Dark Cloud Rising
by Dyna Dee
"Duo. Wake up. Are you all right?" Quatre's concerned voice sounded far away, but the hand shaking his shoulder told him the blond was actually very close. Taking one arm out from under his head he batted at the offending touch. "Go away," the fledgling groused in a muffled voice.
"The server is here with your meal. Can you eat?"
He shook his head in answer to Quatre's question, regretting the slight movement when pain shot through his aching head. He buried it deeper into his arms with a groan of agony.
"How about something to drink?"
"Leave me alone, Quatre," the suffering boy moaned. He heard someone snickering from close by but didn't bother to look up and glare at who ever thought his misery was funny; it would take just too much effort to do so.
"Hello, Trowa. Heero," the blond called out a cheerful greeting.
"How is he?" Trowa asked, sounding concerned, and from the nearness of his voice Duo figured the taller boy was standing just behind him. He felt the light brush of fingertips over his loose hair. At the moment he didn't care, as long as they didn't pull it, he wasn't going to protest.
"Not well, as far as I can tell."
"How did he end up in Skeer on his own?" Heero questioned, his voice low.
"I don't know," Quatre answered. "I can only guess that he finished his lessons with Jan and set out with Wu Fei. I'm sure he didn't know he wasn't supposed to go to Skeer unaccompanied."
The sound of platters being placed on the table was heard by the boy who had been listening to the conversation, though the pounding in his head kept his head down and eyes closed. The smell of food filled his nostrils and set his empty stomach to painfully churning and a slight moan escaped his lips.
"Will the young master be eating?" A deep voice asked and Duo could only guess it was one of the servers.
"He says he's not hungry," Quatre answered.
"Is he ill?"
"Too much drink last night in Skeer," Heero supplied.
The deep chuckle the miserable boy heard did nothing to endear the server to him. "Perhaps a cup of cool water will help him feel better," the deep voice suggested.
At that point, Duo let the conversation fade, but it didn't feel like much time had passed before a hand on his shoulder woke him again. "Sit up and drink the water." Heero. "I'm told it helps with the aftereffects of the ale."
He had enough energy to manage a slight moan, but the simple task of raising his head from its resting place on his arms seemed just too difficult to accomplish. Then gently, he was eased up by hands firmly gripping his shoulders until his back came to rest against the firmness of someone's body. The cool rim of a cup was placed against his lips. "Drink," Heero softly commanded.
A bit of stubbornness and rebellion from being told what to do surfaced, but once the cool water touched his lips Duo realized he could either drink it or his clothing would get wet when it dribbled down his chin. Reluctantly, he swallowed at least six times before the cup was pulled away and he was able to catch his breath.
"A little more." Heero's voice was now above him and he welcomed the warmth of the other boy's body against his back. The cup was set on his lips once more and he obediently swallowed more of the cool liquid. He was grateful when the cup was removed once again and he leaned heavily against the body supporting him in an upright position, finding comfort in the unfamiliar sensation of having someone hold him so securely.
"I think you've made a new friend." Trowa sounded amused. Duo didn't know if the taller boy was addressing him or Heero, but he wasn't going to open his eyes to find out.
"Can you sit on your own?" Heero asked softly as a hand combed through the long hair that draped over his forehead. A cool palm was placed over his forehead for just a moment and Duo sighed at the pleasurable touch.
"Yeah," he answered, his voice sounding deep and scratchy. The warmth against his back began to ease away. It was replaced almost immediately by hands grabbing hold of his shoulders, catching him as he swayed, struggling for balance.
"It might be easier if you open your eyes," Heero suggested.
Bleary and bloodshot eyes reluctantly opened, and from across the table Duo could make out the blurred outline of his blond friend. "Hi, Quatre," he said and managed to lift a single finger and wiggle it a few times at his friend.
"Are you alright, Duo?" Quatre asked, looking and sounding concerned.
"No, but I think I'm going to live."
The hands on his shoulders lifted, causing Duo to quickly reach out and grab the edge of the table to steady himself. Just as the tilting world straightened and his eyes regained focus, another firm hand, one that felt quite different from the ones that had touched him moments before, called his attention to the person behind him.
"If you've finished, I would have a word with you." Sim's gruff voice came from above him. Duo tilted his throbbing head back to gaze upside down at the frowning man and swallowed nervously. It wasn't hard to see that he was in trouble... again.
That evening, Quatre entered the long-haired boy's room to find Duo lying on his bed with a cool, damp cloth resting over his forehead. "Feeling any better?" he asked.
"Yeah," came the dejected answer.
The blond boy moved to sit on the edge of the bed. "Can I do anything for you? Get you anything?"
"Yeah, now that you mention it, I lost the last of my dignity in the dining hall today. Think you can figure out a way to get it back?"
"Surely it's not that bad," Quatre said, a smile twitching at the corners of his lips.
"I've only humiliated myself time after time since I got here," Duo said, sounding miserable while recalling the scene in the mess hall that afternoon. With clarity he remembered rising from his seat at the table to follow Sims out of room for the lecture he knew was coming. The simple act of standing, however, had caused the room to spin again, and without warning he'd thrown up the water he'd just swallowed with Heero's help, barely missing the older rider's boots. He'd never had this much trouble with his stomach in the past, and wondered if perhaps he was the dark cloud of trouble his village used to call him. He'd certainly been in enough trouble since his arrival at the Halls.
"Everyone make mistakes, Duo. You just didn't know about Skeer, its customs or their strong drinks."
"I've now vomited twice in front of Sims and the other riders," Duo moaned, his cheeks heating up with the memory of his humiliation.
"Three times," Quatre corrected, unable to keep the corners of his mouth from twitching upwards. Duo lifted up one end of the cloth to look questioningly at his friend. "Heero and Trowa saw what happened at the blacksmith's dwelling."
"Great," the braided boy moaned as he dropped the cloth back in place and followed the move with a defeated exhalation of breath. "Now my humiliation is complete."
"I wouldn't say that," Quatre said. "To my knowledge there's not another fledgling or rider in training who managed to drink more than one, maybe one and a half cups of Skeer's ale for the first time before they became ill, and you managed three before you succumbed." Quatre's smile was one of admiration as he said, "You've become something of a legend already in the Halls and made friends in Skeer as well, which, I've been told, usually takes several years to accomplish."
The cloth was lifted from the odd-shaded blue eyes that peered out from beneath. "Really?" Duo was unsure if he was being told the truth or if this was merely an attempt by his new friend to comfort him.
"Trowa told me the whole story," the blond continued. "He and Heero were quite impressed, and the tale of your drinking Skeer's ale in a contest has spread to everyone. For a fledgling, and the newest one at that, your name is on everyone's lips."
"Is that good or bad?" Duo asked warily.
"Hum..." the blond paused to consider that for a moment. "Probably a bit of both. I wouldn't be surprised if the older riders keep a closer watch on you since you seem to unintentionally and repeatedly land yourself into trouble. On the other hand," the blond's grin widened, "the riders in training will undoubtedly hold you in higher esteem than a newcomer usually receives."
Duo removed the cloth from off his forehead and set it on the table beside his bed, next to the cup of mint tea he'd finished earlier. "Did Trowa happen to mention what happened after my last drink? I don't remember anything past that moment."
An amused grin grew on Quatre's face. "As a matter of fact, he did." Seeing he had the braided boy's undivided attention, he continued. "They... Heero and Trowa, arrived at the blacksmith's dwelling in time to see you finish your second drink, astounding the larger man by finishing before him. The third and last contest ended in a draw, and not a moment later you emptied your stomach into the bucket and passed out. Heero carried you over his shoulder while Trowa gave the blacksmith's woman a coin for your meal and drink. They then retreated to their dragons. Wu Fei was anxious for your welfare and had to be reassured by Relena that you were fine. He flew back to your lair alongside Relena while Heero carried you in his arms. His dragon landed in Wu Fei's nest and Heero brought you in and put you to bed."
Duo covered his red face with his hands, thoroughly embarrassed.
"Why Heero?" he groaned. "He must think me the greatest fool."
"On the contrary," Quatre said with a knowing grin. "I think he likes you."
Duo removed the hands covering his face and asked, "You're serious?"
"I watched as Heero cared for you in the dining hall. He was unusually gentle and his face softened when you leaned against him and he helped you drink the water. I've only seen such a tender expression on Heero's face when he's with Relena."
Quatre's account of what happened earlier that day lightened some of Duo's embarrassment and an unexpected feeling of happiness rose within him, bringing a small smile to his lips. And then it was gone the instant he remembered his anger at the dark haired rider. "No matter how he acted today, he humiliated me on my first day in training," he reminded his friend, reaching for the anger that he'd felt towards the other boy since that incident. "I'm not ready to forgive him."
"Duo." Quatre gave him a look of disappointment. "Surely Heero's apologized, and the bigger man forgives when it's asked of him."
The braided boy gave his friend an odd look, then shook his head. "No, he hasn't. Heero has not said one word about that day nor has he apologized."
"He hasn't?" Quatre asked, surprised.
"No." The braided boy's eyes narrowed. "And don't go running off to Trowa to tell him. I don't want Heero to give me his apology unless it's sincere."
"I'm sure Heero would apologize if he knew you blamed him for your embarrassment. After all, he was just doing what Sims asked of him, and he did control his hit, not intending to hurt you. Is it his fault that your stomach was too full from breakfast? Tell the truth, Duo, you don't really want to stay mad at him, do you? I can tell you like him."
The newest fledgling's eyes widened before narrowing suspiciously at the blond. "How can you tell?"
For a moment, the blond looked startled by the question. His eyes dropped to the blanket beneath him, and in an unusual display of discomfort he replied, "Well, you see, I can sometimes sense the emotions of other people, especially those I closely associate with." He touched the area over his heart, indicating that was where this talent came from. "My mother called it the sensitive touch. She also had the gift and passed it to me at birth. It didn't manifest until I was chosen by Sandrock and it seems to be slowly growing stronger."
The braided boy looked skeptical. "I've heard of people having such gifts, but I thought they were merely tales for entertaining told by traveling traders and bards. You can really do that?" The blond nodded shyly. "So when you say you think Heero likes me, are you sensing it from him or merely guessing?"
The blond tilted his head as he thought about his answer. "Both, I suppose. Heero is more difficult to sense than most people because he keeps such a tight control over his emotions. I think I'd be able to tell if he hated you, and I don't sense that from him at all."
Duo frowned at his friend. "So because you don't sense he hates me, you've decided he likes me?"
The blond smiled and shrugged. "I was right about you, wasn't I? You like Heero."
Duo's face flushed. "I don't know," he admitted, embarrassed yet again. "I'm always aware of his presence, and when his eyes are watching me. I honestly don't understand his interest. I haven't made a very good impression, have I?"
Quatre's eyes lit up with excitement. "I knew you liked him! You realize this is perfect, don't you, Duo? I like Trowa and you like Heero." The blond chuckled and shook his head. "And here I was so worried that you might be attracted to Trowa and I wouldn't have a chance with him."
"Why would you think that?" Duo asked, perplexed by his friend's worry. "It's obvious he likes you in return."
The blond smiled a bit shyly. "You're very handsome, Duo. I've already heard several of the riders of female dragons saying they wouldn't mind if their dragons mated with Wu Fei so they could be your partner."
"Really?" Duo's voice cracked along with his incredulity, causing the blond to snigger.
"Yes, really. You shouldn't be so surprised."
Duo didn't know what to say in reply. He was more than surprised that others would desire him as a mate. It made him feel a bit uncomfortable because he just wasn't ready to think about having a mate yet. Howard had told him several times that he had been a bit slow to mature, but that one day soon his body would crave the touch of another, and then he would yearn for further intimacy. Of course he was curious about how one went about the intimacy between two people and what it would be like. Howard did his best to explain the act of mating, though the older man seemed a bit uncomfortable when addressing the topic, describing how animals mated more easily than the specific details of a man and another man being intimate, or a man with a woman. His mentor ended each awkward conversation by sighing deeply and telling Duo that when the time came nature would be his guide. Howard often admonished Duo to be very selective with who he shared his body. He'd also advised that the joining of one's body with another should not be taken lightly but as a symbol of love and commitment. Duo had every intention of following Howard's advice.
Unbidden, the image of Heero came to the boy's mind. He envisioned the dark haired boy standing up to Zechs in the hallway during their altercation, refusing to let the older rider intimidate him into a physical relationship. Duo couldn't help but feel a grudging respect for the boy who appeared to hold to the same values as Howard with regards to intimacy.
Duo sighed and turned to the other boy. "I'm not ready to think about having a mate yet. I don't have any... experience in having someone like me that way."
"Neither do I," Quatre confessed with a look of longing on his face. "I'm rather afraid that if Trowa ever does decide he likes me and tries to kiss me that I'll be horrible at it. My sisters told me there is an art to kissing and that to drool is the absolute worse thing you can do."
"Really?" Duo blinked, taking in all this friend was saying on the subject of which he had very little information.
A gleam entered the pale blue eyes. "I just had a brilliant idea, Duo."
"Why don't we practice kissing.. with each other. That way we'll know what we're doing when someone comes along who makes our hearts leap within our chests."
"Leap?" Duo questioned, canting his head to the side. "Do you mean how I feel when Wu Fei tucks his wings and dives towards the ground?"
"Well, yes, I think so, at least that's what my sisters say it feels like." The blond looked fairly confident that what his sisters had told him was the truth. "I know my heart does funny things when I'm near Trowa."
Duo frowned. "I don't know, Quatre. I don't want to be hurt like you said Zechs had been. We both have male dragons and can't be mated to each other."
With a shrug of one shoulder, Quatre dismissed his friend's concern. "All we have to do is keep that in mind. We're friends, and I have every intention of Trowa's green choosing Sandrock as her mate. I'm not going to lose sight of that goal. Besides," he continued brightly, "we can agree to what we're willing to try. I for one don't want to... you know, become too intimate."
"I don't want that either," Duo shot back quickly, embarrassed to be discussing this with his new friend. "Howard said that the act of mating should be saved for my mate, that is if a female dragon should choose Wu Fei."
With a question in his eyes, Quatre asked, "Do you agree to practicing with me?"
Worrying his lower lip between his teeth, Duo took a moment to contemplate his friend's suggestion. Would practicing kissing with Quatre hurt anyone? His friend's reasoning seemed sound and, truthfully, Duo didn't want to be found lacking when the time came to kiss his future mate. The memory of kissing the unknown girl in Wu Fei's shed came back to him, accompanied with a feeling of embarrassment when recalling her disappointment at his inability to kiss. Of course he hadn't known what he was doing, and he must have been pretty bad because she had even offered to teach him. He certainly didn't want to be found lacking again, and since neither he nor Quatre knew much about kissing, maybe practicing with each other wasn't such a bad idea after all. Looking up at his friend he asked, "Can we keep it just between us?"
"Absolutely," the blond boy answered eagerly. "Being discreet is essential. I wouldn't want Trowa to think we're a couple and that I don't want him."
"That makes sense," Duo said thoughtfully. He had been thinking more of not being the topic of gossip than of a future mate finding out about his ‘practicing' with his friend.
Quatre smiled nervously and shrugged. "Okay. I take it you agree?"
The blond boy shifted his position on the edge of the bed so that he could lean more comfortably over the boy still lying on his back and looking up at him with eyes filled with trepidation.
"What do you want me to do?" Duo asked, feeling a bit apprehensive.
"Just lie there and I'll initiate the kiss." Quatre cleared his throat and licked his lips, then nervously dried them with his finger tips. "My sister, Tria, said you have to tilt your head to the side in order to keep your noses from bumping." He lowered himself down, bringing his face close to Duo's, both boys eyeing each other. The braided boy's eyes closed slightly and he puckered up his lips in anticipation. "I don't think you‘re supposed to purse your lips together like that, Duo. Just relax them."
Duo nodded and realized the ache in his head had considerably diminished as he turned his focus on what he was about to share with his friend. He jumped slightly, startled when Quatre's warm and soft lips pressed gently against his own and held them together for a moment before parting.
When Duo opened his eyes to gaze up at the boy poised above him, he noted Quatre's dissatisfied frown. "I think it's supposed to be better than that," the blond said thoughtfully. "I used to spy on my sisters with their intendeds. Their lips moved across each others and then they put their tongues into each other's mouths."
Duo's nose crinkled with distaste. "I thought you said drooling was wrong. Can it be helped if you mate tongues with each other?"
"I don't know. I guess we should try," Quatre answered, still looking thoughtful. "Lets try moving our lips against each other's first, then do the tongue mating. Close your eyes."
Duo complied and a moment later his friend's lips were on his own once more. This time kissing did seem more pleasant, and when the blond's tongue pushed between his lips, he opened his mouth and let him in. At first, it was odd, to have another's tongue inside his mouth, with a lingering taste of the meal the other boy had eaten that evening mixing with the soothing mint tea he'd finished before his friend's arrival. Quatre then began to move his lips around and the tongue inside his mouth began exploring and brushed up against his own. Not sure if it was the right thing to do or not, Duo pressed his own tongue against the invading one.
A short while later Quatre sat up and wiped off the spit surrounding his mouth. "I think we need to swallow."
Duo nodded as he too wiped the excess moisture from around his mouth. "It's hard swallowing while lying on my back with your tongue in my mouth."
"We'll just have to practice more in order to get it right," the blond concluded. "I'd be mortified if I spit all over Trowa's face. Do you want to try again?"
"All right, but let me sit up first. Maybe it'll be easier."
Quatre offered his hand and helped the other boy to sit up in his bed. They were sitting close to each other now and their coming together was initially awkward as Quatre followed memories of his sisters and their soon-to-be husbands by putting his arms around Duo and pulling him closer. Their lips touched each others once again, and this time they moved more easily against each others. Quatre's hands shifted and began moving up and down Duo's back in a manner that the braided boy found very pleasing. In return, lifted his own hands to copy the movements and the kiss became more involved. Duo was surprised by how pleasurable this contact with another person was. He felt oddly excited and craved for the affection to continue. In the back of his mind, the thought came to him that he hadn't felt this way with the girl who had kissed him in Ha'ber.
When they broke apart, both boys were breathing a bit heavily. "Much better," Quatre said while catching his breath. "I think that's enough for tonight." He stood and turned so that the slight bulge at the front of his pants was less noticeable and shifted them to a more comfortable position.
"Mmm.. All right," Duo replied, a bit breathless himself.
"See you in the morning." Quatre said disappearing quickly out of the door.
"Goodnight." Duo eased himself back down to rest his head upon his pillow and tucked his arms under the covers and brought his right hand down to touch himself with the hope of easing the ache between his legs. How was it that the kisses he'd shared with his friend had affected his lower body in such a way? His touch only seemed to make the aching worse, so he withdrew his hand, rolled over to his side and blew out the candle, plunging the room into darkness. Opening his link to his dragon, he spoke to Wu Fei of his day and skirted around the particulars of his visit with Sandrock's rider. With a yawn he bid his dragon a good night and quickly fell to sleep, dreaming of soft kisses that left him wanting more.