Quatre himself solved the problem of what she could wear, when Duo
asked him about it. He took one of his own shirts, since he was closest
in size to the tiny female, and carefully cut two slits up the back. He
then quickly sewed on several buttons and cut buttonholes, and when he
was finished, they had a shirt that could be eased over her wings, then
buttoned up from beneath.
“Perfect!” Duo exclaimed, admiring his friend’s work. Quatre
beamed and blushed, as he always did when praised.
“I hope it works,” the blond said earnestly, his blue eyes still
wide with awe at having an ‘angel’ in his home. “I hope she likes it…”
Duo laughed. “Quatre, buddy, after what she’s been through, she’d
probably be overjoyed if we offered to outfit her in a burlap bag.”
“Oh!” Quatre’s eyes widened even further. “Duo, what a horrible
suggestion!” Duo just laughed again. “I’ll have the tailors make up
some more clothes for her,” the gentle Arabian continued, already
turning to order just that.
“Thanks, buddy!” Duo waved on his way out, heading for the room
that was now Dana’s. By now, he figured she would have finished with
her bath or shower or whatever, and would be ready to change into some
clean clothes.
“Dana!” He rapped on her door, Quatre’s altered shirt and a pair
of his own track pants tucked under his arm. “Dana?” He called again, a
little louder, when she didn’t immediately reply to his first knock.
“Just a second!” She called, her voice muffled. There was a
shuffling noise from within, then the door cracked open and Duo’s jaw
hit the floor.
Her ebony hair clung to her body in long, wet strands, drawing his
eyes downward from her face to her shoulders, and beyond. Her pale skin
was flushed with the heat from her bath, giving her a glow of health
that had been missing before. She was dressed in one of the luxurious,
fluffy bath towels that were in all their en-suite bathrooms, held
together at the front by one delicate fist. Duo couldn’t take his eyes
off her.
Her left wing fluttered nervously, sending feathers flying, and a
slow blush rose from beneath the edge of the towel, continuing up her
neck and setting her cheeks on fire. At about that point, Duo realized
he’d been staring shamelessly, and abruptly took hold of himself.
“Go-gomen!” He sputtered, thrusting the clothes he held at her. He
whipped around so fast that his braid thunked lightly against her.
“A-arigatou,” she replied, her voice soft and trembling. Duo
nearly groaned as the sound of it increased his body’s inevitable
teenage response. “I’ll be right back,” she said, and heard the door
softly click shut behind him.
Duo blew his breath out all at once, and squeezed his eyes shut.
The moment he did so, an image of Dana as she might look without the
towel popped into his head, and he hastily opened them again. “Geez,
man, get your mind out of the gutter!” He muttered to himself, fisting
his hands in his pockets, hoping that would conceal some of the signs
of his obvious arousal. He flushed hotly, and kicked himself mentally.
:She’s been through a hell of a lot, the LAST thing she needs is you
panting around her feet like a dog sniffing a bitch in heat!: he
berated himself. He tried to think of something to cool himself off.
:Unsexy thoughts, unsexy thoughts…: His vivid imagination promptly
supplied a rather disgusting image of just what Wufei might REALLY be
doing when he went to ‘Worship Nataku’, and he shuddered. :EW. That may
be overdoing it just a little. Even Wu’s not THAT desperate. I hope.
Well, at least it worked.:
The door opened behind him again, and he turned to see Dana
dressed in the over-large clothing, the blush still evident on her
cheeks, but not quite as furious as it had been. “Come in,” she
invited, shyly, stepping back.
Duo followed her into the room, and cast about for somewhere for
them to sit. “Ah, we’ll have to sit on the bed, I guess,” he said
finally, firmly steering his mind from thoughts of what ELSE they could
do on said piece of furniture. “There aren’t any chairs without backs.”
Nodding, Dana arranged herself on the soft mattress, curling up
like a cat with her feet tucked beneath her. She looked slightly
ridiculous, and entirely adorable, and Duo had to fight the impulse to
embrace her. :Concentrate on the task at hand, man!: he chided himself,
and sat cross-legged behind her.
He regarded the mass of tangled silk before him with no little
dismay. “Geez,” he said aloud, “This is gonna take awhile. I mean, God
knows I’m used to dealing with tons of hair, but I usually don’t let
mine GET this bad.”
“You don’t have to do this,” she started softly, but he
interrupted her.
“Nah. Don’t worry about it. You need the help – the only way
you’re gonna be able to fix this yourself would be to cut it off – and
that would be a damn shame. At least it’s CLEAN now.”
She nodded vigorously. “You have NO idea how good that feels!” she
said, fingering one lock absently. Duo set to work, tackling the mass
with enthusiastic energy.
He started by working the tangles out from the bottom foot or so.
“Have you ever cut your hair? It’s even longer than mine!” He asked,
out of curiosity.
“No,” she answered, “Although the edges have been trimmed. I’ve
thought about having it chopped off more than once…” Duo exclaimed
aloud, and she laughed a little. “That’s what my father always said. He
always said it was my most beautiful feature, that I should treasure it
always.” There was real warmth and affection in her voice when she
mentioned her father, and Duo smiled wistfully.
“Sounds like you’re really close to him.”
She laughed, but there was a tone of sadness in her mirth.
“Actually, it seems like all we ever do any more is fight. He wants me
to accept my place in society, and I want my freedom. But yes, we have
always been very close. My mother died when I was born, and he had
never cared for her particularly. It was a Sta – uh, an arranged
marriage.”
Duo nodded, still combing carefully through the strands of her
hair. “So, are you an only child then?”
“Yes,” she replied, her voice wistful. “I’ve often wished for
siblings, though. My best friend Toran has three little sisters, and
although they don’t always get along, they’re very close.” He could
hear her smile in her voice. “They’ve made me their ‘honourary
Nee-chan’ though, and they’re forever pestering me as to when I’m going
to marry Toran and become their real big sister.” She laughed, and this
time the silvery sound held no hint of sorrow. “As if we ever would, or
could!”
Duo didn’t admit just how relieved he was to hear that particular
piece of news. “Sounds like you’ve got lots of friends,” he commented.
Suddenly her slender frame trembled, and she bowed her head.
“H-hai,” she answered softly. “I hope they’re okay. I hope otou-sama
isn’t too worried. Poor Toran – they all must think I was killed on my
Dragon Hunt by now.”
Duo abandoned his brush and wrapped his arms around her from
behind, rocking her gently. “I’m sorry, Dana, I wasn’t thinking. I
shouldn’t have brought it up…”
“No, no!” she exclaimed, turning to face him, her dark eyes wide.
“Thinking of them, of how much I missed them, wondering what they were
doing, was sometimes the only thing that kept me going.” She shook her
head, but tears weren’t the only thing causing her eyes to shine. There
was deep love and affection there as well. “I just have to believe that
they’re okay, and happy. That – that maybe someday, I’ll get to see
them again.”
“You will,” he promised fiercely, his voice harsh with emotion. “I
promise, if it’s at all possibly, we’ll find a way to get you home!”
“Duo…” she raised her face to his, and his breath caught in his
throat, as he suddenly became aware of just how close they were to each
other. Mere inches separated their faces, and as they stared into each
other’s eyes as if mesmerized, those inches began to disappear…
“Duo?” Quatre opened the door and peered in without knocking. “Did
the shirt wor….” He trailed off and blushed furiously as the two
figures on the bed broke apart abruptly. “OH!” He exclaimed, raising
his hand to his mouth in embarrassment. “Oh, I’m sorry! Excuse me,
please!” He ducked back out the door, shutting it firmly behind him.
For a long moment, neither Duo nor Dana moved. They sat a foot
apart, both staring at the bed as if fascinated by the pattern on the
comforter. Finally Duo broke the silence.
“Ah… turn around so I can finish your hair,” he said, deciding the
best tack to take would be to pretend nothing out of the ordinary had
occurred. She nodded, and turned her back to him again, but the redness
of her neck told him she was still blushing. Well, the heat in his own
cheeks indicated he wasn’t about to be taken for a ghost any time soon,
either. He tackled her hair again.
The silence stretched out as he worked, until Duo was distinctly
uncomfortable. “I thought you said you didn’t fight them any more,” he
blurted finally, desperate for a topic.
“Huh?” she returned, clearly confused.
“In the cell,” he elaborated. “You said you didn’t fight them any
more, and I’d learn not to either. So why’d you break that guy’s neck?”
“Oh.” She paused for a moment. “I guess… seeing you gave me hope.”
She turned a shy smile on him, which he returned with an amazed look.
“Hope? ME? I gave you hope?”
She nodded slowly, her face thoughtful, as if she was still
working it out for herself. “Hai. I’d almost forgotten the outside
world even existed, it had been so long since I’d seen someone other
than the guards and the scientists. And when you promised to get me
out… well, it was like having a prayer answered.” He nodded in
understanding, and ran his hand through the heavy fall of her hair.
“Well, that wasn’t so bad,” he commented, eyeing her now
tangle-free hair with no little satisfaction. The dark strands fell
down her back in a shimmering waterfall of black silk, pooling on the
bed and in her lap like ink. “Want me to braid it for you?” he asked,
fingering the end of his own meter-long braid. “It keeps it out of the
way, at least a little.” She nodded, and he expertly separated the mass
into three strands, his fingers flying as he wove them together.
When he reached the end, he cast about despairingly for a tie,
before finally shrugging and pulling the one from his own hair free. He
wrapped it twice around the end of her braid, then draped it over her
shoulder for her approval. “There. All done. It won’t be nearly so bad
to handle next time, although you probably shouldn’t be brushing it
yourself with that wing of yours. I’ll do it for you, if you like.”
She smiled brightly at him. “Hai. Please! You’re very good at
this. I’ve always been so helpless with my own hair. And if you like, I
can do yours in return – that won’t strain my wing too much.”
He blushed, and nodded, not trusting his voice to words. He gave
in to a wild impulse, and bent his head to give her a gentle kiss on
one cheek.
At the last moment, she surprised him by turning her face so that
their lips met, but by the time he realized what was happening, it was
too late to stop it.
His entire body shuddered as lightning seemed to zap through him
at the contact. From the breathy moan that came from her throat, she’d
felt it too, and he raised his arms to hold her, pressing his mouth
more firmly against hers. She responded in kind, her arms twining about
his neck, her lips soft and pliant beneath his. Duo felt as if he were
floating in heaven, with an angel as his guide.
Her good wing wrapped around them both, sheltering them in its
warm darkness. He breathed in through his nose, inhaling the musky,
spicy scent of her feathers, along with a delicate aroma that could
only be Dana herself. Just when he thought he might lose himself
entirely, he was jarred back to consciousness by a loud tapping sound.
Both of them gasped as they drew apart, gazing into each other’s
eyes with dazed looks, unable to comprehend the entirety of what they
had just experienced. The tapping sound came again, louder this time,
and was accompanied by Quatre’s voice calling their names.
“WHAT?” Duo nearly growled, his voice husky with barely suppressed
emotion. The smothered longing and desire evident on Dana’s face was
making it very difficult to keep himself from ignoring his fellow pilot
and returning to the world of magic they had just been immersed in.
“Gomen, Duo-san, but it’s important!” Quatre said from outside.
“It had damn well better be,” Duo muttered under his breath, as he
fought to get his body under control long enough to stalk across the
room and slam the door open. “What IS it?” He demanded of the badly
flustered Arabian on the other side.
“It’s the news,” Quatre replied, gesturing down the stairs. “One
of the Maguarnacs was watching the news, and he saw something unusual,
and… well, I think you should come see it for yourself.” He quailed
under Duo’s dark glare, but stood his ground. “Dana too – I think this
affects her as well.”
“Fine. We’ll be right down,” Duo replied, slamming the door in his
friend’s face. He paused for a moment, taking a deep breath, trying to
get himself under control. Finally he turned to face Dana.
“We’d better go see what it is,” he said reluctantly, and she
nodded. “Quatre wouldn’t have dreamed of disturbing us, not after that
last episode, unless it was really important.”
She seemed to glide over to him, her movements too graceful to be
referred to by so mundane a word as ‘walking’. She placed one tiny,
delicate hand on his chest, and his eyes widened as his body responded.
“Duo… I…” Apparently giving in to impulse, she leaned against him, her
face buried in his chest. “I really like you,” she said softly. “It’s
not just that you rescued me, or that you were the first person in a
long time who cared about me. I – I think…” she hesitated, then plunged
ahead. “I think maybe you’re the reason the magic didn’t bring me back
right away, like it did my father. That I was supposed to meet you, the
way he was meant to meet Hitomi.”
He blushed – he’d been doing that a lot recently – and wrapped his
arms around her. “I – like you too, Dana. A LOT.” :Please, God, don’t
take her away like you took everybody else,: he silently prayed. “And I
feel like maybe I was meant to meet you, too.”
She turned her face up to his, and they kissed again, more gently
this time. Again, sparks seemed to jump along Duo’s spine, making him
shiver, but he wasn’t as lost this time as he had been before. Finally,
he sighed, and pulled away. “Let’s go see what’s got Quatre so
flustered. Besides us, that is.” He gave her his trademark grin as she
giggled, and opened the door.
In the common room, everyone was already gathered around the TV.
Wufei pointedly ignored their presence, and Heero’s attention was
fixated on the screen, but Trowa’s visible eye widened slightly at the
sight of Duo’s rapidly unraveling braid. Duo just shrugged, and turned
his attention to the TV.
“…fleeing in terror, as the rest of the city is being evacuated,”
a pretty reporter shouted over the wind created by the blades of the
helicopter she rode in. Through the open door behind her, they could
see a scene of mass destruction, clouds of dust from fallen buildings
partially obscuring the view. “Scientists have no explanation as to the
nature of the monster, nor where it came from. Eyewitnesses from the
original encounter claim that it appeared in a beam of white light, and
immediately began destroying everything around it. The monster has been
dubbed ‘Godzilla’, in token of the movies of a similar giant lizard
wrecking havoc on Tokyo made in the late twentieth century.”
The camera zoomed in as a hulking form moved out of the dust,
showing a scaly reptile, several stories tall, breathing flame and
stampeding over everything in its path. Dana clutched Duo’s arm in a
sudden death grip, and he turned to her. “What’s wrong?”
Her black eyes were wide with fear, and a single word escaped her
lips in a whisper…
“Dragon…”