotized, created Lord Vittoria's blood stock and shivered. Realizing his body's response to the thought, Duo almost smiled. Six months in this world of Darkness and I don't dismiss human victims without a thought.

Armed with the double edged sword of enduring compassion, Duo went to serve his captor by doing tasks, better left to housekeepers and waiters, where Lord Vittoria's guests could see him. A trophy, Duo's powers were never exercised, much to Duo's relief when he thought of what Lord Vittoria might make him do. To prove his dominance, Lord Vittoria forced Duo to do humble tasks that to demand of a banshee would normally bring about his death.

Duo opened the door to Lord Vittoria's office to find the vampire was entertaining representatives from a group Duo didn't recognize. He moved over to a corner and opened a closet. Inside was a young man who was all but unconscious where he stood. The hypnotized human did not respond as Duo bled enough blood out of him to fill four goblets. One for each person in the office, except himself.

Duo placed the first two goblets beside two of the guests without a sound or a glance. Duo gave the third visitor his goblet and was about to attend Lord Vittoria when what he saw out of the corner of his eye registered. He stopped dead. Sitting before him was a familiar young Chinese man. Wufei.

Wufei returned his gaze, with no visible sign of recognition beyond a fractional widening of his dark eyes. Duo shook off his surprise, giving Wufei a questioning look, and moved to give Lord Vittoria his goblet.

"You are well aware of our beliefs about human slaves," one of Wufei's group stated. "Do you seek to insult us by making a display of one?"

"No insult was intended, Ambassador," Lord Vittoria responded smoothly. "This one is only part human. However, if his presence aggravates you, I'll send him away."

"That would be acceptable," the Ambassador replied.

"Go," Lord Vittoria told Duo coldly.

Duo left, wondering what people they must represent if Lord Vittoria did not want to risk insulting them with his human heritage in order to parade his `little banshee' before them. More important to him, however, was the answer to the question `what is Wufei doing with them?'

Wufei knew he should be paying attention to the proceedings before him, but he could not keep his mind from straying back to Duo.

He had almost not recognized Duo under the bruises and with the quiet, spiritless way he carried himself. The braided baka he had known during the war acted nothing like the battered servant Wufei had just seen. What disturbed Wufei most, after the fact the ex-pilot was in the hands of a vampire lord, was the fact Duo knew it. Most enslaved members of a vampire's court were puppets, unaware of their situation. Duo was painfully aware of what had become of him. The vampires had not left him in a blissful waking dream where he did what they wanted eagerly.

What did Vittoria mean when he said Duo was only part human? Wufei wondered. He didn't show any signs of a super natural heritage during the war. Wufei was aware of the meeting drawing to a close, and Vittoria saying he would have someone show them to their rooms, as he struggled to figure out how Duo had fallen into the clutches of a vampire court in such an unusual fashion. Dead, as a meal, he could have understood and would have raged against the laws that prevented him from hunting down the vampire responsible. Duo would have died as part of the food chain, and Wufei would have understood it, even as he mourned the loss of a friend. Duo, taken as a servant, purposely tortured with full awareness, and apparently not as human as Wufei had thought, was not something that he could understand without more information.

Unfortunately, Wufei thought sourly as he entered his room, I can't simply wander about Vittoria's mansion looking for a human slave. It would not make the party look good, and my elders would not appreciate a student causing trouble during such important talks… Vittoria knew we were coming, yet Duo was there. He was trying to expose us to Duo for some reason. Duo is liable to make another appearance before we leave. I may get some answers without endangering the purpose of the ambassador's visit.

This should prove interesting, Duo thought as he reached out to open a door. Two rooms down, this one's Wufei's. Duo had wondered if Wufei would find him after the meeting, to ask what he was doing there, or, if the reason Wufei was in Vittoria's Shadow Realm mansion meant he was accustomed to vampires and their habit of taking human slaves, to talk to him, one last time, for old time's sake, since most people didn't survive long in the service of vampires. When Wufei didn't bother to look for him, Duo began to wonder if his friendship meant anything to the ex-pilot. There are no rules that confine guests to their rooms, but the group Wufei's with might have some. Whoever they are, they may not believe it polite to wander around someone else's home during the `night,' Duo thought in Wufei's defence against his own doubts as he opened the door.

Wufei looked up as the door to his room opened to find a worn and battered Duo slipping in with fresh sheets for the bed. Duo closed the door behind him and stood stock still as they stared silently at one and other. Wufei stood quietly. They were alone now, any second Duo would start talking and he would get the story without having to concerned for the braided young man or providing him with new teasing material.

To Wufei's amazement, the silence stretched on. Duo eventually sighed and went about tidying the room.

Something is seriously wrong with him, Wufei thought as Duo moved about silently, lacking the energy that characterized him. Even on the Lunar Base, when he was thrown into the cell, about to pass out from his injuries, he still had energy, speaking of revenge.

"What are you doing here, Duo?" Wufei asked. Duo stopped working and turned around to face him. The L2 teen didn't respond verbally, giving him a hopeless look. "Duo, why won't you answer me? …What did Vittoria mean when he said you're only part human?"

Come on Wu-man, Duo thought, letting his desperation show in his eyes, figure it out. Give me permission to speak! My voice must be given to me.

Wufei saw the desperate gleam growing in Duo's eyes and could not figure out what to do about it. What could one do when a friend wouldn't speak to them? I can't help if you don't let me! I have to know the details if I'm going to look for a way to get you out of here.

"Speak, damn you!" Wufei cried out in frustration. "You couldn't shut up during the war!"

All at once the desperation had to share Duo's eyes with relief, energy and happiness. Duo's posture changed and he was practically bouncing. "Thank you Wufei! I haven't spoken in months! I can't speak anymore, unless given permission. That blasted vamp isn't taking chances with my voice, even if his spell prevents me from doing anything against him. As for you damning me, don't bother. I'm already damned. Welcome to my personal Hell."

Duo's words tumbled forth like rushing water, threatening to bowl Wufei over as sure as a real river. He recovered quickly, accustomed to the powerful effects of the braided young man's voice.

"What are you doing here? Last I checked you were just a human that kept skipping from one job to the next."

A look of pain flashed across Duo's expressive features as he leaned against Wufei's bed. "From the way you say that, I guess you're not as human as you appear, Wu-man."

"I'm a dragon, Duo. This form was practical for coming into a vampire's mansion. You never knew because humans are not exposed to the truth about the supernatural where possible."

"A dragon? Dragons are real, too, eh?" Duo shrugged then grinned. "It figures you'd be a dragon, Wu-man. It definitely fits you. Anyway, you have a few questions. After I answer them, you'll have to answer mine.

"One of Vittoria's vamps saw me as a meal. He got quite a surprise when I responded on instincts I didn't know I had. Turns out I'm part banshee. I get the impression that by enslaving a banshee, even if I'm also part human, Vittoria gets a big boost in status."

Wufei looked at Duo in surprise for a moment. "And you say it figures I'm a dragon. I shouldn't be surprised considering that you've always associated yourself with death, how much you use your voice, and its effects on people." Even Heero couldn't withstand you in the end whenever you wanted something and wouldn't shut up until you had your way. "Fae, especially some species including the banshee, are all but impossible to enslave. I say `all but' because nothing is completely impossible. You must be a huge embarrassment to the Unseelie Court, Duo."

"Unseelie Court?" Duo asked.

"The Court of the dark fearies. Dark elves, banshees, bogarts, redcaps… all the malevolent, murderous fae or fae associated with death. That's the court you're supposed to belong to, the one you were born to, even though neither you or it knew it. Unlike power hungry vampires, the little people only have two courts. Power plays within their courts are so rare they don't form more." Wufei shook his head. "After we find a way to get you out of here, we're going to have to find you a banshee willing to teach you. I doubt you've been trained properly and you need to learn about the supernatural realms."

"You think there's a chance we could find a way out of here for me? I don't know much, but I do know courts don't fight courts if they can avoid it. I know you can't just bust me out. Why are you here, anyway?"

"I am a very young dragon, Duo. I'm here as part of my education on the subject of interspecies interaction. Ambassador Alistair is here because some vampires have been encroaching on out territory. Vittoria's believed to behind it."

It's Vittoria all right. I've heard him speaking about a territory he's been sending his vamps into where they're not welcome. The name Alistair has come up in those conversations, too, Duo thought. At the thought of passing the information on to Wufei, Duo felt his voice start to die again. I'm not capable of telling him. His group will have to learn it on their own.

There was a knock and the door to Wufei's room began to open. Duo returned to work, the energetic spirit of the boy Wufei had known disappeared, lost beneath the surface of a vampire's slave. The sight hurt and Wufei turned away from it, reminding himself that Duo wasn't broken despite appearances. The young dragon nodded a greeting to the ambassador entering his room.

The ambassador nodded back and looked at Duo.

"Leave."

"Duo, you can stay. Forgive me, Ambassador, but I would occupy him here, out of Vittoria's sight as long as possible."

"Duo? You know him?"

"Yes sir. Duo was a gundam pilot."

Ambassador Alistair studied Duo for a moment. "You're the one who was serving us in Vittoria's study yesterday, were you not?"

Duo nodded.

"Vittoria has a spell of silence on him. You have to give him permission to speak." Wufei smiled before continuing. "I warn you, letting him speak isn't necessarily a good thing. He doesn't always remember how to stop once he starts." Duo rolled his eyes in response to the comment.

The ambassador nodded to Wufei. "You may speak. Tell me why Vittoria is making your presence known."

"He likes to show off," Duo said darkly. "Wu-man tells me its normally impossible to enslave banshee."

"Maxwell, how often do I have to tell you not to call me -"

"You're the banshee that he caught?"

"Yeah."

"Ambassador," Wufei began, "do you know of anything that could help to free him?"

"You were living as just another human before you were captured, were you not?" Duo nodded an affirmative.

"Then, no. The only way would be for Vittoria to sell you to someone who would free you. You being a banshee means that won't happen. Humans are food to vampires. If they choose to spare one for a slave, it's in their power to do so. I wish I could be of service, but I can not." The ambassador turned to Wufei. "You may skip today's meeting to spend time… employing Duo for Vittoria." Ambassador Alistair quirked an eyebrow. "Wu-man?"

"He's American," Wufei answered with embarrassment.

"Ah."

From a large window, over looking the front gates of Lord Vittoria's mansion, Duo watched the representatives of the Eastern Dragon Court leave. The last few days had been the best Duo had experienced since his capture. Wufei had found excuses to keep Duo from his duties and Vittoria did not punish Duo for making his presence felt among the dragons. If anything, he was pleased, or so Duo judged by the fewer excuses he made up in order to hit him.

Duo's eyes widened as the three stood just outside the gate and started to glow. The three forms were lost in golden light that painfully blinded Duo's shadow accustomed eyes. Other than light from magical torches and candles, Duo had not been exposed to light since his capture. Duo fought the urge to stumble away from the window like a frightened goblin and the light faded. Duo's tortured eyes made out the vague shapes of three dragons flying up into the dark sky and disappearing through a portal out of the Shadow Realm.

Bye Wu-man, Duo thought. Maybe, if I survive long enough, we'll meet again. Duo walked away from the window, blinking madly. The corridor looked darker than it had in the last week. Duo knew it had little to do with the fact his eyes had yet to readjust. Don't give up, he ordered himself. I won't be here forever. I won't die and I will get out of here. Wu-man's going to try and help, he reminded himself and remembered his last conversation with Wufei.

"I'll send word to the others, about your predicament, Duo. They might think of something," Wufei had told him, noticing the despair that was increasingly visible through Duo's mask of cheerfulness. Energetic and talkative, the braided banshee might be, but he had a far larger range of emotion, that was very well exercised, than the appearance of the clown act he often showed the world suggested.

"Don't you think the whole vampire and banshee thing will come as a big shock?"

"You, a banshee and enslaved by a vampire, yes. The existence of such things? No. You were the only one of us that was truly unaware of the supernatural."

Life descended back into the normal pattern Duo had learned. He was beaten, worked with little food or sleep, shown off as a trophy and kept silent. Duo, on the surface, was slowly dying of despair, much to Lord Vittoria's amusement or annoyance, depending on his mood. He found it amusing because he delighted in Duo's misery. He found it annoying because a broken banshee was a less impressive trophy than one that still had the spirit to show what kind of awe inspiring power he had to be a banshee's master. Below the surface Duo waited, with the patience of his terrorist training, for his chance to strike and break free. Though he, himself, forgot it at times, Duo was no where near as broken as he appeared.

The months slipped slowly by without highlight for Duo. The Shadow Realm did not have any seasons that could reach Duo inside Lord Vittoria's mansion, and the dark shadows that gave the realm its name never lightened. Duo spent another six months in Lord Vittoria's service, warily trying to avoid the brunt of Lord Vittoria's wrath whenever the reports on the progress of a search for something called `The Feathered Keys' reported no progress at all.

Duo looked out a window at the shadowscape, seeing the odd creature of the night passing by the boundary of Lord Vittoria's property, and sighed. He concluded that his friends had been unable to find a way to help and went to serve Lord Vittoria in his office before he didn't arrive early enough not to be beaten for being `late.'

Duo had just given Vittoria his goblet of blood when a vampire came into the lord's office to tell him a cloaked figure had appeared at the gate seeking an audience with him. Curious, Lord Vittoria had the unnamed stranger admitted.

Duo noted that the reason the stranger was merely described as `cloaked' was because that was about all that could really be said. The stranger was lost below an evergreen cloak and hood. Duo guessed that beneath the concealing cloth, the visitor was probably humanoid. The stranger moved into the office and sat down without a word.

Through it didn't show on his face, Duo was highly amused. The stranger obviously thought himself, in the very least, equal to Lord Vittoria. Duo knew Lord Vittoria would not be happy. Not knowing who the stranger was, let alone the stranger's rank within an unknown court, Lord Vittoria had to treat what could be the humblest slave as an equal, or risk offending someone more powerful than himself.

Duo moved in to give the stranger a goblet of blood. As he did so, the stranger watched him from the impenetrable shadows of his hood. Duo moved out of the way, to stand in a corner from where he could see if he was needed, and the stranger turned his gaze on Lord Vittoria. After the silence stretched on, the stranger finally spoke.

"You have something that belongs to me," the stranger stated in an emotionless voice.

Duo didn't let anything show on his face, but he was struggling not to laugh out loud. The lack of introduction; the absence of any show of respect; the statement, which was obviously a demand for whatever belonged to the stranger, and Lord Vittoria's inability to establish his rank in comparison to the stranger all combined to infuriate Lord Vittoria and leave him in a position where he could easily make a fool of himself. Anger was in the vampire's eyes, and though he knew he would be Lord Vittoria's outlet, Duo silently thanked the stranger for the amusement he now felt.

However, the amusement quickly took second place to surprise and confusion as the stranger's voice struck him as familiar. I know that voice! It sounds like – Impossible! It couldn't be… Duo regarded the stranger, hunting for the observation he hadn't missed, to prove or disprove his desperate mind. I must be losing it. I'm so desperate to get out of here that I'm imagining -

"Oh, really?" Lord Vittoria asked the stranger, bringing the silence to a quick end and pulling Duo from his thoughts. "I'm afraid you'll have to tell me who you are and what I have before anything can be settled."

"I am the one with a true claim on the banshee you've enslaved."

Duo's eyes widened. What is going on here? I wasn't owned by anyone before Vittoria. How can someone, other than myself, have a prior claim on my beaten body? That settles the matter of that voice, I was never owned by the one this stranger sounds like.

"I was unaware of any past owners. Did you just miss him now?"

Duo knew that slaves could be released. If they were, they were free, unless captured and enslaved by another. How would this stranger explain owning him if he had been free further back than his memories went before Lord Vittoria?

"I came upon learning he had been stolen. He was exactly where I wanted him. I want Duo returned to me."

"And just who are you? Can you prove your claim?"

"Yes." Human hands appeared out of the sleeves of the cloak as they reached up to slowly lift and pull the hood of the cloak back. Dark brown hair, with bangs that dipped into cobalt blue pools, sat above an expressionless face.

Heero! Duo recognized his fellow ex-terrorist with a wild and chaotic mixture of relief, fear, confusion and curiosity. The only thing about the young man that didn't fit his memory of his most treasured friend was the small, triangular, tattoo of an orange bird, with outstretched wings, that rested between Heero's eyebrows. Then a thought struck home. He says he owns me… What the Hell is going on?

Lord Vittoria seemed to recognize Heero, or, at least, the tattoo, which he stared at, his eyes flashed with violent anger. "I suggest you prove your claim, if you can."

"He bares the Phoenix Mark. I'm sure even vampires can recognize the symbol of the Sunbird." Heero stood up and walked over to Duo. His face was expressionless, but something… anger? Duo wondered, danced in the depths of the former pilot's eyes. Heero grabbed Duo's arm and half dragged a startled Duo in front of Lord Vittoria's desk. Heero took hold of Duo's shoulder in one hand and tipped the braided banshee's head to the side with the other. Duo was too surprised to consider resisting Heero. He felt his neck grow warm, like it had many times in the past as magic was used on him. He noted that this time his neck felt pleasantly warm, rather than as if a branding iron had been placed upon it, and wondered what the difference was.

Duo noticed that Lord Vittoria saw something, perhaps the `Phoenix Mark' Heero had mentioned. The vampire lord growled dangerously before he caught himself.

Whatever's going on, let Heero prove his claim! Vittoria's so angry that I'll be lucky if I get beaten within an inch of my life if I stay here, Duo thought as the normally collected vampire showed signs of totally losing control.

"I believe my ownership has been proven. I want Duo returned to me, free of your spells," Heero told Lord Vittoria as he released Duo's head, allowing the self proclaimed Shinigami to stand straight. Heero, however, did not let go of his shoulder, and squeezed it slightly, in a motion meant to comfort Duo.

Duo was unsure how he managed to stand still and composed as Lord Vittoria nodded and stood up to get one of his witch – turned – vampires in order to remove the spells. Duo knew he wanted to jump for joy, grab Heero in a grateful hug and shout for the world to hear. He did nothing as Lord Vittoria left the office. Duo's control lost ground once he and Heero were alone. He turned, with a face-splitting smile, and hugged Heero excitedly.

Once he realized what he was doing, Duo started to pull away before Heero could hit him. Duo stopped as Heero returned the hug and petted his head.

"I'll have you out of here soon, Duo," Heero said quietly into his ear. "I'm sorry. If word had reached me sooner, you wouldn't even be here now."

Duo smiled at Heero, trying to tell him that he was just glad Heero had come and was getting him out. In Heero's embrace, Duo felt safe for the first time in over a year. There was anger in Heero's eyes, but Duo knew it wasn't aimed at him. Duo relaxed into his beloved's arms, taking much needed strength from Heero.

Heero released Duo just before Lord Vittoria and another vampire entered. The second vampire immediately started chanting. As she did, Duo felt the spells lifting, like gundams off his shoulders.

Wait! Duo thought as she stopped chanting. She left one! I still can't talk!

"He's yours. Now I suggest you leave. Your presence isn't welcomed by many in the Shadow Realm."

Heero looked at Duo and wove his hands through the air, outlining Duo's body. He glared at Lord Vittoria with the same intensity Duo had known during the war.

"Remove the last as well. I don't want any of your magic left on him."

Lord Vittoria nodded to the other vampire and she began to chant again. The final spell was removed and Heero repeated his earlier action, searching for anything else that might have been left on Duo. When he finished, Duo opened his mouth to speak.

"Later Duo," Heero said before he could speak. "Come on."

Duo was practically bouncing as they exited the gates of Lord Vittoria's estate. He was surprised when Heero stopped.

"Save your questions for when we get where we're going, Duo." Heero removed the cloak and Duo saw that Heero still wore spandex shorts, but was without his tank top. Duo swallowed a yelp of surprise as Heero swept him up into his arms.

What is Heero planning to do? Duo wondered. He couldn't hold in the squeak that shot past his lips as Heero's back suddenly sprouted wings with bright red, gold and dark blue feathers, which glowed like candle light in the darkness of the Shadow Realm.

Heero's wings began to beat powerfully and they were airborne, climbing high into the black sky. Duo saw a portal open above them moments before they slipped through it. They came out of the portal above a playground, shrouded in fog, somewhere on Earth. Heero landed as Duo made what few observations he could in the predawn darkness, which was broken only by the light of Heero's wings.

"Be ready to fight, Duo," Heero told him. "He let you go too easily." As if to prove Heero's caution right, a portal opened and five vampires attacked.

Duo dodged the first lunges of the two who attacked him. He jumped clear of them with the assistance of weak levitation magic. As they came at him again, Duo let instinct control him, for it had better control over his powers, and screamed. Heero fought on as if he hadn't made a noise, let alone screamed a banshee's cry, those he fought winced with pain. The pair trying to get a hold of Duo dropped to the ground and screamed in pain before dying.

Duo felt them die and it felt as natural to him as breathing. He felt no pleasure or pain as he felt their deaths, merely a whisper in his soul that told him they should have died long ago. He looked over to where Heero fought in time to see the third vampire fall before Heero, beheaded.

The morning's first rays made the surrounding area visible as Heero took the precaution of beheading the two vampires Duo had killed. The sun began to burn the vampire corpses to dust as Duo climbed back into Heero's arms and they took to the air once more, heading towards the rising sun.

"Ahhh!" Duo cried out in pain and buried his head, as best he could, in Heero's chest. "I've just spent over a year with no exposure to the sun and now you're carrying me right towards it?!?"

"Hn," Heero responded, sounding almost apologetic. The winged young man flipped his cloak over Duo's head, giving Duo some protection from the bright light.

From under Heero's cloak, a short time later, Duo heard a shrill bird's cry. It sounded like nothing he had ever heard before. He was sure the sound had come from a bird, though after what he had been exposed to in his recent past, he was willing to believe anyone who told him he was wrong. The sound was an exotic mix of bird song, magic and something that reminded him of delicate wind chimes. Duo was startled when he felt Heero's chest rumble and heard him reply, calling out a shrill bird-like squawk.

Heero looked down at Duo's covered head, wondering if the light seeping through had allowed Duo's eyes to readjust to bright light. He would soon find out. I just hope he understands why I haven't returned him to his life among humans.

Heero landed and stood Duo up. Once Duo had gained his balance, he removed the cloak.

Duo blinked rapidly after the cloak was removed and looked around. He found himself in the courtyard of a palace with cloud white walls and off white roofs, windowsills and cobblestones. He briefly wondered why all the windows – which were all several feet long and several feet tall – lacked glass and screens, but forgot about it when he saw what was behind him and Heero.

Not far behind them, the courtyard ended and open air began. Far below he saw grassy plains blowing in a breeze. The palace was floating in the air.

"Welcome to the Realm of the Phoenix," Heero said simply, looking bemused by Duo's shocked face. "This is the Palace of the Phoenix, your home until you're ready to return to your life in the Human Realm. When you do leave, Quatre and Trowa plan to help you get you life in order."

Duo looked at Heero in surprise. "I'm ready to go back now."

Heero shook his head and lead Duo into a building and up some stairs. "If you go back now, you'll be in great danger. You should have been able to deal with those five vampires on your own easily, yet you only got two. You need to learn to use your magic; to learn about the supernatural world; to learn how to lead both a human and a supernatural life at the same time. You're known as a conquerable banshee, Duo. Someone else might try to enslave you and I'm sure Vittoria will jump at any chance to rightfully claim you." Heero stopped and opened a heavy oak door. "These will be your rooms."

Duo looked about. The room was done in the same colours as the rest of the palace with large picture windows and long white curtains. It contained a king-sized bed, a clothes chest and his own bathroom, complete with a luxuriously large tub, big enough for several people. Duo went over to the window and sat on the wide windowsill, looking out over the courtyard. After a moment he turned back to Heero.

"No offense or anything intended, Heero, but would you tell me what you are? I've got plenty of questions, but that seems to be a good question to start with."

"I'm a crossbreed, like you Duo. I am the son of a witch and the Phoenix."

"Of a mystical bird and a magical human… how the Hell does that work?"

Heero's eyes flashed with anger. "Magic, Duo," he said icily.

"Sorry, man. Didn't mean anything by it," Duo apologized.

"You said you have more questions," Heero replied, the anger slowly leaving his eyes.

"Apparently, you own me. Mind explaining that one to me?" I knew you owned my heart and soul, but my physical body is new on me, Duo thought.

Heero walked over to the window and sat down near Duo, looking out over the courtyard, rather than at Duo. "During the war," he began slowly, "I began to like you. First living here, then being trained by Dr. J, I never had many opportunities to make friends. Your friendship is… important to me… I did not want to see you hurt. You were prepared to deal with the dangers presented by humans and nature, and there was nothing I could really do to keep you safe from them. Risks from the supernatural, were another story. You didn't know about them, weren't prepared to deal with them, so I attempted to eliminate the risk of you being hurt by the supernatural. I… branded you, magically, with my family's mark. Which, technically, makes me your owner. Anything supernatural that tries to do something to you becomes aware of the fact that you're out of bounds… Vittoria chose to ignore that fact. I would have told you, but humans are supposed to remain ignorant. Unless I was to do something like take you as my servant, I could not tell you. I have no intention of exercising my ownership over you, Duo. It's in name only, nothing more."

"So you were just trying to look out for me. Okay, I can deal with that. Are Trowa and Quatre protected as well?"

"Quatre's branded with Trowa's mark. Trowa's a werelion."

"Maybe it's just me, but isn't odd that only one of the five of us is really human?"

Heero shrugged. "Humans aren't the only ones living in the Colonies."

The pair fell into a companionable silence. After a while it was broken by Duo's soft chuckle. "Part Phoenix, eh? Well, that explains why Wing's self-destruct couldn't kill you."

Heero blinked at Duo in surprise, he'd never really thought about why he'd survived. He had been focussed on his mistake, which had killed Noventa and his supporters, and what he had to do next. Heero's surprised look caused Duo to chuckle more.

Once he had stopped chuckling, Duo's face held an statement of confusion. "Funny, I remember the sun being brighter. We are above the clouds. There's nothing to block it."

"It's night, Duo. The sun never sets in the Realm of the Phoenix, it just dims." Heero stood on the windowsill. "Get some sleep." With that he jumped out of the window and flew out of sight.

"This is night around here? If I wasn't dead tired, I don't know how I'd sleep," Duo thought aloud, happy to be making use of his voice once more. With a shrug, Duo headed for bed. After being forced to work until he dropped by Lord Vittoria, he wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to sleep.

 

Duo awoke to the sound he had heard the night before, an enchanting combination of bird's song, wind chimes and magic. He stretched out on the bed, enjoying the sensation of waking up upon something soft and warm, rather than cold stone. After a moment, curiosity drew him out of bed and carried him to his large window. Duo stuck his head out the window, looked up and to the left, and froze in astonishment.

Perched on the peak of the highest roof, wings outstretched, was the Phoenix, singing. The Phoenix was very large, almost as tall as himself, and had the same red, gold and blue feathers as Heero. Below the singing bird, on a nearby peak, sat Heero, wings folded on his back, head raised, watching his father and singing along.

The song ended and the Phoenix gave a cry of delight. Duo blinked as the magical bird dove from his perch, realizing that he had been watching and listening, totally entranced. Duo watched the Phoenix land in the courtyard in front of two people Duo had not seen before.

Both strangers were women. One had short brown hair and brown eyes, dressed in spandex. Her resemblance to Heero was undeniable. Well, I can see she's where Heero gets his fashion sense, Duo thought. The other woman caught and held Duo's attention, though he didn't know why.

The second woman had blue eyes, long pure white hair, in spite of the fact she didn't look over twenty-five, which was left down and unkempt, held out of her face by her pointed ears. She wore a pale green dress with a long skirt and she glided above the ground. Duo's view of the woman was blocked when Heero landed.

Duo watched quietly from his window as what he assumed were words of introduction and greeting were exchanged. He wondered what was so special about the woman that had held his attention. She was from a people Duo was sure he had never seen before, yet at the same time something about her was familiar.

The mysterious woman levitated high into the air and glided towards Duo's window. She stopped several metres beyond the window and began to sing. The song had no words. It was composed of soft sounds, calling out to Duo. The song was beautiful and called to some instinct deep within him. Unsure of what to do, Duo did not move or say anything as the song ended. Not doing anything seemed to be the wrong response. The stranger grew angry as Duo stood there, blinking in confusion.

Heero flew over to Duo's window, as the woman's anger became obvious. "Like we told you, he only knows what Vittoria taught him and even that was a sloppy job."

"He's no banshee. At the most he's level with an amateur witch. Vittoria's insults to the Unseelie Court go deeper than we originally thought."

Heero nodded and landed on the windowsill, placing a hand on Duo's shoulder. "Vittoria has done nothing but insult the Unseelie Court in this matter. I thought the Unseelie Court would like a chance to properly train Duo, as proof against Vittoria's claims."

The woman smiled at Heero. "We already decided to give your servant the training you requested because you salvaged the court's honour in this mess rather cleanly. A banshee in the service of the Phoenix's Court is almost not a blow when compared to Vittoria. He will have the highest quality of training to repay our debt. But thank you for another way to fight the implications of Vittoria's enslavement of … Duo."

"Allow me to lessen the negative impact of Duo being a part of my father's court," Heero said. "Duo is not a servant. He is my companion."

The woman nodded still smiling.

Heero turned to Duo. "Duo, this is Kerry. She's a banshee. She's been sent to train you, as you've, no doubt, already figured out." Heero flew off, leaving Duo to his lessons.

"Let's make a real banshee out of you," Kerry spoke up. "We'll start with basic knowledge, then work our way up towards magic. Nothing less than the best when the Phoenix Child makes the request."

"It sounds like you, personally, have a great deal of respect for Heero."

"Heero?"

"That's the name I know him by. He was using the name `Heero Yuy' in the Human Realm when I met him."

Kerry shook her head. "We have a lot of work to do, I can tell. The name `Heero' may be acceptable between you and the Phoenix Child, but I doubt he plans to use it with the rest of the Realms. You'll have to ask him. The Phoenix's Court is very quiet; it goes about its business and tends to stay out of inter-court political plays. This tendency means that almost no one outside the Phoenix's Court knows of the existence of a humanoid man with Phoenix wings and bearing the symbol of the Phoenix. Almost none of those that do know realize he is the Phoenix Child, Son of the Sunbird. No one, to my knowledge, has ever been given a name beyond his title.

"Your observation strikes true. I have a great deal of respect for the Phoenix, and, after the way the Phoenix Child has navigated the political battlefield surrounding you, I now have a great deal of respect for him as well. Now, to start with, you need to know about the fae."

"Well, that was interesting," Duo commented as Heero's mother and Kerry disappeared through a portal hours later. Duo turned to Heero, who was perched on a flight of stairs, just above Duo's head. "I think I'm going to be here for quite a while."

"Hn," Heero agreed.

Shortly, a portal opened and Heero's mother returned. She stopped upon exiting and studied the pair of young men, paying extra attention to the braided newcomer leaning against the wall below her son. His clothes need to be replaced. Though he seems to like black, going by the pictures my son has of all his wartime friends, there's no need for him to wear such a worn out rag. I'll speak to my son about it later, in case he has over looked that detail.

"Well?" She called out. "Do I get an introduction, or not?"

Heero dropped to the ground and walked over to his mother, followed by Duo. "Mother," he began tonelessly, "this is Duo Maxwell. Duo, this is my mother, the Lady Phoenix."

"It's nice to meet you, Duo. Even before all of this mess began, I had heard about you. My son may not be the finest conversationalist in the Realms, but even he can say a few words about each of his friends." More than a few about some, she thought. "Please, feel free to call me Angela."

"Nice to meet you," Duo replied politely. The braided banshee's eyes grew wide with mock astonishment. "You mean he's capable of casual conversation? Here I thought he could only repeat need–to–know information!"

Angela chuckled until Heero pulled on Duo's braid, in his customary action of showing his annoyance with his friend and stating "Baka."

"You were raised better than that! Apologize!"

"It's alright, Angela," Duo came to Heero's defence, unsure of what else to do. Mothers were something he hadn't learned to deal with growing up as a war orphan. "He doesn't pull it hard enough to hurt me, unless I deserve it."

Angela didn't have a chance to respond before the Phoenix swooped down out of the sky, a claw grabbing then releasing one of Heero's wings, before gaining altitude, heading for the peak he had sung from that morning.

Heero gave his mother a small smirk before taking to the air behind his father.

"This isn't over! You and I are going to have a talk about how to treat guests!" Angela called after her son.

"What's going on?" Duo asked.

"Hmm? Oh. Night is about to fall. It's time for the Dusk Blessing. Every dawn and dusk Phoenix must sing a blessing. Naturally, his son participates as well."

The light began to dim and twin voices sang out the beginning of the Blessing. Duo watched, mesmerized by the beauty of the song as he had been by the Dawn Blessing that morning. He stood frozen, soaking up the music.

"Fairies," Angela shook her head. She tapped Duo's shoulder, breaking him out of an almost trance-like state. "You plan on doing that every blessing?"

"Huh?" Duo asked, confused.

"Do you plan to zone out every time one of them sings?"

Duo blinked in surprise. Angela shook her head again. "You don't even know when you're doing it, and it looks like you don't know why it's happening. What did Kerry teach you today?" Duo opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off. "Okay, Duo, I'm no expert of the fae, but I'll try to explain. You can ask Kerry about it tomorrow. Fairies have a thing for light and music, with a few Unseelie exceptions. I think banshees are supposed to like the dark more than many other fae, for example. Light and music tend to energize, charm or distract fearies. It depends on both what type of fairy one is and on their personality. It looks like you are charmed by some kinds of magic-laced music. I'm not sure, but I think that may be unusual for a banshee. You're going to have to learn to operate in spite of Phoenix-song around here. Now, do you want to help me find something for dinner? My son tells me you love to eat, but can be fussy about some types of food. He didn't tell me what though."

"Okay," Duo answered. Angela walked off towards the kitchen. Duo started to follow, but paused to look back at Heero as the former pilot of Wing raised his voice almost half an octave. Duo was aware of the effect Phoenix-song had on him now, but that did not make him stop wanting to stand there, watching and listening to every note. Duo turned away from the singing pair and followed after Angela.

 

Duo had turned in for the night, leaving Heero alone with his parents. He expected a lecture from his mother about pulling Duo's braid, which would end with the familiar look on her face that stated she wished they had never allowed him to go to Dr. J for training or to fight. Instead, she didn't want to talk about his behaviour in that incident.

"//The two of you need to be careful where you sing,//" Angela stated in the phoenix language. "//For Duo's sake. This evening he was charmed out of his mind when the two of you started to sing the Blessing. We don't need to risk him following one of you should you be singing in flight. He'll learn to resist Phoenix-song with exposure.//" Angela saw the faint statement on Heero's face. "//And I don't want you to stop singing because he might be effected or just because he's here. Singing is apart of what you are. He thinks you're a great singer, which you are, whatever language you use, so don't be shy. I can't believe how shy you are about your voice. It's something you have to get over. The Phoenix Child can't be afraid to sing in public.//"

"//You're mother's right, don't give her that look,//" Phoenix squawked. "//No singing while in flight within his hearing range and know where he is when singing.//" Heero nodded. "//It's settled then.//"

Duo woke up and rolled over, facing the window. He was surprised when his violet eyes met with steady black. The Phoenix was sitting on his windowsill. The mystic bird squawked and flew off. Duo sat up, confused.

"Did I miss something?"

Heero took his father's place on the windowsill and tossed a bundle of cloth at Duo. He had an amused smirk on his face as Duo caught the bundle.

"You slept through the Dawn Blessing. Father doesn't know what to think of that."

"I missed it, eh?" Duo asked, feeling disappointed. He really liked listening to Heero and his father sing. "So what's this?" Duo started to pull the bundle apart.

"Clothes. Several changes, unless you want to keep wearing that vampire's slave uniform."

"Thanks man! The only time I got fresh clothes in the last year was when what I was wearing started to fall off." Duo started to strip out of the slave clothes. "Hey, Heero, mind answering a question?"

"Hn. You'll ask anyway."

"That's close enough to a yes. I referred to you as `Heero' yesterday and Kerry didn't know I was talking about you. She referred to you as `the Phoenix Child.' Mind telling me what your real name is?"

Heero shrugged. "I don't have a real name beyond my title `Phoenix Child' anymore than my father has a name beyond Phoenix. Heero Yuy was just my code name during the war. You can call me that, since we're both used to it."

Kerry was escorted through a portal by Angela and the young men parted for the day.

After dinner, Duo went looking for Heero, who had finished before him. He had yet to explore the palace, so he was left with no idea where to start his search. He picked the wing he slept in and headed in that direction. Duo entered the wing from the courtyard and looked about. The staircase climbed up and connected with the second story. The floor the staircase opened up to was designed like a balcony that ran along one wall of the wing, giving access the rooms, about two metres wide. Beyond the `balcony' was open air, with only a rail, serving as a barrier, between the two. The wall that didn't have rooms on that story had, instead, large open windows. The staircase lead to the next story, designed the same way except it had windows and rooms on the reverse sides of the level below it. Duo noted that this was true of every story of the wing. On further inspection of the design as he searched for Heero, Duo realized that it was designed to allow the Phoenix to fly through his palace easily, yet still accommodate visitors who could not, or normal did not, fly. The windows gave the Phoenix a way to enter and exit the palace and the safety rails also served the purpose of a bird's perch. Duo's exploration of the wing revealed that the rooms on the first floor were empty, while a few of the rooms on the second floor were bedrooms, including his own. On the third story, Duo forgot his exploration of the rooms. Faintly, he heard Phoenix-song drifting down from above. He stood still, listening to the quiet tune. Slowly, Duo realized he was being effected by the music and decided that he didn't really care. He wanted to get closer to wherever it was coming from, to hear it better. Third story forgotten, Duo climbed the stairs.

Duo paid no attention to his surroundings as he moved down a hall, towards the source of the Phoenix-song, no longer aware of where his will ended and the effects of the Phoenix-song had on him began. Blindly, Duo moved through a room and out onto a small balcony that over looked the grassy plains below the palace.

Looking up, Duo found Heero sitting on the roof above him, singing a Phoenix-tune, unaware of the silent ex-thief who had ghosted onto the balcony below him. Duo watched, spellbound, as Heero finished the song and sung another.

Heero finished a song and decided he was finished for the time being. He opened his wings and was about to jump off the roof when he noticed Duo standing on the balcony, watching him with unfocused eyes. Heero winced inwardly as Duo remained charmed, even after he had started to move around, no longer singing. How long was he listening to have been effected so strongly? Heero jumped down to the balcony and waved a hand in front of Duo's face. Nothing. Mother should have said he was going this deeply under the influence. Heero shook his head and took Duo's hand.

"Come on, Duo," Heero said and lead the charmed fae into his bedroom. Heero sat Duo down on his bed. He may not have any balance when he snaps out of it, Heero reasoned. "Wake up, Duo." Nothing. He patted Duo's cheek roughly. Still no response. Duo just sat, staring at him. Heero took hold of the soft rope of hair and tugged it. "Wake up, baka," he said coldly.

"Ouch! Heero! That was harder than usual. What'd I do?" Duo cried out and snatched his braid out of Heero's hand with one hand and put the other to the base of his braid.

"Hn. You got yourself charmed listening to me sing. You wouldn't snap out of it. After all the trouble I went through to get you away from Vittoria and get you someone to teach you about your heritage and magic, the last thing I need is for you to kill yourself jumping off a balcony, trying to follow me."

Duo blinked and thought back. "I must have, the last thing I remember clearly is climbing the stairs, looking for you." Duo looked about the room, finding himself sitting on a bed with Heero. The room contained a clothes chest, a table and a chair and on the table were photos of the group during the war. Beside them… "Oh, no," Duo groaned. "You still have that blasted computer?"

"No. This is a new one, solar powered," Heero said expressionlessly, knowing how evil Duo had always thought his laptop to be, during the war, because he had spent all his time on it. He managed to keep the grin off his face as Duo fell back on the bed dramatically.

"You know, I had better find a way to resist the charm effects of listening to you sing. I have no idea where I am," Duo chuckled. "What I remember, I always like. It would be a shame if I ended up having to avoid hearing you and your father sing."

Well, Mother wanted me to sing in front of Duo. More importantly, this might help Duo. "Let's try something. I'll sing a bit, and you try to resist being charmed."

"Alright," Duo agreed.

Heero nodded and sang a slow tune about a human woman who had fallen in love with his father many Phoenix-lives ago. After the first verse he stopped. Duo's eyes were beginning to lose focus.

Duo blinked several times. "Please, don't stop."

Heero was a little surprised, until he remembered what his mother had said about Duo's opinion of his voice. Heero, once satisfied that Duo had shaken off the effects of the first verse, went on to the second, singing about his father's inability to return the woman's feelings.

Angela, who had been looking for her son, saw Heero and Duo sitting on Heero's bed, and decided to talk to her son later. I am not happy your friend was enslaved by vampires, my son, but I am glad he is here now. You have been lonely here, with only your parents for company and I know that you have missed him.

 

Months later, Duo cackled with glee as he followed Kerry through the air. The older banshee recognized an statement on Duo's face that was often seen in the Unseelie Court, just before mischief was made.

"What are you planning, Duo?"

"I was just thinking about how He- Phoenix Child always flies away when he's had enough of me, which is quite often. It won't be so easy now."

Kerry laughed. "Don't get yourself in more trouble than you can handle."

"Naw. He'll get used to it. Probably pretty quickly, too. Something similar happened during the war. We were stuck as partners. He's just not used to dealing with people on a personal basis. Now that I can defy gravity it won't be so easy for him to run and hide."

"It's something you'll have to tell me about after he finds another way to slip away. Tomorrow then, Duo. It's almost Dusk Blessing. Class is at an end."

Duo floated over the top of the wing of the palace he and Heero had to themselves after dinner. He bit back a laugh as he saw Heero waiting patiently on the roof, just above his balcony, for the chance to frustrate him. It had become a game of sorts, though Heero would never admit it, for Heero to hide just out of sight on the roof until Duo managed to lure him down with something that interested him. Heero also disappeared to the roof when he no longer knew how to handle his friend's crazier moods.

Duo floated up behind Heero, a grin on his face. "What cha doin'?" Duo laughed uncontrollably, as Heero's wings shot out like a startled cat's fur and the former terrorist took to the air. Heero gave Duo a deadly glare once he recognized his braided friend.

"I wasn't aware you had gotten as far as levitation in your lessons."

"Obviously!" Duo choked out, wiping tears from his eyes.

"Do you want to work on your resistance tonight? Or just sit there laughing about something that wasn't that funny?"

Duo almost immediately quieted. "It really was that funny."

Heero landed on the roof and was joined by Duo. The phoenix-man almost got through two songs before the almost dreamy look began to enter Duo's eyes. He stopped singing. "Duo, wake up." Nothing. Heero wrapped Duo's braid in his hand with a smirk, then paused before pulling it. He looked at the braid quizzically. One of these days I'm going to figure out why I enjoy grabbing and pulling his braid so much. With a shrug, Heero pulled it and was rewarded with Duo waking up with a yelp and snatching away the braid.

Duo calmed down and the two sat in a comfortable silence watching the wind sculpt the clouds around the palace and dance with the long grass below.

A few weeks later, just before dinner, a roar directed everyone's attention to a dragon flying just beyond the perimeter of the palace. Duo watched with barely contained curiosity as Heero flew out to meet the dragon. Duo, at first, wondered why the dragon didn't land in the courtyard. Then he remembered that no one could enter the Palace of the Phoenix unless they lived there, were of the Phoenix's blood, or were given permission to enter.

The dragon entered the courtyard and changed to human form. Duo recognized Wufei from where he sat on the roof and glided towards the courtyard.

"Wu-man!" he cried out excitedly.

"Maxwell," Wufei began what had become a standard `greeting' between the two of them, "how often do I have to tell you my name is Wufei?" Wufei truly didn't mind the nickname – so long as it was only used where people from outside their circle of friends would not hear it. At that moment he wouldn't have cared if Duo had called him that in front of his entire court. He was far too busy feeling both relief and happiness at the sight of the Duo he had once known reborn from the battered and despairing creature Lord Vittoria had turn him into.

"You probably can't tell me often enough to get me to stop calling you `Wu-man,'" Duo replied.

"Are you here on official business?" Heero asked.

"No, though I am to drop hints to your father that my court wants to have the Talon Treaty renewed before it ends. I'm here to see the two of you. I would have visited sooner, to see how you were doing Duo, but some of the elders believe young dragons shouldn't be allowed to interact with other courts and risk the relations between them and our own. The same reason kept the others from getting the message about where you were. I apologize for that."

"Hey, if not for you and Heero, I'd still be there! It's not like you could plant C4 on your elders, Wu-man. I'm out and get to put my energy into getting reactions out of Heero. No need to apologize!"

"I don't envy your position, Heero."

"Hn. It doesn't take much to shut him up," Heero shrugged.

Wufei's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Other than Vittoria's spell, I've never seen anything effective against his mouth."

"Hey, I'm not that bad!"

"Yes you are," Angela stated as she approached. "Which makes you a good counterpart to my son. Nice to see you again, Wufei. Let me guess, the Talon Treaty?"

"I am here on a social visit, but I am to drop hints."

"Consider them dropped and join us for dinner. We don't get many visitors."

After dinner the three young men sat on the roof above Heero's room, enjoying the view and chatting amiably.

"So, do you know how Quat and Tro are doing?" Duo asked Wufei.

"They wish to know the same of you and Heero. They asked me to remind the two of you that you're always welcome to visit. For the most part, they are perfectly fine."

"For the most part?" Duo asked.

"Ever since Quatre turned twenty, the sisters that don't approve of Trowa have been trying to pressure him into finding someone they deem more appropriate. Nothing Quatre can't handle."

"How long do you give it before the little angel of out team loses his temper and reminds his big bossy sisters he's not their little dress-up doll and threatens to cut them off?"

"If his companies have a good year and said sisters don't try to corner Trowa," Wufei said thoughtfully, "I give him just under a year."

Duo laughed. "How many of his sisters are involved in this?"

"Not too many. Most have the sense to leave Quatre's life up to him."

"Have the sense or don't want to risk being cut off from the Winner fortune."

"Hn," Heero agreed. "You've been avoiding saying anything about how things are going in your court, Wufei."

"We've been having vampire problems," Wufei said carefully, eyeing Duo. Duo's relaxed posture stiffened a little, but he remained quiet. "The Jewel Dragon Realm is open to all, as all Realms are, so we do not challenge the presence of vampires in the Realm, even though they have no business or food there…" Wufei trailed off, watching Duo's increasingly tense form.

"Go ahead and tell us, Wu-man. I can't learn to deal with what happened if everyone continues to apologize and baby me."

Wufei nodded. "The vampires, however are not welcome within the Eastern Dragon Court's libraries which are in the Jewel Dragon Realm. Our libraries are our own. This does not stop them from trying to sneak in… We suspect Vittoria is behind it, as we did with the incidents that took me to his court."

"The libraries of your court are pretty extensive, aren't they?" Duo asked.

"They are some of the most extensive in existence, covering both a large range of topics and giving some of the most detailed and accurate reports to ever be made about those topics."

"He's probably the one. He was the last time. I would have told you if I could. Would have relayed a message after I got out of there too, but he stopped and covered his tracks after that visit. If he's trying to get into those libraries of yours, then he's probably looking for information on something called `the Feathered Keys.' He wasn't having much luck finding them, whatever they are, while I was there," Duo said thoughtfully.

Heero and Wufei exchanged surprised looks, which turned grim.

"I think I read about something called `the Feathered Keys' while I was doing the information necessary research on this court to convince my elders I was knowledgeable enough to come here. It had something to do with…" Wufei's voice trailed off and his eyes widened. "He wouldn't dare challenge-"

"He already has challenged the Phoenix's Court. Duo is marked as my property. There's no way Vittoria didn't know," Heero stated. "This goes deeper than wanting to be master of a banshee."

"Uhhh, someone want to fill me in?" Duo asked.

"The Feathered Keys are a means by which people can get into the palace without being a resident or being given permission. Vittoria wants access to my family," Heero explained.

"Why? He can't come here or even survive standing in your father's presence."

Heero shrugged. "I'll tell my father, he might know. All we can do is keep an eye out for trouble. The keys were lost eons ago."

 

A half-human howl shook the palace. The Phoenix would have had a fit had he been home to hear the disturbing sound. After a few words of warning from Kerry, the Phoenix family had made themselves scarce during the day over the past three weeks. The howl was followed by a shriek and a wail that moved up and down the scale from as soft as the leaves on the wind to loud enough to shake the stone blocks that made the palace.

Kerry floated in the air, almost standing on the courtyard cobblestones, her white hair floating about, her eyes starting to glow with blue light, responding instinctively to the sheer amount of magic she was demanding of her pupil.

Above her, floating high in the air, Duo screamed out with even more power than ever before, looking impressive with his bright violet aura and glowing violet eyes. As Duo's scream reached its peak, his hair band snapped and his hair flew free of constraint.

Very impressive, Kerry nodded. More than good enough, far more. Don't overwhelm yourself, Duo.

The scream ended and Duo slowly lowered himself to the ground. Once he was standing on the ground, he stood, out of breath, chest heaving uncontrollably, for a moment, before dropping to one knee. Duo stayed on his knee, hands on the ground on either side of him, his head tucked to his heaving chest, hidden behind the chestnut curtain of his hair.

Kerry floated towards the young man and waited for him to catch his breath. She watched as his breathing slowed, silently. His head began to raise and the shimmering curtain shifted to reveal Duo's heart shaped face, lit by his satisfied smile, and the tips of delicately pointed ears poking through the strands.

"Now, you are a true banshee, Duo Maxwell," she informed him softly. Duo's eyes widened in surprise, followed by his smile.

Duo and Kerry sat on sunbathed steps, drinking lemonade, soaking up the sunshine and talking quietly.

"No one can deny that you're a banshee now. You'll never be mistaken for a pureblood, being male, but you are a banshee beyond a doubt. Now, about those ears…"

"Ears?" Duo asked. He raised a hand to one of his ears, brushing away his unbound hair to get at it, and felt the change in the shape. "What happened to 'em?"

"You're a banshee in the truest sense now, your body reflects that. You have fae ears instead of human. It's the only visible change. You were already what humans might correctly describe as a `fae youth.' I'll show you a simple spell to hide the difference from humans."

The Phoenix and Heero flew over head and landed in their customary places for the Dusk Blessing and began to sing. Angela came through a portal and held it open to escort Kerry home. The two banshees bid each other farewell and Duo sat down to listen to the Blessing, only partially charmed by the end and not really resisting the effects.

Heero landed beside Duo, silently eyeing Duo's normally braided hair and ears. Duo turned to him with a huge grin.

"She says I'm a real banshee now. That was the last lesson."

"Hn," Heero responded. After a while he spoke up. "Tomorrow we'll go to see Quatre and Trowa. Can you open portals? If not, I'll show you how before we go."

"You wanted me to get through training," Duo smiled at Heero, "it was supplied. I can."

"Tomorrow morning, a few hours after Blessing," Heero told him.

"You're in a rush to get rid of me. Are you really that sick of me?"

"Hn," Heero responded and Duo wondered if he imagined the sad undertone of the sound.

"So you're leaving us in the morning, Duo," Angela stated a few hours after supper, as she walked up behind Duo.

"Yep. I've been away from the Colonies for three years now. It's time to go back. Thank you for the hospitality."

"You're welcome. Do you plan to visit?"

"Sure! Not for a while, I have a lot to straighten out in the Human Realm, but once things calm down, I'll be back to drive Heero crazy."

"He'll look forward to it. He's sad to see you go," she told him softly.

"Heero? I'm surprised he hasn't already dragged me out by my braid after all the trouble I've been."

"My son cares for you. You are his best friend. Never hesitate to visit or ask us for help, Duo."

Duo shouldered his pack of clothes and cast the spell Kerry had taught him to hide his ears. "Bye Angela!" he said cheerfully with a smile.

"Goodbye, Duo," Angela replied. "Remember what I told you last night."

The Phoenix flew down and landed on the set of steps Duo and Kerry had sat on the day before, spread his wings and began to sing. The song conveyed to Duo a farewell, well wishes and an invitation to return. The magical song failed to charm Duo, who had developed some resistance, and at its end the banshee smiled. He replied in a haunting, soft, and wordless banshee-song as his goodbye to the Phoenix.

The Phoenix chirped in approval as his son opened a portal. With a squawk from Heero, bidding his parents goodbye, the pair of ex-terrorists left the Realm of the Phoenix.

Duo stepped out of the portal and looked about. Noise assaulted Duo's supernatural hearing and it took him a moment to readjust to the natural sounds of city life. Duo looked about the dark, narrow, alley and wondered where they were.

"We're in the L4 Colonies, within walking distance of Quatre's mansion. The one he normally lives in," Heero informed Duo as his wings disappeared into his back and the phoenix symbol faded from sight. He pulled on a green tank top and was the very image of the boy Duo had first seen at the start of the war… minus the gun levelled on the future Queen of the World.

The pair exited the alley and joined the pedestrians on the sidewalks. Duo quickly got his bearings, having been in the area once before, visiting his friends. They arrived at the gates of the mansion and were admitted without problems. Quatre made sure his friends could visit him.

A short, blue eyed ball of excitement with blond hair shot out of the mansion's front doors. "Duo! Heero!" Quatre cried out happily as his friends approached. As Quatre stopped his flight in front of his visitors a more sedate Trowa, highly amused by his lover's antics, approached as well.

"Q-man! Tro! How's it going?" Duo asked them.

"Fine," Quatre replied. "But I should be asking how you are. Wufei told us what happened, then later told us that you were doing your best to get Heero to follow through on all his death threats from the war."

Trowa reached the little reunion and nodded to Heero. Heero nodded back.

Duo shook his head. "Silent types! I tell ya, Q, I never met anyone, other than these two, who would go to visit his friends and stay quiet." Duo turned to the others. "There's this little greeting called `hello.' Would it really hurt to use it? I know you two can speak – well, I know Heero can. I'm not so sure about you, Tro!"

Quatre laughed as Duo got no more than a tolerantly amused look from Trowa's visible emerald eye and a glare from Heero. In spite of what had occurred over the past three years, nothing had changed. Duo still played the part of a `class clown' among his friends and Heero, quiet as ever, conveyed more with his eyes – of a deadly nature – than he bothered to with words. Quatre had no doubt that the rest of their natures were still as they once were as well. Once things calmed down, so would Duo, who, in truth, was never the clown he made himself out to be, and in quiet conversation, Heero would join in.

"Lets go inside," the blond Arabian businessman suggested. "It's a hot day and we have a lot of catching up to do."

Hours later Duo and Heero walked down on of the many halls of Quatre's mansion, towards the side by side rooms Quatre had given them. Duo opened the door to his room and looked over his shoulder.

"Goodnight Heero," Duo said to the one he secretly loved and entered his room. Heero didn't respond, but Duo heard his friend stop at his door, rather than continuing down the hall to his own room.

Duo turned around to see what Heero wanted and felt his voice die in his throat. Heero stood, silhouetted by the hall light, in the doorway of his dark room. He looks much like he did the day he opened that cell door, determined to silence me, Duo thought.

"Somethin' wrong, Heero?"

Heero did not respond. The cobalt eyed being moved into the room. His hand snapped forward and grasped Duo's left wrist, pulling it toward him.

"Heero, what's going -" Duo was interrupted as Heero began a Phoenix-song. In spite of himself, Duo quieted, lulled into relaxation by his near – addiction to Phoenix-song and his trust and love for Heero.

Duo's eyes glazed over as he listened. This one is very nice, he thought dimly, almost completely charmed by the song. The room was filled with the soft combination of magic, wind chimes and birdsong that made up Phoenix-song. It must be another tale of unrequited love between a love-struck mortal and Heero's father. I can relate to the women who lost their hearts to an uninterested Phoenix over the eons. I've lost mine to his son… Funny, it sounds almost like Heero's singing of his love for me. Imagination can be both kind and cruel at the same time.

Duo's wrist began to throb with a dull pain, further dulled by the fact that he was less than half-conscious. A vague memory of a similar pain occurring drifted through his foggy mind. Heero had just rescued him from Oz and he had been in rough shape after the beatings he had received from the soldiers. He had been drifting off as Heero placed his index and middle finger against his neck. The pain had gone almost unnoticed on top of the rest of the pain he had been in. The hazy memory slipped away and Duo's mind soon followed suit under the effects of Phoenix-song.

Duo awoke slowly from his charmed stated. He found himself lying on his bed, the clock beside it told him it was still late at night. He looked at his wrist and, in the light spilling in from the hall through the still open door, saw the fading image of three feathers, rich red, gold and blue, bound together at the base with a long, trailing, leather cord. He sat up and noticed a dark form shift in a darken corner.

Heero moved forward silently and sat on the edge of Duo's bed. He gently picked up Duo's wrist and examined it. He nodded his satisfaction as the image faded from sight.

"Mind telling me what you did to me?" Duo demanded. "And why didn't you warn me that you were going to do it?"

"Hn. That mark will allow you to come to the palace, actually enter, whenever you want. You no longer live there and otherwise could not pass the barrier on your own."

"Great! But why didn't warn me?"

"By surprising you, I hoped to take your attention away from the pain."

"That was considerate of you, Heero," Duo told him. With a goofy grin, Duo hugged Heero. "I didn't know you cared!"

More than you know, Duo, Heero thought as he expressionlessly pushed Duo off. "Don't hesitate to come if you're in trouble. A few years does not prepare you for the supernatural. Sayonara Duo."

"Goin' so soon?" Duo asked, hiding his disappointment. When Heero didn't say anything he continued. "Bye, Heero." Duo watched as Heero left and lay back on the bed. I don't know how I ever complained that it was too bright in the Phoenix's Realm at night…

When you have the backing of one of the richest men in the Colonies, Duo discovered, rebuilding one's life from the ashes goes rather smoothly. Knowing it eased Quatre's unreasonable guilt over not being able to help when he was in trouble, and that it would allow him to see his friends more often, Duo accepted a mechanic's position within the Winner Cooperation on L4. All he owned were the clothes Heero had given him. When he had been captured the vampires had sought out people such as his boss and landlord and influenced them to dismiss the fact he had ever existed. As a result, his landlord had thrown out all his belongings.

Being a former street rat from L2, Duo coped well with the loss of his belongings. The only objects he lost that had any true sentimental value had been his pictures of his friends. Quatre picked up on this and had copies of his and Trowa's made for Duo and even went so far as to have a replica of Duo's thermal scythe made. Duo hadn't kept much from the war, but his scythe, Quatre knew, had been one of the few items.

Duo woke at the crack of dawn and looked out his apartment window at the city around him, with it's slowly brightening artificial light. After a moment he flopped back on the bed and groaned. It's been almost two months and I still expect to wake up to the Dawn Blessing and Heero's visit to my window. God, I miss him. Duo dragged himself out of bed and sought out his breakfast. I've got my first free weekend starting tomorrow. I could go visit him. Maybe I can convince him to come back to the Human Realm for a shopping trip. Duo brightened at the thought. Yeah. That's what I'll do. I'll finally see Heero again tomorrow and maybe we can do something in this realm. I might even be able to convince him to stay for the entire weekend.

"Hey, Duo!"

Duo looked up to see a fellow mechanic, Will Miller, waving for him to come over.

"What's up?" Duo asked as he approached.

"Someone's up in the office askin' for ya."

"Thanks man," Duo replied and headed for the office, curious. When he arrived, he found a young woman with short black hair waiting for him.

"Duo!"

"Hilde? Hey! How are you doing? It's been ages!"

"Ages, indeed! It's been four years! You just up and moved without forwarding an address! Where have you been? I had a small finder program set up to locate you, but it shouldn't have taken four years to do it."

"All that trouble over me?" Duo asked, though he knew finder programs took very little effort to use and were basically independent after being programmed.

"Where were you? I thought we were friends."

"At one point I got to see Heero again and I learned something while I was at his place that forced me to move in for a while. You know Heero, he likes his privacy. I couldn't just give people his number or address, not even friends, Hild. Other wise I would have," Duo told her. It isn't exactly a lie, it's just missing some details, Duo told himself.

Hilde excepted the vague explanation, for the moment. Duo could tell this wasn't the end of it. "You're something else, Duo," she shook her head then smiled. "How about we do something this weekend?"

"Gee, Hild, I was already thinking of -"

"Please? I won't be on L4 forever."

Duo sighed inwardly. "You win, Hild. I can put off what I was going to do."

"Great! I know where you live, so I'll come over tomorrow morning! Bye!" Hilde left, oblivious to the strange look she was getting from a blond woman behind the office computer.

"She seems to be a nice woman," the blond stated. "Even if she doesn't realize there's something you'd rather do this weekend."

"Huh?" Duo asked. "What's that Sara?"

"It's obvious you already had something planned. She must be a really good friend for you to give in like that, Duo. I've seen you charm your way out of more difficult situations than that."

Duo sighed audibly. "Yea, well, it has been a few years. It wasn't my fault, it couldn't be helped, but years are years." Duo put on a maniacal grin for his co-worker. "Even someone as shameless as me can feel guilty at times."

Hilde stepped up to Duo's apartment door at ten the next morning and prepared herself for the ordeal of getting Duo out of bed. She and Duo had once seen each other on a regular basis and she had learned that Duo liked to sleep in and almost wouldn't get out of bed for anything when he didn't need to and was comfortable.

Hilde almost hadn't knocked before the door opened. "Hild! Where ya been?" Duo asked brightly.

"I didn't expect you to be up already. I've rarely seen you up before noon on a day off – and that was my own doing," Hilde said, surprised.

"Yeah, well, a lot can happen over a few years to change your habits."

"Why don't you tell me what you've been doing the past four years while we're on our way to the festival?"

"Festival?" Duo asked, ignoring Hilde's inquiry into the past.

"Duo Maxwell, I never thought I'd see the day you weren't aware of every fun activity going on around you! An annual festival is being held on the far side of the city. Let's go."

Duo spent the day bombarded by loud music, large crowds, thousands of voices and Hilde's direct and indirect questions about the years during which they had been out of contact. For the most part, Duo enjoyed himself. Duo enjoyed music, loud or quiet, of just about any style; enjoyed seeing people out and about, enjoying themselves, as they could not during the war. Unfortunately, his enjoyment was hampered by Hilde's questions. Once Hilde got an idea into her head she didn't let go. It had almost cost Hilde her life during the war, but the trait resulted in the liberation of important information from the enemy near the end of the war.

Their day came to a close in the evening. Duo bid goodbye to Hilde, after she wrung a promise out of him to spend more time with her next weekend. Duo climbed the stairs of his apartment building wondering if he should visit Heero that night and simply crash there. By the time he got to his apartment, he decided he had imposed on Heero enough and would visit him in the morning.

 

"Good morning, Heero!" Duo greeted as he landed in the courtyard.

"Hn," Heero replied.

"Hello Duo. You missed breakfast," Angela told him.

"I know! I didn't want it to distract me from my diabolical plot to drive Heero crazy," the braided banshee stated maniacally and laughed as he dropped the spell that disguised his ears.

Angela laughed. "He's all yours, do you worst! He'll enjoy it."

"Duo!"

"Huh?" Duo asked, breaking from his memories of his last visit to the Palace of the Phoenix. Hilde was trying to get his attention. "What'd ya say, Hild?"

"I asked if you planned to keep in touch with me this time. My assignment here is done. I've certainly enjoyed my after work hours the last few months, thanks to you, but I've got to head back. You planning on disappearing again?"

It would be nice to take up residence at the Palace of the Phoenix again, if that's what you mean, Hilde, Duo thought. To be close to Heero… Duo brought himself out of his thoughts and focussed on Hilde's expectant gaze. "I didn't plan to `disappear' the last time."

"You still won't tell me what happened. What am I supposed to call it or think?"

"I'd tell you if I could. No, I don't plan to disappear. If it happens, it's out of my control, but I don't intend to," Duo informed her as a waitress brought them their drinks.

Duo looked about the diner they were sitting in. His eyes drifted over the tables and the few customers that were present that afternoon. His gaze was drawn to the television and he froze as he heard what was being said.

"… these three stone feathers have baffled historians and linguists for centuries. Now the mysterious language has finally been translated, only to reveal a cryptic message: `To the Phoenix's Land, in place of the power of the Third Blessing, we give you entrance.' What the purpose of these masterly carved pieces of stone, which far exceed the skill of the artists from the estimated time period, was, has not been discovered at this -"

Duo stood up suddenly, staring at the screen. Absently, he threw some money onto the table and rushed out of the diner.

"Duo?" Hilde asked in surprise, getting up to follow him. She chased after her friend. "Duo!" she called out loudly.

Half way up the street, Duo turned around to look at her. "Sorry, Hild! There's something I've gotta do – alone." Duo took off out of sight.

Duo ran for several blocks, making sure he had lost Hilde, before he turned down an alley, darkened by the growing shadows, and stopped. Not even breathing hard, Duo looked about, making sure there were no witnesses. Finding himself alone, the violet-eyed man concentrated and a portal opened.

Duo leapt through the portal and into the Realm of the Phoenix. He looked about the courtyard wildly, then, when he didn't see Heero, flew up into the air to search the roof of Heero's wing. He found Heero flying towards him with concern seeping into his otherwise expressionless features as he observed Duo's hurried movements.

"Your Feathered Keys are in London, England. They were on the news. If I saw it, a vampire most likely saw it too. Vittoria could have already sent someone after them," Duo told Heero as the Phoenix flew over.

The Phoenix chirped and squawked to Heero, knowing Duo had only picked up the basics of Phoenix-song and nothing beyond it. Heero nodded and translated for Duo. "We're out of luck. It's night in London at this point. Vittoria will have them by now. We're in no immediate danger. The Feathered Keys are useless to Vittoria by themselves," Heero said as the three landed in the courtyard.

"I think I need the story behind these keys," Duo told Heero.

"Eons ago, there was a human woman who fell in love with my father, the first of many to do so through the centuries, though my mother is the only one my father has loved in return. My father did not love her, but had no wish to hurt her. Father created the Feathered Keys to give her passage into the realm and the palace. Normally, the only way for an outsider to have access to the palace whenever they wish is to have been given the Third Blessing by my father or myself. Father could not give her the Third Blessing because he did not love her. The keys gave her the ability to access the palace through the power of her love instead of my father's.

"In the hands of others, they can be used to gain entrance to the palace through someone who has the Third Blessing, whether or not that person wishes to cooperate."

"In other words, your mother is in danger when the vampires figure out the keys," Duo stated.

The Phoenix gave his son a disapproving look. Duo saw it and wondered what he had missed. He was practically bouncing with curiosity when Heero looked a little guilty under his father's gaze.

"Duo, it means you're in danger as well. Like I said, under normal conditions the only way for an outsider to visit the palace whenever they wish is through the Third Blessing. I gave it to you."

Duo thought about that statement for a moment. He was the focus of vampire attention again and that idea made his skin crawl. `Father could not give her the Third Blessing because he did not love her,' repeated in Duo's thoughts then caused them to come to an abrupt halt. The Third Blessing involved love. It could only be given to someone the giver loved. All thoughts of vampires and danger disappeared, they were a dismissal price to pay for the knowledge he now held.

"You… love me?" Duo asked, silently begging that he had come to the right conclusion.

"Hai," Heero replied, clearing expecting rejection. The last thing he expected was for a braided bundle of banshee to dive into his arms, gathering him up in a hug.

"I love you, too, Heero. I love you, too, " Duo told him softly, almost inaudibly.

Heero froze when he heard Duo's soft words, not daring to believe what he heard at first. The fact Duo clung to him like a second skin backed up his ears and he accepted the fact he wasn't dreaming joyously, even though little of what he felt showed on his face. Heero put his arms around Duo and looked up to see his father looking very smug.

"//I told you so,//" he chirped.

Trowa and Quatre were snuggled up on the couch in their living room, watching the late night news, when a servant entered and caught their attention.

"Master Quatre," she began, "your friends Duo Maxwell and Heero Yuy have just passed the front gates. Do you wish to see them? Or should I direct them to their rooms?"

"Please bring them in," Quatre told her. The servant nodded and left. "I wonder what brings them so late at night," Quatre said as he and Trowa untangled themselves.

"It must be something important," Trowa stated. "Heero isn't fond of being out at night in the Human Realm."

"I didn't know that," Quatre told his lover. "Why not?"

"He's part phoenix. His natural reaction to darkness is to produce light. In this realm he has to keep his wings hidden when humans might see him and suppress the urge to bring them out and use them to create light." Seeing Quatre's questioning look, he continued. "I learned a few things about him while I was nursing him back to health after Wing self-destructed."

Quatre was about to respond to that when Heero and Duo entered.

"Heero, Duo, it's good to see you," Quatre greeted them.

"Hey, Q-man, Tro," Duo said cheerfully. Trowa and Heero exchanged nods. "I wish this was a social visit, but I'm not that lucky. I'm vampire bait again. Some stone feathers in London and little ol' me could be just the mix Vittoria needs to carry out some plot against the Phoenix. We can't keep the feathers out of vampire clutches, so I have to go underground, so to speak, until something comes up and makes it safe for me to try to build a life in this realm," Duo said all at once, in his typical flowing style. Duo paused for air, taking it into his lungs like a wave reclaimed by the sea, and smiled sheepishly at his blond friend. "So I've got to resign. Sorry, but I don't have time to give you two weeks notice."

"Your safety comes first, Duo," Quatre replied. "I think I know what feathers you're talking about, too. Some stone feathers were stolen in London this evening. Trowa and I saw the report on the news not long ago."

"I just wanted a chance to thank you for everything, Quat. I'm grateful, even though it didn't work out."

"I know, Duo. There's no need to thank me. I know you would have done the same for me," Quatre smiled. "The two of you are welcome to spend the night. It'll be safer, once the sun comes up, to leave in the morning."

Heero nodded his acceptance of the invitation. Duo smiled grandly for his friends. "Thanks man! We'll do that. Good night."

"Good night," Quatre replied.

Duo and Heero stopped outside their rooms awkwardly. It had only been a few hours ago that they had admitted their love for each other. Beyond a few kisses, they had done nothing and were unsure of how fast to move.

I'd like to go further. However, if we're this awkward about it, Duo thought, we're probably not ready for the next step. Banshees and Phoenixes live very long lives. There's no need to rush.

"Good night, Heero," Duo said and leaned in to kiss him. The pair kissed, then deepened it until Heero moaned his pleasure. The tension broken, Heero swept Duo off his feet and carried him into his room, never breaking the kiss.

 

Hilde climbed the stairs of Duo's apartment building, hoping the braided man was home. She hadn't heard from Duo since he took off and she was concerned. On top of that, her shuttle would be leaving that afternoon. She wouldn't have another opportunity to say goodbye to her friend. The brunette knocked on Duo's door, wondering, not for the first time, what had happened the day before.

"Hey, Hild," Duo greeted. "I'm glad you came by. Come on in." Hilde stepped into the apartment and was surprised to see boxes in the process of being packed.

"Duo, what's going on?" Hilde asked as Heero carried a box into the living room.

Duo smiled sheepishly. "It looks like we won't be able to keep in touch like we planned. I can't give you any details, Hild," Duo told her, "but my life's in danger and I've got to disappear. I don't know how long I'll be gone for, but it'll probably be for years. These… people are incredibly patient. They won't give up and they won't make mistakes through haste."

Hilde looked at him with a shocked statement. She didn't understand how Duo had gotten himself in trouble. She was sure it had nothing to do with enemies made during his terrorist days, otherwise he would surely tell her so. After everything he had done for both Earth and the Colonies, he most certainly did not deserve to be driven into hiding in order to stay safe.

"Take care, Duo," she told him. "Take care."

Life in the Palace of the Phoenix was greatly changed after Duo returned. The maniac ex-pilot of Deathscythe had his own belongs to cause discord with and, without lessons, plenty of time to use them. Music filled the palace, even when the Phoenix and his son were not singing, though it was not always a type of music the Phoenix appreciated. Duo, always inquisitive, investigated everything going on around him, so he was constantly underfoot. The banshee seemed to never run out of energy and was always pulling pranks when least suspected.

Though Duo's activities were enough to unsettle the palace, and any visitors, the Phoenix found his son not only took his mate's antics in stride, he quietly enjoyed them. The Phoenix also learned that his son had a dampening effect on Duo's behaviour. He made the mistake of sending his son away from the palace to deal with some political matters for a weekend two weeks after Duo returned. After enduring a more intense version of Duo's normal behaviour while their son was away, the Phoenix and his lady decided Heero would not be leaving the palace again, for more than a few hours at a time, upon Heero's return.

After three months, the Phoenix found he had had his fill. He liked Duo, but he didn't like when the braided banshee suffered from cabin fever. He decided Duo needed to get out and do something to wear him down. The Phoenix knew that he needed a break from the energetic fae.

The Phoenix sang the last note of the Dawn Blessing and turned to look at his son, who was opening his wings to fly down to breakfast. The Phoenix felt a familiar pride fill his breast as he looked upon his son, exhibiting signs of his phoenix heritage. I was gifted with such a handsome son, he thought as the sun glinted off strong, young wings. His dual heritage combined under the forces of magic that created him to make a truly graceful and beautiful being.

"//My son,//" the Phoenix squawked, causing Heero to stop just before he jumped off the roof. Heero turned to his father.

"//Father?//"

"//Your mate is restless. I believe it would be best if you took him out to another Realm for the day.//"

"//I don't want to risk him, Father. Even during the day, vampires can be threats,//" Heero chirped his reply.

Had he been capable, the Phoenix would have smiled at his son. "//I understand, my son, but life is risk. We may never get the Feathered Keys back. Would you cage your mate within this Realm for the rest of eternity? This Realm is not the most ideal habitat for your chosen one's kind and the fae never survive well when living under restrictions that hamper their movement. Hiding him away from everything will only kill the spirit within him you love.//"

Heero accepted what his father had told him. "//Where do you suggest I take him?//"

The Phoenix was silent for a moment. "//To the Human Realm,//" he squawked. "//Of the two Realms he knows, other than our own, it is the only reasonable place to take him. I would wait until he is not suffering his current restless state before introducing him to a new Realm.

"//As to where in the Human Realm, there is an agricultural fair in a place called Kinmount this right now. Kinmount is found in Ontario, Canada. For centuries, this fair has been one of the most popular in Canada's most populated province. Your mate's energetic behaviour would not look odd there.//"

"An agricultural fair?" Duo asked after the idea was proposed to him. Having never gone to one, and being raised in a space colony, Duo didn't know enough about such a festival to know what to think of the idea.

"Father thinks you would enjoy it."

"It's a lovely idea," Angela stated. "I've seen a few, Duo, and I agree that you'd enjoy it."

Duo grinned foolishly. "Okay, I'm curious and I would definitely like to get out of here for a while."

Heero watched Duo as they walked towards the edge of a pine forest, approaching the fair. Duo fairly glowed in the morning light, which filtered through the trees, on the backdrop of rich greens and browns. Already, Heero could see the good an outing was doing for his love, as his bouncing steps became more energetic. Even with his ears disguised and in casual human clothes, Duo looked like what he was in the forest, a beautiful creature of fae.

The pair broke through the last line of trees and found themselves on top of a moss covered outcropping of rock. Before them, just beyond the outcropping's vertical cliff face, which was less than ten feet high, lay the fair. The clearing held a few buildings, bleachers and a racetrack. It was dotted with brightly coloured tarps over tables covered in a variety of wears. Many flashy and noisy rides and a midway full of prizes demanded attention. There were horses and cows waiting to be judged in competitions. One area held demonstrations that were showing the curious how the ancient pioneers had done things and another where tractors and oddly decorated cars, most of them looking like wreaks, were gathering.

Duo grinned at Heero. "I think your father was right. Come on, Heero." Duo grabbed Heero's hand and began to drag the other man behind him as he rushed to one side where several ledges broke the vertical drop that made the front of the outcropping of rock. The pair made their way down quickly, climbing down so not to reveal the fact they were anything other than human.

Heero followed behind an energetic Duo hiding his amusement at his lover's carefree attitude and child-like enjoyment of the festival behind his customary expressionless mask. He watched as Duo absorbed the happy atmosphere and reflected it back out on the crowd tenfold as he practically bounced from one place to another. I don't want to risk him… but getting out definitely is good for him, Heero thought. We'll have to go out more often.

Duo looked back at his stoic lover happily, noting the predictable lack of statement. This won't do at all. I'm not going to be the only one to enjoy this. Fisting some tickets, Duo grabbed Heero's hand and dragged him towards a ride called `The Tilt-a-Whirl' on which up to three people sat together spinning around as they went up and down on a circular path.

"Come on the ride with me, Heero!" Duo said, his voice taking on a persuasive tone that was not quite powerful enough to count as a tone the banshee used for charming their listeners into doing as they wished.

Heero recognize the tone Duo was using as his one reserved for trying to convince people to do what he wanted during the war. He also recognized that its use meant Duo really wanted him to join him and that Duo would never use his magic to influence him into something he didn't want. Heero didn't resist as he was pulled into the line and followed Duo onto the ride.

The day progressed in a colourful blur of people, rides, games, displays, demonstrations, animal shows, children's and adult's competitions and draws. During which Heero's cold expressionless face melted to something on which anyone could read at least vague enjoyment.

The pair ate a dinner of pizza and homemade lemonade, ignoring the crash-up derby that drew a large percentage of the fair's visitors. The crash-up derby had no appeal to the former gundam pilots. They were about to leave when an announcement reminded the crowd of the dance, which would start soon.

Duo looked up at the sun then at Heero. It's summer, the sun is out later. Surely we have time for a dance or two.

Heero saw Duo's statement and gave in to their mutual desire to attend the dance. Taking hold of Duo's braid, Heero headed for the dance hall. Duo merely caught up to him, flashing him a happy grin, and slung an arm around Heero's waist.

The music played at the dance wasn't new or what was currently in the height of popularity, but some older style neither boy knew which suited the fair far better. Duo and Heero could have cared less as they moved to it in each other's arms. Time lost meaning to the pair as they moved with tireless grace across the floor to each song which played.

When the pair stopped for a drink, they realized the sun was down. With Duo muttering about the surprising turn of events, the two left the fair, heading away from human eyes.

The pair stopped in the woods and Heero took off his shirt, exposing his wings. As the Phoenix Child began the spell to open a portal home, they were attacked.

In the dim light of Heero's wings Duo made out twenty vampires as he fought those attacking him. Duo dropped the illusion over his ears, using all of his magic against the vampires. Duo shielded his eyes against the brightening light Heero gave off as he fought and screamed death. Vampires fell before the two men, but more came.

Heero fought, trying desperately to think of a way to get Duo away from the vampires. Their situation wasn't good. Because vampires were the undead, they were not the most vulnerable to Duo's shrieks and wails. The fact that he could not produce the strong light his father could had never bothered him before. Now, that fact prevented him from incinerating the vampires attacking him and his beloved.

Heero stabbed a stick from the forest floor through a vampire's heart as he felt another vampire grab his wings. The vampire howled in pain as she held Heero's wings, but did not let go. She twisted Heero into an off balanced position and proceeded to knock him out.

As Heero blacked out he saw a group of vampires get thrown back by Duo's magic even as more leapt upon the fae, over powering him.

Duo awoke to the feeling of cold stone beneath him and throbbing pain centered around his wrists. He opened his eyes, remembering what happened. He was in a dark damp cell with shackles on his wrists. A short chain connected the shackles together and to a longer chain attached to a wall. Whatever skin came in contact with the metal throbbed with pain.

Kerry said iron hurts us and I would have to be careful of it with the awakening of my power. Vittoria's chained me in iron, then. Funny, I don't remember the cells being this bright. Duo looked about and realized the dim light came from under a ragged blanket.

"Heero!"

Heero lay, unconscious, on his side, chains binding his ankles, wrists and wings, damaging feathers. Duo pulled his unconscious love into his lap, cradling him. The blanket the vampires had used to shield themselves from Heero's light producing wings was quickly tucked around Heero's slim form.

Heero awoke in Duo's arms and took in their surroundings. He tested the chains binding him and knew he couldn't break them. Gundamium.

"I like sharing a bedroom with you, Heero, but this was one I didn't want to move back into," Duo joked weakly, trying to make light of the situation as the skin on his wrists slowly burned under the iron.

Heero regarded Duo, noting the various bruises from the fight. Duo brought a hand up to move Heero's blanket back into place after Heero's slight movements caused it to slip. Heero's eyes widened when he saw Duo's wrist. Duo's pale skin under the shackle was burnt and was slowly continuing to burn as contact with the metal continued.

Duo saw Heero's reaction to his wrist and gave Heero a weak smile. "I'm okay, Heero. I'm only part banshee, remember? I don't think it's going to kill me."

Heero didn't say anything, but Duo knew he wasn't buying his reassurances. Duo may have come from a diluted banshee bloodline, but the supernatural world was different from the natural world. Duo had been trained in his heritage. He was now more banshee than human.

Duo broke from a light doze as the cell door opened, tightening his hold on Heero. Lord Vittoria stepped through the cell's doorway, a faint look of distaste passed over his face as he came fully into the light Heero was giving off. The statement passed and he smiled grimly.

"Welcome back, little banshee," he said mockingly. "You're a nice bonus upon acquiring the Phoenix's servant."

He wasn't after me, he was after Heero. But why? Duo wondered as he tightened his hold on Heero, who was silently glaring at Lord Vittoria. To use the Feathered Keys he needs someone who has received the Third Blessing, like me. Heero's the Phoenix Child, he'll never need the Third Blessing. Wait… Heero's existence and the details about him are among the best kept secrets in the Realms. Vittoria called him `the Phoenix's servant.' He probably doesn't know anything more about Heero than he learned when Heero came for me. He's working on assumptions.

He thinks I'm a servant! My wings, a reward for loyal service. Heero's eyes narrowed. He must think a servant loyal enough to receive the gift of wings would also have some form of the Blessing.

Noticing the glare he was getting from Duo, Lord Vittoria moved forward, snatching Heero from Duo as he backhanded the banshee hard enough to send him across the room.

"You've been spoiling him, I see," Lord Vittoria said to Heero, who struggled vainly as he was held in the air by his upper right arm. "No discipline; no respect," Lord Vittoria shook his head. "He needs to be retrained. But that can wait. It's not the pet, but the master, I require now."

A young human man with green eyes and short red hair walked into the cell. His vacant eyes showed he was under Lord Vittoria's influence. As the young man approached, Lord Vittoria tossed Heero away and gave three stone feathers to the human.

Duo knew no portal into the palace would open through the stones and Heero. He also knew that Heero could not be tortured into opening a portal for two reasons. The first: Heero never gave in to torture. The second: the nature of portals did not allow people to travel through them when the creator was forced to make it by a will not his or her own. However, that did not make Duo any less fearful for Heero as the human approached his helpless lover.

Who knows what Vittoria will try in order to open a portal using Heero and the Keys, Duo thought as the human got closer to Heero.

Duo wailed a death cry at Lord Vittoria and felt pain race through him as Lord Vittoria fell to his knees. Duo shivered on the floor from the pain that hit him so unexpectedly as Lord Vittoria picked himself up.

"Very stupid, little banshee," Lord Vittoria stated. "Fae are vulnerable to iron. Perhaps I will use some in your retraining."

Duo got to his knees shakily, staring defiantly at Lord Vittoria. Duo shrieked his defiance, anger, hatred and thirst for Vittoria's death at him and the chain connecting his shackles. Duo and Lord Vittoria nearly blacked out under the assault laid down upon them. The chains were unharmed.

The redhead stopped in confusion where he stood over Heero, Lord Vittoria's control slipping as he fought to remain conscious. Heero knocked the slave to the ground and attacked as best he could. During the resulting struggle, the stone feathers shattered.

Duo shook his head to clear it as Heero squirmed across the floor towards him. He didn't dare look at his arms. We have to get out of here! But how? My voice has no effect on these chains and I can't aim it at Heero to try to break his. Duo looked about desperately as Lord Vittoria began to sit up.

Duo fought to remain conscious and ignore the pain as Lord Vittoria fell unconscious under another of his vocal assaults. He looked about again, looking for something he missed. Heero won't be any help, his wings are where his power is centered. With them tied up like that he won't be casting any spells.

Heero reached where Duo sat on his knees unsteadily, trying to figure out an escape. In spite of his training, he gasped as he looked at Duo's burnt arms and charred wrists. He looked up into pain glazed violet eyes helplessly, unable to help his beloved as he desperately wanted to.

Duo broke away from Heero's gaze and looked at the iron chains that held him. He followed the links to where they connected to the stone wall. Duo's eyes widened.

A rustle of cloth drew Heero and Duo's attention to where Lord Vittoria was recovering from Duo's attack. Duo screamed again, sending the powerful vampire back into oblivion.

"Duo, stop!" Heero ordered. "You'll kill yourself."

Duo barely heard him through the pain. He allowed himself a moment to recover his senses and turned to the wall. His shriek drowned out Heero's voice and shattered the wall, causing the chain's end to come loose.

He refused to cry out as he stood, taking his lover into his arms. Never the less a whimper of pain escaped him.

"Duo, what are you doing? Whatever it is, stop! You're in iron, Duo. You're a fearie. You'll kill yourself, Duo!" Heero cried out, trying to stop the heedless banshee.

Duo kissed Heero's forehead and took a deep breath, preparing himself.

"Baka! Don't kill yourself!"

Duo braced himself and opened a portal to the Palace of the Phoenix. Pain seared through him and the darkness of unconsciousness called to him, clawed at him. Duo shook of its dark fingers and preformed one of the hardest tasks of his life – three steps forward, taking them through the portal.

The portal collapsed behind them and they hit the ground as Duo followed the portal's example, unconscious. Heero shrieked in phoenix for his parents' help.

 

Duo woke slowly. Without opening his eyes he knew he was on a soft mattress, under a soft sheet and bathed in sunlight. He heard Heero's voice singing a soothing melody softly. Duo slowly opened his eyes to see Heero sitting on the edge of the bed.

What had happened came back to the banshee. I'm alive?

Heero stopped singing when he realized Duo was awake. He shifted closer and reached out, placing a hand on the side of Duo's face lovingly. Duo leaned into his hand, watching as the nearly invisible statement of concern relaxed.

"I didn't think I would survive," Duo said softly. He brought a hand up to place over top of Heero's and realized it was healed.

Heero stiffened slightly at the reminder of what had just occurred recently; at the reminder of just how close he had come to losing Duo. "You barely did. You were all but gone when my parents arrived. If Father had been out, you would be dead."

"I don't see a mark," Duo stated as he rotated his wrist, "and I don't feel any pain. What did he do?"

"He cried. Phoenix tears can heal almost anything if there are enough. Mine alone could not have saved you." Heero's hand left Duo's face and took his hand. "Get some rest."

Duo smiled up at Heero as he got into a more comfortable position. For a moment he watched Heero as he began to sing the soothing melody again. He studied how the sun shone on his wings and the shadows of his wild brown hair fell across his eyes. He enjoyed the soft cobalt blue orbs that watched him from those shadows and the way the harsh expressionless mask softened for him and him alone. Duo slowly closed his eyes on his angel and drifted off to sleep listening to Heero singing a phoenix healing song.

Duo awoke again and sat up, his unbraided hair sweeping forward to curtain his view of the world. He brushed it behind his ears and looked about. There was a glass of water and some fruit sitting on the night table.

As Duo ate, Heero flew through the window.

"Do you feel up to visitors?" Heero asked.

"Visitors? Sure! Who?"

"Trowa, Quatre and Wufei," Heero answered.

"I'm always up to seeing the guys!" Duo stated and started to climb out of bed. "Just let me get cleaned up first."

As Duo disentangled himself from the bed sheets, Heero suddenly picked him up and held him tightly against himself, holding him as if he planned to never let go.

"Heero, what's wrong?" Duo asked, surprised by Heero's unexpected actions.

"I almost lost you," Heero stated, holding Duo tighter.

"Heero…" Duo said softly and kissed him. "I don't intend to let you get away from me that easily." Duo grinned, "You can't lose me. You're stuck with me."

"I love you," Heero told him softly.

"I love you too, Heero."

"Don't do that again, baka."

Once clean, clothed and braided, Duo flew down to the courtyard with Heero.

"Q-man! Tro! Wu-man!" Duo called out to his friends.

"Maxwell, stop calling me -"

"It's good to see you're recovering, Duo," Quatre told him, taking his sudden exposure to another Realm, seeing a dragon change into the Wufei he was familiar with, Heero's wings and Duo floating through the air with pointed ears, rather well.

"It's good to be recovering!" Duo replied, laughing.

Angela watched as the five young men of different species sat together talking. As she watched her son participate, if somewhat reserved and almost seeming reluctant to do so, she thanked the gods that he had such good friends and Duo. She heard the Phoenix's call as he came out of a portal and watched as he flew down to the young men and landed near her son.

Heero nodded as his father finished speaking and turned to his friends with a translation. "Vittoria, if he's still alive, won't be in a position to bother Duo or my family for a long time. Father went into the Shadow Realm and destroyed Vittoria's mansion. If he survived he'll have to rebuild his power center and deal with the Shadow Realm's inhabitants. Several could have been injured or even killed when Father entered that Realm. Vittoria provoked my father into such an act and he made sure the people of the Shadow Realm knew it. The Shadow Realm will not let Vittoria get away with that."

Quatre looked at the Phoenix in shock. How many bystanders were killed?

"It was the only real option available, Quatre," Wufei told him. "Had the Phoenix not done so, my court would have, to avenge our allies. The Realms are interconnected through alliances. The Phoenix has no connection to night creatures to move through to get at Vittoria. If he had left Vittoria unpunished, Vittoria would have grown bolder and continued to threaten the Phoenix's Court."

"Why would this Vittoria want access to this place anyway?" Quatre asked. "It's not very suitable for a vampire."

The Phoenix spoke again and Heero translated. "Vittoria probably wanted to try and control my father. If he did, any people of the night he granted the gift to, could walk unharmed under the sun. He could have thrown the Realms into chaos. The rules and boundaries that govern how different peoples interact are based on weaknesses. Everything is based on what people can and can't do. Vittoria would have been in a position to break the balance and grab power."

Duo and Heero retired for the night, having said goodbye to their friends. Duo sat on the floor, enjoying the sensation of Heero brushing his hair.

"Heero?"

"Hn?"

"If you broke the Feathered Keys, I don't need to hide anymore."

Heero didn't respond. Was Duo going to leave him?

"Why don't you and I find ourselves a place of our own in the Human Realm before I drive you father crazy?" Duo asked. Heero leaned over and took possession of Duo's lips. "Is that a yes?" His stoic lover gave him a smirk and kissed him again. "That's a yes," Duo stated.

 

Author's note: I want to thank everyone who has responded to Living Legends. Normally, getting responces is great, but it has meant significantly more to me with this story. I wrote the first draft of this story between September and November of 2000, but was unable to type it up because I develouped chronic fatigue syndrom. It has taken until now for me to type and post the entire story as a result. Posting this story has meant a lot to me because it's proof that I am slowly taking my life back. Knowing people like the story has made it even better. I'm inculding this personal note in hopes that everyone who has written me will realise how much I appriciate their responces.
Thank you.

dragon_gal