9-7-2001

Title: Enemy of My Enemy part 07a
Author: Em (lys_ap_adin@yahoo.com)
Category: Drama
Warnings&Labels: AU. Fantasy. OOC. Weird. Angst. Death (a real character this time, too! ^_^). Shounen ai (honest to god this time), and shoujo ai eventually. Original minor characters. Also, part 07b was written under the influence of vodka. ^_^; Typed that way, too.

~~~
Enemy of My Enemy
part 07

 

[17 May 1243 Post Alliance]

 

Quatre tucked the last bit of gear securely into place. *Aren't people who are going home supposed to feel happy about it?* he thought grimly. *I suppose that only counts if home is a good place to be...* He turned and gave Trowa a smile he didn't really feel. "Well, Trowa, I suppose this is goodbye, isn't it?"

The ranger shrugged a little. "You're heading west?"

"Yes." Quatre looked at him ruefully. "Thanks for a memorable few days, I guess. Even if you wouldn't let me seduce you properly..."

"Failure keeps us humble, Quatre." Trowa checked the fire pit carefully, ensuring that no errant ember might still lurk under the ash.

"Humility is overrated, if you ask me. Where are you off to now?" Quatre inquired, telling himself that he wasn't stalling. Really.

"I have some business to the west," Trowa answered, checking his horse and not looking at Quatre.

"You do? Why don't we ride together?" Quatre suggested. Realizing immediately that he sounded too eager for the company, he added coyly, "I understand that a traveling companion really makes a journey much more pleasant."

"Is that so? I was under the impression that the sort of companion you're referring to slows a person down." Trowa turned and looked at Quatre gravely. "But I'll travel with you for a while anyway."

Quatre couldn't contain his sincerely relieved laughter.

~*~

*This seemed like a much better idea yesterday.* Heero stared at his sleeping enemy turned ally. *I'm _sure_ that it was sensible, even, so why does it feel like a disaster waiting to happen now?*

The assassin and the guardian, working together: it was not logical. He'd sworn to kill this man in revenge for what had been done to his duchess. A part of him still yearned to fulfill that vow, to spill blood in order to pay for blood already spilled. A more rational voice argued that there could be no trust at all between them--and Maxwell was an assassin, living completely in a world of lies and betrayals. He had no business at all considering a working partnership with the man. And yet...

There was no way to fake the genuine level of grief that Maxwell had displayed while they had buried the unfortunate inhabitants of the orphanage. And it still made Heero want to shiver just a little bit to recall the way venom dripped from the assassin's voice as he spoke about Zechs Merquise.

There were just too many contradictions, blending the clear-cut lines between black and white into grey.

~*~

~He's watching you, you know,~ Shinigami observed.

*Yes, I know.*

~What do you suppose he's thinking about? What you did to his duchess, perhaps? That he promised to kill you, and that you're just lying here, defenseless and asleep? That you work for Zechs, whom he hates?~ Shinigami purred.

*I do _not_ work for Zechs. Not anymore.*

~Does that matter to Heero Yuy? They call him a perfect soldier, absolutely implacable in his loyalties and hatreds.~

*I'm still alive, so he'll probably let me live. Until we kill Zechs, anyway.*

~It would be better to kill him, and then kill Zechs.~

*No.*

Duo decided that the charade had played on long enough. Without opening his eyes, he spoke. "I see you've decided to let me stay alive."

"For now." Heero sounded hesitant.

"Why?" Duo asked the question before he could think better of it.

"I don't know."

Duo opened his eyes, and saw the thin angry line of Heero's mouth. *Heh. Guess he doesn't deal well with ambiguity.*

~We're going to have so much fun with this one,~ Shinigami chuckled darkly.

*Shut up, we're not going to do that.*

"Do what?"

*Shit, did I say that out loud?* Duo scrambled for an excuse. "Sorry. I have a bad habit of thinking out loud."

Heero looked skeptical of this explanation, but let it pass. "If we're going to work together, we should start discussing strategy," he said.

"Good point." Duo sat up. "Treize has probably already deployed his troops, heading into Peacecraft. It's possible they're already within your duchy's borders. Catalonia should also have moved by now, both against the dragon clans and against Peacecraft. I don't believe there's any specific timeline for the attacks, but the general idea is to grind Escand into dust between the two armies."

"What's your good news?" Heero asked.

Duo laughed at that. "There is no good news. Between Dorothy and Treize, Peacecraft doesn't have a prayer. If this weren't a personal matter, I'd say let Treize unify the duchies into one kingdom, with himself at the head. He's a capable leader, and it would do more good than harm. However..." Duo smiled wolfishly. "It's personal now."

Heero nodded, able to appreciate the sentiment. "One thing. Zechs is mine."

Duo smirked at him. "That's what you think."

"He's a traitor. It's my duty."

"He killed my family. It's my right." Duo was smiling, but there was no doubt that he was serious. "You can kill Treize if you want, but that blond butcher is mine to kill." He paused. "But if you ask me nicely, I might let you help."

"Why don't we discuss that on the trail?"

~*~

 

[18 May 1243 Post Alliance]

 

"Still no word?" Relena looked worried as Ralph shook his head no. "Where could he be? Do you think he ran into trouble?"

Ralph snorted. "This is Heero we're talking about. He's a big boy, Relena. He can take care of himself."

"I know... I'm just so used to him always being around that I don't know what to do without him." The duchess shook her head. "I wish he were here. We could use his help planning the defense of the city."

"That's the gods' own truth, but he probably has his own reasons for remaining absent," Ralph assured her.

"I can hardly wait to hear them... assuming we survive."

Ralph couldn't fault her the pessimism. "The alarm has been spread to the city, of course. A fair number of subjects have chosen to leave, as we expected... but most of the city remains." He paused, unsure of how to approach the phenomenon he'd seen in the streets. "They're staying... to fight."

"They'll be slaughtered!" Relena was aghast.

"They don't care. You should see the barricades they've begun. It's nothing that Khushrenada's army won't crush, but not a single man or woman in this city is going to give up without a fight." Ralph smiled. "They're going to fight for their duchess."

Relena bowed her head. "I didn't ask them to do this. I wouldn't ask this of them."

Ralph hugged her. "I think that's why they're going to do it anyway."

~*~

Dorothy was unsurprised when a runner approached her place at the van of her army. He spoke urgently to one of her aides, who immediately turned to the duchess. "Your Grace, it appears that Lady Une is waiting for you just ahead."

"Then let me not keep her waiting." Dorothy urged her horse forward, trusting that her staff would scramble to follow and escort her.

About a mile from the vanguard, Dorothy drew her horse up next to a low rock. "Lady Une." She inclined her head, but did not dismount.

"Your Grace." Une adjusted her glasses. "His Grace is interested in what tidings you might wish to send him."

Dorothy smiled. "There are no longer any fortresses within Catalonia's borders no held by my troops."

"Dragon Keep?" Une inquired delicately.

"Fallen. For clans so devoted to the way of the warrior, the resistance they offered was pathetic."

"His Grace will be pleased to hear this. Your army moves swiftly," the emissary noted.

"My troops are as eager as I for the coming battle. I expect to knock on Escand's gates in a week."

Une smiled thinly. "Excellent. His Grace entertains similar hopes. Good fortune to you, Your Grace."

"Good fortune to you and my cousin as well," Dorothy replied, as Une stood, the outlines of her figure blurring and dissipating.

One of Dorothy's aides muttered at this. "I hate that witch. She gives me the creeps when she does that."

~*~

"Are we sure that we know where we're going?" Cathrine asked, as Wufei lead them deeper into the crags of the Dragon's Spine, following a narrow path that only he seemed to recognize.

At the head of the group, Wufei huffed exasperatedly. "Yes, I know where we're going, wo--Cathrine."

"I thought you said no one had been to this place in centuries," Sally argued, exchanging a conspiratorial grin with Cathrine.

"It hasn't."

"Then how do you know it's even still there?" Cathrine asked.

"He knows, all right?" Meiran, exasperated by the wrangling, snapped. "This is something the Dragon Lord has to know, so stop arguing with him about it! It's getting on my nerves."

Wufei gave Meiran a startled, grateful look as she, at the rear of the party, clambered over the next rock in the path. Her face remained set in the expression of irritation she customarily wore in his presence.

"Well, excuse me for asking," Cathrine grumbled. "It's not like we have an unlimited supply of food, you know."

"We'll have enough," Wufei grunted.

"...and it's still pretty cold at night, in case you hadn't noticed," she continued.

"We have a fire," Wufei reminded her. "And blankets."

"Yeah, but--"

"We'll be fine!" Wufei roared, the echoes of his voice startling a bird into flight as they bounced off the rocks.

Cathrine snickered. "You ought to relax a little, Dragon Lord. All that tension can't be good for you."

Sally laughed softly, as a vein began to throb on Wufei's forehead. "Better lay off, Cat. It wouldn't do if he had a stroke or something right here on the trail."

"Ah, we'd manage something even if he did," Cathrine snorted.

~*~

"So, Zechs, how does it feel to be going home?"

Zechs looked sideways at the duke. "Which home would that be, Your Grace?"

Treize smiled slightly. "You needn't play coy with me this afternoon, Zechs."

The blond had his doubts about that, and chose his words accordingly. "Zechs Merquise knows only Khushrenada as his homeland. Peacecraft is a place he might have known once, a long time ago, when he was another man."

"So you feel nothing about this?" Treize gestured at the army stretching behind them.

"I feel nothing that I should not feel, Your Grace."

Treize chuckled. "Someday, my friend, you'll have to explain to me what it was that made you chose this life."

Zechs bowed his head slightly. "I hope there will be plenty of time for that after the campaign, Your Grace."

~*~

 

[18 May 1243 Post Alliance]

 

They'd ridden together for a day and a half in near-total silence, save for necessary communication regarding camping and which roads to take. Where the road permitted, they road side by side; where it didn't, Duo rode in front, with Heero behind, through an unvoiced agreement, since Heero was unwilling to let Duo out of his sight, or to trust his back to the assassin. They'd split the watch between them; during Duo's turn, every move he had made had jolted Heero awake.

Duo hadn't said anything about Heero's edginess, but his sardonic smile told Heero it had not gone unnoticed.

Well, so be it, Heero decided. They might be working partners for now, but it was only temporary. Just as soon as Treize and Zechs had been suitably neutralized, this peculiar alliance would be over, and without the common enemy, he would extract punishment for the attack on Relena.

Still... there were questions that still bothered him. They were riding too hard and fast to be able to converse easily on the road, so Heero stored them up for later in the evening.

~*~

Ladling two bowls of stew out of the pot, Duo offered them both to Heero, allowing him to choose the one he preferred. Then he blew on a spoonful and ate it immediately. The previous evening, Heero had waited five minutes for him to take the first bite before digging in to his own dinner.

~You'd think he doesn't trust us,~ Shinigami chuckled.

*I just can't imagine why,* Duo retorted. *And he's staring at me again.* He set his bowl aside, to allow it to cool, and addressed Heero directly. "What, do I have something on my face?"

"No. Sorry. I was just thinking." Heero looked down at the bowl in his hands. "Why kill everyone at the orphanage? Why not just kill one or two people, and hold the rest over your head? Treize is usually a much more practical man than that."

"Do you want the long version, or the short?"

"The long one this time. Please?" He only barely remembered to tack on the polite formality, but a slight quirk of Duo's lips told him that the gesture was not unappreciated.

"Fine." Duo picked up his bowl again, eating mechanically as he gathered his thoughts. "They killed everyone this time because of the way they had to persuade me to work for them."

~*~

 

[3 February 1234 Post Alliance]

 

There was no warning prior to the attack, as five men, their faces gaunt with hunger, erupted from the thickets on either side of the road. Within seconds, they had cut down Brother Mathias, the only adult male in the tiny party, and were pulling Sister Anna off her horse.

Sitting in the driver's seat of the wagon, Sister Helen shouted over the sound of Sister Anna's screams, "Boys, run!" as she shoved Solo off the bench and into the snow. Face white, he seized the wrist of the only other member of the party, who was staring with wide-eyed at the gore splashing the snow around Brother Mathias' body.

"Duo, snap out of it!" he screamed, as one of the men advanced on the wagon and Helen, whose lips moved in silent prayer despite the fear in her eyes.

Duo shook off Solo's grasp unconsciously as his eyes darkened to a violet glitter. As his friend watched in disbelief, he seized the nearest object serviceable as a weapon--a fallen branch--and swung it at the head of the nearest brigand. The man staggered, dazed by the unexpected blow, and half-turned away from the wagon and Sister Helen. "You little bastard--"

Gripping the branch two-handed, Duo swung the branch again, faster and lower than before, catching his opponent across the ribs. The man cursed, fumbling with his sword. Recovering from the strike, Duo hit him for the third time, cracking the man sharply against his temple. The man dropped, and Duo cast the branch aside, picking up the man's sword instead. Sparing just a moment to drive the point of the sword home through his downed opponent's throat, he looked around for his next adversary.

~There, the one coming up from the left. Him first, then the one behind him. They're going to try to flank you, so you have to move fast. Like this.~

Duo crouched, and exploded forward, feinting a low strike such as he had used against his first opponent. When the man tried to block to low blow, Duo attacked his unguarded shoulder, the blade of his sword biting deeply into the man's body. Howling, the injured man went down.

~Behind you!~

Duo rolled forward, tumbling past the man he'd just injured, narrowly escaping the blow that had been aimed at his unprotected back. He seized the opportunity to slash at the legs of the man who'd been attempting to flank him, and regained his feet just in time to parry an attack from the fifth bandit.

The third man had gone down next to the second, adding his own blood to the mess on the snow as he clutched at his hamstrung leg. That left two brigands, the one who'd snuck up on him, and the one in front of him.

~Back up. Yes. Like that. Now... like this.~

Duo parried again, knees buckling under his adversary's superior strength. As the man forced him to fall backwards, Duo kicked a leg out, tangling an ankle around the man's foot and bringing him down with him. Duo kicked himself to his feet, and just barely managed to parry against the other brigand.

~Faster! Like this!~

Still following the instructions that were coming from nowhere, Duo swung at his opponent three times in rapid succession, twice high and the third time low. As his private instructor had expected, the man blocked both high attacks and took the third attack squarely in the belly.

That left only the fifth bandit, who was just regaining his feet as the fourth bandit fell. He stared at the teenager. "What kind of demon are you, kid?"

Duo felt an unfamiliar smile spreading across his face as he answered with a voice he didn't recognize as his own. "I'm Shinigami... and I don't like talking to dead men." He lunged forward, twisting his sword around his opponent's and yanking it out of the man's hand.

The man tried to back away, face paling. "Don't--"

Duo wrapped his left hand around the hilt of his sword and swung, shearing through flesh and bone. The fifth bandit's head, its expression frozen into one of fear, flew into the thicket as his body dropped.

Duo threw his head back and laughed, before turning back to the three men he'd left injured on the ground. The man who'd taken a sword in the belly was writhing feebly. Duo ignored him in favor of the hamstrung man, who was trying to crawl away with a look of panic on his face. With that same strange smile, Duo walked after him, calmly skewering him. He was just turning his attention to the man with the shoulder wound when Sister Helen's scream stopped him.

"Duo, what are you doing?!"

That shattered the strange spell that had fallen over him. The sword suddenly felt strange and heavy in his hand, and he let it drop into the snow. He looked down, seeing that his simple robes were covered in blood. He looked up, and saw that Sister Anna, Sister Helen, and Solo were all staring at him like they no longer recognized him... He wasn't entirely certain he still recognized himself.

~*~

 

[18 May 1243 Post Alliance]

 

Maxwell's soft words wove a spell as hypnotic as any wizards, Heero admitted privately, filing away the important reference to Shinigami. It had sounded almost like Maxwell considered the assassin-name an entity unto itself.

Interesting...

"Word got around, somehow. I'd guess it was Sister Anna's fault. Nice enough lady, but liked to gossip. It was big news, you know? The skinny kid about a year from taking the orders himself defends a supply wagon from five bandits like a seasoned warrior ten years his senior. Some of the brothers and sisters said it was a miracle, and some of them said it was a demon..."

Another interesting fact. Taking the orders? Either Maxwell was much more complicated than he'd expected, or he was one hell of a liar. Heero couldn't tell which.

"And somehow it got back to Treize Khushrenada himself, or maybe just to one of his lieutenants..."

~*~

 

[12 June 1234 Post Alliance]

 

Although he was not yet the duke, Treize Khushrenada already possessed the loyalties of a select circle of followers who would serve him well whenever his aging father passed the ducal throne to him.

Une was one of these.

She watched the orphanage carefully, bored by the surveillance. If it hadn't been for the fact that Lord Treize had asked her to do this for him, she would have long since left her post in the hot summer sun for pleasanter activities. But Lord Treize had his reason for everything, and it wasn't her place to question his orders.

Still, three days of sitting in a tree and watching a group of priests and nuns doing chores was asking a bit much. She was beginning to rue the day she had ever mentioned the story of that wretched boy to Lord Treize. What little she had seen of him made her doubt the rumors she'd heard. He seemed normal enough to her...

There he was, in fact, running away from the main house, turning back to laugh and shout something to the boy following him. Une perked up. Perhaps this was the chance she'd been waiting for.

~*~

Duo rubbed the back of his neck, trying to rid himself of the sensation that he was being watched--again. The feeling had lingered for the past three days, like an itch that he just couldn't scratch.

~Maybe there is someone watching you.~

Duo shivered, frowning. Just when he'd thought he'd imagined the voice in his head, and its instructions, it had to resurface. He'd wanted to think that it was just something he'd dreamed up on That day, but... now it was back, and much harder to explain away.

He looked around, but saw nothing beyond Solo running to join him. *This is ridiculous. I'm just going to relax and enjoy my afternoon off.* Grinning as Solo caught up, he said, "Race you to the river!" and broke into a run.

"No fair!" Solo shouted, giving chase.

Duo had the head start, but Solo had the greater speed. Duo was just in sight of the low banks of the river when Solo passed him, long legs pumping wildly. He slid to a stop at the very edge of the water, turning to regard Duo triumphantly.

Duo, ever the graceful loser, whooped and tackled his friend, sending them both flying into the water.

Solo howled as they surfaced. "Duo, you little bastard!"

Duo scrambled away from Solo. "You did say you wanted to go swimming," he reminded his friend.

"I was going to take my clothes off before getting into the water."

"Oops." Duo's eyes were wholly unrepentant.

"With an attitude like that, they'll never let you into the priesthood," Solo predicted, swimming towards the center of the river and its deeper water.

"Then I'll have to do something else instead," Duo shrugged, swimming out with Solo.

Solo stopped to tread water and stare at Duo. "Are you feeling okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, why?"

"You've always wanted to be a priest just like Father Maxwell."

Duo considered it. "I guess... things change." To switch the subject, he lunged at Solo, ducking him.

When they finally tired of the water war and swimming, they returned to the bank, stripping out of their wet clothes and lounging in the sun.

"'S a nice day," Duo murmured, drowsing a little.

"Yeah." Something in Solo's voice sounded odd, so Duo looked over at his friend. "Duo... what would you do instead?"

"Dunno." But his hand flexed with the memory of a sword's weight. "Something, I guess."

"It's funny. I always figured the two of us would be a team, no matter what... but I get the feeling nowadays that you're heading someplace I can't follow." Solo's tone was distant.

"Shut up. We'll always be a team and you know it. Solo and Duo, right?" Duo grinned uncertainly. "Solo, snap out of it, you're starting to worry me."

"Duo..." Solo rolled onto his side to look seriously at the younger boy. "I..."

"Uh... Solo?" There was something odd lurking in Solo's pine green eyes, and his face was getting closer, fast.

It was a clumsy kiss at first, nose bumping nose. Duo froze, suddenly conscious of everything: the rock digging into his ribs, the smell of the river, the heat of the sun, and Solo was kissing him... and he was kissing back, and liking it.

Solo jerked back, the tangle of his sun-streaked hair framing the uncertain, questioning look in his eyes. "Duo--"

And then all hell broke loose.

~*~

 

[18 May 1243 Post Alliance]

 

*Why is he telling me this?* Heero stared at Duo, caught in the deeply personal story.

~*~

 

[12 June 1234 Post Alliance]

 

Five armed men against two naked, distracted boys makes poor odds--or good, depending on one's point of view--but Une was not one to play fair. Her orders required her to establish the veracity of those intriguing rumors. The way Une saw it, if there was any substance to the stories, this would prove it for once and all. And if not... it didn't matter much.

~*~

~Up! Roll, to the left--now!~

Duo rolled away as three soldiers, wearing the ducal colors, rushed his position. As he moved out of harm's way, his fingers closed around the only weapon he had--the rock that had been prodding him in the ribs. He came to his feet in a crouch, testing the weight in his hand.

The three soldiers spread out, fanning around him. Duo backed up, unwilling to let anyone at his back. He only stopped as his feet squished in the mud of the riverbank.

~Now they have the higher ground, as well as superior numbers and weapons. Brilliant work, that.~

*Shut up and help me figure out how to save my skin.*

~Wait for it... wait... now!~

Duo feinted to his left, as if to flee, and then charged the soldier on his right. He threw his rock as he approached, cracking the man squarely between the eyes.

~Good,~ his inner guide approved, as the man dropped. ~Now, here's what we need to do next.~

It felt infinitely better to be holding a sword, Duo decided, as he stole the fallen soldier's blade and faced down the other two soldiers.

~They aren't good fighters, but they do have the advantage of wearing mail...~

But there was no time for strategy as the soldier on the left moved forward. Duo took a step to meet him, and slid to one knee as his foot slipped in the mud.

The soldier grinned at this as Duo glared up at him. "Not so tough now, are you?"

Duo's sword slammed into the man's knee, shearing through muscles and sinews. A second thrust upwards, with all the strength of his crouched, coiled muscles behind it, crunched through chain mail and into the soft vitals beneath. Duo kicked the body off the blade and turned to the third soldier.

"That will be quite enough, I think," came a crisp voice, interrupting the melee. "Canton, stand down. You too, Duo... unless you'd like to see what sorts of unpleasantness we can concoct for your friend here?"

The prickle that had been his warning of something amiss disappeared as a slender young woman emerged from the copse of trees that had hidden her five soldiers. Two of the soldiers were dead. The third, Canton, was backing away and sheathing his sword obediently. The fourth and fifth--held Solo firmly between them.

The woman smiled thinly, the afternoon sun glinting off her glasses and the coiled braids of her hair. "I am Une, and I've been watching you, Duo. There's someone I know who's going to be very happy to meet you."

"Go to hell."

Une raised a hand. "Ah, ah, ah, Duo. Be polite, or your friend will suffer for it."

Canton drove a fist into Solo's stomach.

As his friend doubled over, Duo glared at Une. "What do you want from me?"

"Whatever my master wants." She jerked her head at the soldiers. "Clothe them, and bring them along. If the one with the braid gives you any trouble, kill his friend."

As she walked away, there was nothing Duo could do but dress himself in his clammy clothes and suffer his hands to be tied.

~*~

 

[18 May 1243 Post Alliance]

 

Heero interrupted Duo's hoarse voice. "You don't have to tell the rest. I can guess what happened."

Duo pulled his attention away from the far-off memories it was visiting. "No, I think I do," he said, voice raw from all the talking. "I've never had a chance till now."

~*~

 

[14 June 1234 Post Alliance]

 

The aristocrat stared at Duo, and then at Une. "Are you sure?" he asked, not unkindly. "He looks so ... harmless."

~Give us a sword and we'll show you harmless.~

"And he sounds a touch mad," Treize added at the outburst.

Duo blinked. Surely he'd thought that, hadn't he?

~Don't worry, kid. We'll get through this together.~

"I'm sure, Lord Treize," Une assured her master. "I have no doubts he's genuine. His technique may be raw, but he's very talented."

"Raw?!" The indignant exclamation broke from Duo's lips before he could stop it.

"He's quite opinionated, too. What of this other young man?"

Une's smile was sly. "They're special friends, my Lord."

Treize lifted an eyebrow. "I see. How farsighted of you to bring him along, Une."

"Thank you, my Lord."

Treize then addressed Duo. "Boy, I've been looking for someone with your innate talents for a long time now. I want you in my service."

"So you kidnapped me?" Duo retorted. "Go fuck yourself... my Lord."

"I don't believe you fully comprehend your situation, boy," Treize replied, tone still utterly pleasant. "I have need of a killer--a born killer, like you--and I always get what I want. Either you work for me, or I shall order your... friend... executed."

Duo stared at the ducal heir, frozen with horror and indecision.

"Duo, don't do it," Solo whispered.

"Lord Treize did not ask for your input," Une snapped, slapping Solo.

"I..." Duo stopped, looking at Solo's anguished eyes. *Don't worry,* he wanted to tell his best friend and maybe more. *I'll be fine. Don't worry.* "I'll do it... just don't hurt him."

Treize smiled faintly. "I thought you might prove smarter than you looked." He nodded at Une, who handed Duo a dagger from her own belt. "You will obey my orders precisely and without hesitation. Do you understand?"

Duo looked away from Solo's wounded eyes. "Yes, my Lord."

"You will never question my orders, nor will you disobey them. Do you understand?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"Very well. From now on, no one must know of your existence except as a shadow, or that it is I who employs you. Your first mission is to eliminate this young man who knows too many secrets."

Every fiber of Duo's being rebelled in that instant as he looked Treize in the eye. "No."

"You disobey me?" Treize turned to Une. "Kill the boy."

Duo shrieked as Une calmly slid her other dagger between Solo's ribs.

Solo crumpled to the floor, eyes shocked and betrayed, as Duo looked on, horrified.

Dimly, as Solo's eyes turned glassy, he could hear Treize's voice. "Let this be a lesson to you, boy. Disobey me again, or fail in a mission I give you, and I will see to it that the orphanage you came from is burned to the ground with everyone in it. Do you understand, boy?"

Duo looked up at Treize, an unholy violet light coming to life in his eyes. "I understand, my Lord. I will not fail you again."

"See to it that you don't... and what shall I call you?"

Duo felt a strange smile cross his face. "My name, Lord Treize? It's Shinigami."

~*~

 

[18 May 1243 Post Alliance]

 

Heero stirred uncomfortably, feeling that he ought to say something. "You didn't need to explain... so much... but... thank you. Duo."

Duo poked at the dying fire with a stick. "At least if I die, someone will still know what happened. That's all that matters, I guess. It's late. Why don't you sleep first, while I keep watch?"

"If you're--"

"I'm sure. I don't feel like sleeping yet."

"Ah." Heero stopped arguing, rolling himself into his sleeping roll and dozing off quickly.

Duo listened to the regular breathing for a while.

~Excellent job! He's beginning to trust you, I think.~

*Fuck off, Shini. I don't feel like playing your games tonight.* Duo propped his chin up on his knees, drifting off into old memories.

He was still sitting like that, asleep, when Heero woke up at dawn.

 

~tbc~

 

Feeeeeeeeedback. I have to be up at seven to go to work, and it is now... 1:32 by my clock. e_e Love me?