by Dyna Dee
"Where'd you find them?" Jens asked darkly.
"In one of the hunting lodges." Rolf's deep voice answered. As the guards behind the King's Hands dismounted, it became evident to Heero and his Four that Treize and his Three had been captured.
Dropping Duo's hand, Heero lunged forward to take down his enemy, but found himself rudely and abruptly stopped by Rolf's large arms and hands.
"Let me go!" Heero yelled, frantically fighting the unrelenting hold on him. "I'll kill him. Do you hear me Treize, you are a dead man." he yelled venomously at his cousin who was sitting on his horse, his hands bound behind him, his face a mask of resignation.
"Stay back!" Jens warmed Wufei and Trowa who drew their blades out. "They need to be brought before the King for justice to be served!" he urgently reasoned with the them.
Quatre, watching and feeling the reactions of those around him to the new arrivals, moved closer to stand by Duo, but knew better than to touch him.
Treize observed all that was happening as he sat on his horse above them looking no worse for the month-long chase from the King's men. He did, however, look drawn and serious, his eyes rested on his cousin straining against the King's Hand. He and the others were then helped down from their mounts by the guards that had captured them, then they were brought to stand a few feet behind the King's Hands.
Heero continued to strain against his uncle's hold, heedless of Rolf's and Jens' pleas for him to calm down.
While Treize stood straight, his face a mask lacking emotion, Une and Noin stood to the side, heads bowed in apparent shame. Zech's stood with his back straight and his head held high, a sneer on his face as he observed the commotion, then his gaze stopped as his eyes lit on the braided boy.
"Well, I see you got your pretty boy back." The tall blonde grinned, his voice deep and amused. "You don't mind used good, do you?" He asked the prince snidely.
"Shut up, Zechs." Treize snapped at his Heart who stood behind him and to the side.
It was Trowa who managed to react first, dropping his sword, he flew through the air, his foot connecting with the tall blonde's unprotected stomach. As his target doubled over, the livid green-eyed boy hit Zechs on the side of his face with his left and then his right fists.
"Trowa!" Jens grabbed hold of the boy from behind by both arms and struggled to pull him back and away from Treize's Heart.
It was then that the King, flanked by Terrell and Thad entered the scene.
"Make him shut up!" Trowa uncharacteristically yelled as he strained against the firm hold on his arms.
"Enough!" the King commanded, his voice like thunder. His blue eyes studied each person involved in the skirmish. "We will take this matter inside and deal with it properly."
Zechs straightened up, blood streaming from his nose. His eyes focused dangerously on Trowa, but then shifted back to Duo, a smug look grew on his face. "We've come to claim you again, pretty boy." his voice was leering and threatening.
Wufei raised his drawn sword and calmly moved to place it at Zech's throat. His eyes narrowed with simmering anger and his voice, when he spoke, was cold and deadly. "Shut your mouth now, or die bound like a stuck swine." he warned darkly.
"Duo!" Quatre called out and all eyes turned quickly to the braided boy. His eyes were wide with terror and his body trembled violently.
"Let me go Rolf." Heero demanded urgently. The King's Hands looked for permission from the King, and receiving it, released his hold on the prince.
Heero rushed to his Fourth, but before he could reach him, Duo's eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed onto the ground.
The Prince quickly picked him up and turned to face his cousin and his Three, Duo cradled limply in his arms, his head falling listlessly to the side. "What you've done to him is unforgivable, cousin. What you've done to me and my Four is unpardonable. Prepare yourself for what is to come." he warned solemnly. He shifted Duo's dead weight to a more comfortable position and turned his back on the prisoners, returning to the castle and to his chambers with his Three following closely behind.
The Prince of Bronwyn gently lay his Heart down on their shared bed. He soothed back the hair from his face and placed a gentle kiss on his brow. Straightening, he turned and walked to his Three who stood waiting anxiously by the door. "I want you to go down and see that nothing is said or done until I can be present." he requested of them. The three nodded and turned to go when a high pitched sound came from the bed. All four turned instantly to see Duo had curled up on his side and into a tight ball. The sound was a high-pitched keening that came from the braided boy as he rocked himself.
Heero ran immediately to be at his side. "Duo?" he called out alarmed, and reached a hesitating hand out to touch him. The mournful sound grew louder as the prince placed his hand on his Heart's shoulder. "Duo." he whispered softly this time. The four apprehensively watching the boy were alarmed when a loud, agonized scream came from the trembling boy as he scurried away across the bed and away from Heero's touch. The sound and look of his terror was heart wrenching to the others who stood unsure and mute, unable and now afraid to respond to their Fourth's cries.
"Duo!" Heero whispered desperately, fear written in his own eyes. His fear of losing his Heart made him put aside reason as he instinctively reach out a timid hand to touch the terrified boy.
"No, no, no, no, no. Don't hurt me any more, don't touch me." Duo begged from his curled up position as he gasped for a breath, sobbing, his eyes wide but unfocused and apparently unseeing.
"Duo, Duo please. It's me, Heero." The prince tried again, desperately needing to reach the other boy who was locked in a nightmare. He moved as close to his Fourth as possible without touching him. Gentling his voice and his raging emotions, the prince spoke softly. "Duo, it's Heero. Your home, safe. They can never hurt you again. It's Heero, Duo. Heero."
The braided boy continued to cry in anguish, his face buried in the blanket he'd pulled up to clutch in his hands. The prince lay next to him, constantly speaking in hushed, warm tones all the words of safety, love, and comfort he hoped would help calm the traumatized boy.
Slowly, the crying ebbed as Duo tired.
"I love you, Duo. I love you." Heero said quietly, feeling quite tired himself from the emotional drain of the mornings events.
Calming even more, it appeared that Duo might have gone to sleep. Only small, sporadic hitching breaths came as a result from crying came from the curled up form. Heero chanced a glance away from Duo to look at his other three. They had been silent in his mind during the whole ordeal, and he needed to reassure himself that they were alright. All three looked shaken and as uncertain as he felt. Quatre was slightly bent over, clutching at his chest and tears freely falling down his pale cheeks. Trowa had his arm around him, trying to lend him some comfort, though he too was not unaffected by Duo's cries. Wufei's watery eyes were steadfastly focused on the two on the bed.
//Go. I'll be down soon.// he told them silently through the bond and, reluctantly, they obeyed.
Turning his attention back to Duo, Heero lay down next to him. He was inwardly torn between staying here, where he was needed, and going to confront those who had hurt Duo so badly. Justice would be served this day, he had no doubt.
His attention was caught as the braided head raised up from it's tucked position. Large, violet shaded eyes were red and wet with tears as he stared at the prince, studying him.
"Heero?" he whispered, his voice weak and uncertain.
Tears welled in the Prince's eyes. "Yes, Duo. It's me." he answered happily and moved to embrace his love, returned to him once more.
"No, don't touch me!" Duo gasped and shrank away. Then seeing the look of dismay and hurt on the Prince's face, he curled up again. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." he repeated several times.
"It's all right, Duo. There's nothing for you to be sorry about."
Duo shook his head violently. "I tried... I really did try to stop them..., but I couldn't. They h.. h.. held me d.. d.. down and I couldn't ss..s..top what was happening to me." he whimpered with obvious humiliation and pain that the memory caused.
"Shhh, it's okay Duo. It's not your fault. I'm not angry with you. I love you, Duo. I'm just so glad your back." Heero gave his Heart a watery smile, hoping to prove his words to the fragile boy.
"They hurt me, Heero." he whimpered pitifully. "It hurt so bad. Then Zechs..." Duo turned his head and began to cry again, yet this time more weakly as he was emotionally exhausted.
"Shhh." Heero soothed, wishing he could hold Duo to comfort him. He slowly moved from off the bed and went to his dressing table where he poured water from the pitcher into a cup, then removing a pouch from a small chest sitting on top of the table, he sprinkled a powder substance into it. Taking it up, he returned to the bed. "Here Duo, drink this. It will help you to feel better."
It took a few moments for the boy to respond, but he slowly pulled himself up to sit and wipe away the tears. He sniffled as he took the cup from Heero's hand and slowly sipped from it.
"Bitter." he commented, wrinkling his nose. "Why are Wufei's herbs always bitter?" he asked dispassionately.
"If you drink it faster, it might be easier to stomach." Heero gently suggested.
Duo followed the prince's instructions, and soon handed back the empty cup. Turning his head, the braided, red eyed boy studied his surroundings. His eyebrows drew together as he frowned. "I don't remember coming here. How did I get back? he asked. "It's been a while hasn't it?" Duo was full of questions as his confused mind tried to reason out what he couldn't remember. "I think I would be in much more pain if it had happened recently." he reasoned aloud.
"It's been a few days shy of a month." Heero explained to him. "Trowa was knocked unconscious as Treize and Zechs carried you from your room. When he came to, he set out immediately to find you, and he did."
In response, Duo covered his face with his hands and began to rock as the memories returned.
"We've been taking care of you ever since, Duo. Do you remember anything? You seemed unaware of most things during your healing time, and you wouldn't or couldn't speak. Did you know I was with you all the time?" Heero asked in earnest.
Duo looked up, clearly perplexed. "I don't know. I.... I feel like I've been dreaming. I remember images, but every time I began to see things clearly, a part of me screamed to run and hide. I didn't want to hurt anymore." He looked up into the Prince's face, so close to his own. "I remember dreaming of touching you, your hair and face. It gave me comfort to look into your eyes." A tear slid down his cheek. "I remember a piece of bread, and I think I dreamed of touching Shinni, and something about Charlie." he gaze looked unfocused as he tried to recall all the quick images he was remembering.
Suddenly, his eyes opened wide in horror. He reached forward and pulled himself onto Heero's chest, his arms wrapping tightly around the Prince's neck. "His voice," Duo shuddered as he began to cry again. "it pulled me back to the stable yard. He said he came to claim me."
The need to put his arms around his Fourth and assure him he was safe was overwhelming, and it took all his strength of will to resist, knowing Duo would probably be frightened.
"He was lying, Duo. Taunting me and the others at your expense. He has no claim to you. You were taken forcibly."
"He... he can't take me away from you?" Duo asked with a sniff and a slight hiccup at the end of his sentence.
"Duo, can you look at me for a moment." Heero's voice turned serious. The question that had been plaguing him the entire month he'd cared for Duo needed to now be asked.
Reluctantly, the still trembling boy pushed back from the comfort and warmth of Heero's chest and he looked up into Heero's serious blue eyes.
"Are you bonded to Treize?" he asked quietly. "I know he forced himself on you, but, was he successful in bonding to you?"
Duo face collapsed as his emotions gave way again and Heero's heart nearly broke for the pain he was in it.
"I don't know." he managed to get out. "I don't really know what the bonding is, but..." he wiped furiously at his eyes. "I know he wasn't happy and kept saying it didn't take. He ...did...that to me several times, saying he would bind me to him if it killed him. And Zechs..." he spat out his name in disgust. "he kept goading him, encouraging him. I begged them to stop Heero....begged them to." he bowed his head in shame as he shoulders shook with emotions not willing to be pent up any longer.
"Can you hear Treize's voice in your head?" Heero asked. "It might start out as a faint whisper, but if you're bonded, you should be able to hear or feel what he's feeling. Right now, he's probably feeling intimidated and maybe frightened."
The boy before him calmed slightly and closed his eyes, then shook his head. "No... I don't feel anything by my own fear and anger." he whispered, unsure of himself.
"They will be punished, Duo. And even if you were bonded to him. I wouldn't let you go. You're my Heart. I could never let you go." Heero promised, and even as he spoke, he noticed Duo's eyelids drooping and his body slumped slightly.
"I know you don't like to be touched, Duo." he said softly. "But lie down here, and if you want to hold me, I'll stay until you're sleeping."
Barely able to look up, Duo nodded and lowered himself down, mirrored by Heero. He scooted over and fit himself up against the Prince, and placed his head to rest on his shoulder. Drifting off to sleep, his arm came to rest on top of the chest of the one person he trusted.
Heero listened until the his Fourth's breathing slowed. "Rest well." he whispered, and kissed the top of the chestnut head before easing out from under his head and arm and moved off the bed. He covered him with a blanket then paused to gazed down on the boy he was destined to love more than anyone else in the world, and then his anger began to well up within him. Turning on his heel, he made for the door with a determined step. Justice was about to be served.