by Dyna Dee
The sound of his rapidly beating heart suddenly seemed loud and impossibly slow in his ears as he made his move. Each inhale and exhale of breath sounded as if his head were a hollow cave with the tide moving in and out.
Resolute, he used his one last burst of strength, using both hands to thrust his sword, clashing in a brutal contest of strength with the other's, and overpowered his smaller opponent, throwing Wufei back several feet,
giving him the one moment he needed to secure his freedom.
He threw his body to the right, and still, the world around him seemed to move in slow motion, as if time held its breath for what would come.
His eyes fixed on the small blonde as his arms reached out towards the smaller boy whose eyes widened in shock and fear as Zech's intentions became clear.
A blur of movement out of the corner of his eye brought him to the realization that Wufei was onto his scheme.
A pain, sharp and piercing penetrated his chest, and his eyes turned to fix onto those intense black orbs of his opponent's that reflected his failure, the end of all his efforts, and continued to bore into him even as they both hit the floor.
Wufei's sword struck the taller man's blade back with apparent ease. Zechs was tiring, and at times had a look of panic in his eyes. His sharp eyes noticed his opponents glance and that he purposely backed away from his katana in the direction of Quatre. "There's no way." he murmured to himself and brought his sword up again with even more determination that when he started.
They battled furiously for another few moments when Zechs made his move. Grunting with effort as he used both hand to push his sword with all his might against the katana, and successfully forced Wufei back a few feet. Then taking his last chance, he lunged to his right towards the unsuspecting blonde boy. Wufei followed in an instant, and having anticipated his move, he launched himself through the air, paralleling Zechs, and while airborne and in the blink of an eye, he twisted his body, bringing his sword up, and slid it to its hilt through the falling man's ribs and heart, the bloody blade exiting out through his back. The tall blonde fell to the ground, his hands instinctively following the plan set forth by his determined brain by tightly clutching the thighs of Heero's Third, knocking him to the ground even as the tall blond man, known as Treize's Heart exhaled his last breath.
"Quatre!" Heero and Trowa's voices called out in fear.
The blonde boy fought in panic to free him self of the Zech's death grasp, and once free, scurried out backwards on his hands feet from under and away from the dying man, his blue eyes were wide with fear and revulsion. "I'm alright." He reassured Trowa and Heero in a shaky voice as they rushed to his side.
Trowa grabbed hold of the smaller boy and pulled him up off the floor and into his protective embrace. His body trembling from the fear of what might have happened if Zechs had succeeded in his last minute attempt to escape his sentence.
Heero and the King stood in front of the others present in the room, all silently watching over the mortally wounded man whose body convulsed several times before it slumped into death's everlasting embrace. Justice had been served.
Wufei had risen to his feet and quickly, and with a brief glance assured himself that Quatre was safe, then stood to solemnly watch his opponent die. Heero then came to his side and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. At Zechs' stillness, Wufei bent to turn the body over and remove his sword embedded deeply into the belly of the dead man. His eyes then turned to see Treize and his Two standing silently with their heads bowed, mourning what once was, and that it was now forever gone.
The King and Queen turned from the scene of death to resume their seats at the front of the throne room, the others following. Heero quickly examined his First to make sure he was well before he moved to join them to finish the task at hand.
"Treize." the King began again bringing everyone's attention back to him. "You've admitted your guilt to taking the Prince's Fourth and abusing him against his will, perverting the gift of the Druids. Your punishment will be the loss of your lands, title, and your remaining Two. You will drink the same elixir that was your father's punishment, nephew, and it will erase the bond you share with your remaining two and leave you incapable of bonding again. You are hereby exiled to the far north to join your father. If you live out your days there in peace, never returning to Bronwyn, your land and title will be given to your oldest child, should you have one, at his maturity."
The King's nephew bowed his head knowing he was receiving the same sentence his father had years ago when he had attacked the crown. He was heartsick to know he had truly followed in his father's sad footsteps, though he'd vowed he never would.
The King turned to the two women who stood at Treize's side. "Noin and Une, you are guilty by association and are hereby sentenced to a year of service here at Castle Bronwyn. If, after that time, you choose to return to Treize in the far North, you may, though you will no longer be bonded to him. If you chose not to seek him, you will be free to return to your former homes."
Both women nodded, accepting the lenient judgment. Une alone turned her head to look longingly to Treize.
"Are you satisfied, my son?" the King asked, looking at the boy seated next to him.
Heero closed his eyes and sighed. "Yes, it is just." he said and rose to his feet. "If you'll excuse me, I need to return to my chambers." He turned to face his concerned parents. "Duo's memory has returned as well as his ability to speak. He is.....very distraught, and I need to be with him."
The King stood and put his hand on his son's shoulder. "It's a good sign, isn't it?" he asked, hope in his eyes.
"I believe so father. But I'm sure the road before us will be rough indeed." Heero replied tiredly. He then moved forward to place a brief kiss on his mother's cheek, and without a backward glance at his cousin or the dead man on the floor, he turned and left the room, his Three trailing closely behind.
The four young men entered the Prince's bedchamber to find the Fourth still deeply asleep. "I'm tired." Heero told his Three, his voice and slump of his shoulders attesting the fact. "I think I'll rest a while."
His Three nodded and move to leave the room.
"Wufei?" Heero called out, and the boy still bloodied from his recent battle turned around. "After you've removed Zech's blood from off of you, please come back and rest with me." With a slight bow, his Hands agreed and quickly left the room.
A short while later, the Prince's First entered the bedchamber again. Duo was still asleep in the same position he was earlier. Heero lay next to him careful not to touch the slumberer. Heero watched Wufei enter and motioned for him to come lay by his other side. Removing his shoes, the black haired boy climbed up onto the large bed, the same one that he had once shared with Heero during his time of bonding, and soon found himself enveloped in the Prince's arms.
"I knew you could best Zechs," Heero whispered into his ear, "but I was still fearful for your well being. Thank you for giving us justice."
Wufei wrapped his arms across the Prince and held tightly to him. "I am honored to be your Hands." he replied in all honesty. Raising his head, his eyes met his Prince's a moment before Heero captured his lip in a searing kiss that thoroughly expressed his feelings for his First. As they broke away to catch their breaths, Heero held him tightly against his side and they lay in silence, contemplating all that had happened that day.
"What did Duo say?" Wufei asked after some time and knowing that sleep eluded the prince as well as it did himself.
"He remembers, and it was as horrible for him as Treize and Noin's accounts stated. He couldn't bring himself to speak of Zech's part, though." he paused, swallowing hard to hold back his own emotions. "His sorrow and tears are hard to bear, Wufei. And he won't let me touch him. I'm not sure how I'm going to comfort him."
Wufei's hand pulled up and around his prince. "We're here for you Heero, and for Duo. Know that you can come to me at anytime that you have a need. I may not be your Heart, but I love you." he said solemnly.
"I love you, too." Heero whispered. "Thank you my First, my Hands."
Soon the strong emotions they had felt that day gave way to emotional and physical exhaustion, allowing the two boys clinging together to fall to sleep, even as the third boy on the bed next to them slept curled tightly into himself.
The Prince of Bronwyn's prediction came true as difficult days and nights passed slowly in the lives of the Prince and his Four. With painstaking care and gentleness, Duo slowly eased out of his initial fear and distrust of almost everything and everyone. He began to enjoy the company of his friends, though he was still very uncomfortable with being touched in any way and easily startled by sudden movement or loud noises. He was also reluctant to leave the Prince's chambers.
His belongings had been brought to the Prince's bedchamber and he slept nightly by Heero's side, sometimes pressed up next to him, and other times as far away as the large bed would allow.
He was told the fate of Treize and Zechs and that he no longer need fear them. When he had the occasion of seeing Noin or Une doing various chores about the castle, he would lapse into silence for a time, withdrawing into himself. That had happened on several occasions until one day, when Duo had been coaxed into joining the court for the evening meal, Noin cautiously approached him from behind as he sat next to Heero at their table.
"Master Duo?" she called out tentatively. He turned to look at her and froze. His hand wildly and blindly reached for Heero's hand.
Noin looked to the Prince for his permission to continue. With a look of wariness he nodded, even as his hand firmly clutched his Heart's.
"I'm sorry for disturbing you," she began and knelt down beside the bench so her height wouldn't intimidate him. "but I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for what happened to you. Une and I were horrified by it, but felt helpless to stop it. I hope that one day, you can forgive us. We never wished you harm."
She looked up at the pained violet eyes and felt the familiar flow of tear begin to coarse down her left cheek. At the sight of it, something in the braided boy's eyes changed.
"You're truly sorry?" he asked quietly.
"From my heart." she replied through her tears. "Une is too, but she's too ashamed to approach you. I do this for the both of us."
Duo reached out his hand and a hesitant finger captured a falling tear. "I forgive you, both of you." he whispered and felt Heero's hand squeeze his in approval.
Noin captured his hand that held her tear and cried into it as he watched confused. "Thank you." she sniffled. "Now, if we can only forgive ourselves."
"This is a start." Heero said from behind his Heart. "If Duo can forgive you, then so shall we all."
Noin's wet face lifted away from Duo's hand to look up at Heero over his shoulder. "Thank you, Your Highness." she managed a weak smile and turned to all those at the table who watched the interaction between the three. She then rose and with a slight curtsey, resumed her duties.
"Well done, my Heart." Heero smiled at Duo and held onto the hand that was so infrequently offered. Duo smiled shyly in return.
Slowly, things began to change after that. Duo reached out more often for Heero's hand, and at night, he snuggled close for warmth and comfort. Everyone commented that the Fourth's smile showed a promise of returning.
One night before sleep over took them, Duo rested his head against the Prince's shoulder, his arm flung over his chest. "Heero?" he called out softly.
"Does Trowa hate me because of what they did to me?" he asked, and the braided boy felt the Prince's body stiffen in reaction to his question.
"Why would you think that?" he asked, stunned at the question. "Of course he doesn't hate you."
"But things are not the same between us." Duo said sadly.
"Are they the same with anyone of us, Duo?" Heero questioned thoughtfully. "What happened to you changed all of us. Not a one of us is the same because of it, even myself, or you." He paused a moment before a thought came to his mind. "You don't think I hate you, do you?" There was a slight tone of uncertainty in his voice.
"No, I know you don't hate me." Duo replied quietly. "If you did, I wouldn't be here, and you wouldn't put up with all my foolishness."
"It's not foolishness." Heero gently corrected him, and his hand came up to gently take up the troubled boy's braid and caressed it with his fingers. "What happened to you was horrific, and it's going to take time for you to overcome it, for all of us to over come it. But tell me, why do you think Trowa hates you?" he asked.
"He doesn't act the same." the singer replied as he pulled himself closer to the warm body he derived so much comfort from. "He's stiff and cold around me....kinda withdrawn. He never looks me in the eye anymore." he said sadly. "It's as if he's ashamed of me."
"No, Duo! No!" Heero said, shocked at what his Fourth had perceived from Trowa's behavior, and knowing he had to correct his Heart's wrong assumption. "Duo, may I hold you while I try to explain?" he asked. It had been torture from the start for him to lie still with his arms at his side while Duo draped himself over and around him each night. He was grateful for the touch, signaling his Fourths returning trust, but he had learned that if he touched him without permission, Duo would flinch and quickly move away to sleep at the edge of the bed, as far away from him as possible, leaving the prince to wonder if they'd ever be able to get past his fear and be able to bond.
"A..a...all right." the braided boy answered obviously unsure as he constantly struggled between his fear and desire to be touched.
With extreme gentleness and caution, the Prince pulled the braided boy into his arms and held him as close as he could without frightening him further.
Slowly, Duo responded by raising his arms and encircling them around Heero's neck, his face pressed against his neck. He felt warm and safe. Impulsively, he pressed his lips to Heero's skin.
Heero moaned in reply, loving the feel and touch of his Heart. "This is the happiest I've felt all day." he murmured into the soft chestnut brown hair.
"Me too." Duo spoke with his lips still against Heero's neck. "Trowa?" he reminded him.
Heero nodded. "He's not ashamed of you, Duo, and he certainly doesn't hate you." He began. "He blames himself for what happened to you, because he couldn't stop Treize and Zechs from taking you."
Duo raised his head up to look into Heero's face, his own bore the look of bewilderment. "Didn't you say Une knocked him out as he challenged them?"
"I don't blame him. Trowa tried to help me."
"Maybe he needs to hear it from you." Heero rationalized aloud. "I've told him repeatedly that he is blameless, but I can see he still berates himself over this.
"Then I'll speak with him in the morning." Duo yawned and lay his head back down on the Princes' shoulder. In a few moments, the breathing of both boys slowed and evened out as they drifted to sleep, still entwined contentedly.
The interview between Duo and Trowa went well the next day. Duo stood in front of Trowa and told him he was not responsible for what had happened. That he was in fact blameless. Trowa broke down, burying his face in his hands and his shoulders shook as his pent up emotions soundlessly overwhelmed him.
Duo stood vacillating a moment, then hesitantly raised his arms slowly and slightly trembling brought them up around Trowa's shoulders and loosely held him in an effort to try and comfort his friend. He stiffened when the taller boy brought his arms up and tightly embraced him back, bowing his taller frame over to fit his head to rest on Duo's shoulder.
"I'm sorry, Duo. I should have been able to stop them." Trowa choked out, trying with all his might to hold back his emotions.
"I'm sure you would have, if you hadn't been hit from behind." the braided boy assured him.
"I'll never let you down again, Duo. I promise." The Prince's Eyes pledged with a final squeeze before pulling back.
The braided boy looked up with gentle eyes and a slight smile. "Then let go of your guilt and be my friend again."
Trowa's hands came up and brushed aside the long strands of hair away from the heart shaped face, studying the beauty on the outside and marveling at the beauty within.
Duo fought down his urge to pull away as Trowa's face lowered to his upturned one and placed a gentle, non-evasive kiss to his lips, lingering for just a moment before pulling back. Both boys smiled at each other, a gap had been bridged, fear and guilt were partially overcome.
That proved to be yet another turning point for the Prince and his Four. Duo's trust and tolerance of the other boys' touch became more apparent. Each day he seemed to feel more comfortable with them as long as their touch and short caresses stayed affectionate and not intimate. The camaraderie they had known before the kidnaping as slowly returning. The Three no longer felt the need to guard their every word or actions around Duo as he became more familiar with them once more.
The Prince was pleased. Not only by this progress amongst his Four, but with his Heart's increasing trust and willingness to allow him to touch and hold him now without permission. Duo was indeed, healing from his ordeal.
Still mindful to proceed slowly, the Prince began with the first steps of the bonding cycle. Each step towards their increased intimacy was taken cautiously and proceeded slowly until Duo became comfortable. This slow progression proved to be extremely frustrating to the Prince of Bronwyn. His desire for the boy was superceded only by the need for his Heart to feel at ease with his touch and advances. The last thing he wanted was for Duo to be afraid of him.
Winter came and passed, and the Prince's late nights visits to the other Three helped to constrain his growing passion and desire for his skittish Heart. Spring emerged and passed into summer, and so it happened that nine months passed as Heero worked to prepare his Fourth for their bonding, a much longer time than was usually necessary before a bonding was to take place. Yet even with the extra time, Duo was still exhibiting signs that he wasn't ready.
One warm, late summer afternoon as Heero passed some free time relaxing on the bed with his Fourth in their bedchamber, he felt pleased with the progress he had made that week. Duo lay on his back with his shirt open, his chest bared. While thoroughly kissing the soft pliant lips beneath his, Heero had slowly been able to untie the laces of his Heart's britches, the waist was now pulled down to mid-thigh. The boy's hair lay unbound about him, his eyes were closed as he moaned his pleasure under the prince's gentle and constant touch to his flesh. "Heero." the whisper of his name was said breathlessly and filled with the passion and desire he'd wanted to hear for so long.
The Prince lay alongside his Fourth still fully clothed, with exception that his own shirt was untied and open. It had taken a lot of time, patience, and frustration to get Duo to this point, and to hear his name called out with such desire was almost enough to break his resolve to hold back. For several weeks he had tried to proceed to the next level of intimacy, but each time Duo's fears always surfaced, causing a halt to any progress. Now that Heero had him fully aroused and in a state of wanting, he tried yet again. Pulling the slender boy to his side and into his arms, he kissed him deeply, feeling Duo melt against him and moaning his pleasure into his mouth. The Prince let his hand trail under the fabric of Duo's shirt and down the slim back now healed from past abuses, to his narrow hips. After circling the small globes of his bottom, he trailed his finger along the crevice towards the puckered opening he sought. With a gasp, Duo's body suddenly stiffened and recoiled back from the questing hand, his former state of arousal was now a state of panic.
"Duo." Heero growled his frustration at another failed attempt, and without thought, he pushed at Duo's shoulders to roll himself away from his Heart and move over towards the edge of the bed to leave it. Even though he had remained fully clothed, the Prince had been highly aroused himself at the sight, feel, and sounds of his Fourth. If he didn't remove himself immediately, he might not be able to stop as Duo's body had begged him to.
Without looking behind, he walked to the table against the far wall and poured himself a drink of water, willing himself to calm down.
Suddenly, a warning from Quatre flared in his mind and Heero whipped around in alarm. With dismay he saw that Duo had curled himself up into a tight ball, still in a state of being half undressed and his body shook with his silent sobs.
Quatre relayed Duo's feeling of rejection and hurt. Moving quickly to the bed Heero climbed back on, gathering his Fourth into his arms. "I'm sorry, Duo. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you feel like this." he rushed to explain. "I was just frustrated and needed to move away quickly so I could stop."
The long haired boy clung tightly to him. "I'm sorry, Heero. I'm trying. I really am. But, I...I can't help it." Duo's voice hitched. "All the bad memories come back when you touch me there." he wept, tears wetting Heero's shirt.
"Shhh, I know." the Prince soothed him as he held tightly to the trembling body. "But we have to, somehow, breach this fear or we will never be bonded."
Duo's head nodded. "I know..... I'm trying."
Heero pulled away only to pull the other's pants up and re-tie the lacings, then did the same with his shirt. When he was once more fully clothed, the Prince pulled Duo back into his arms.
They lay together in silence, letting their emotions ebb. Duo pulled himself as close as he could to him, his face tucked into Heero's neck as he inhaled the scent and feel of the royal Prince before he spoke. "Will it always hurt, like it did ....before?" he asked timidly, a trace of fear in his voice.
"No, it won't." Heero answered. Then stopped to think about it. He had always been the taker, not at the receiving end of the bonding. "Maybe you could talk to the others to see how they felt. But from my vantage point, they may have experienced a slight discomfort, but it was always followed by great pleasure." he assured him.
"You don't know?" Duo asked a bit disbelieving.
"No," Heero shrugged. "I've always taken, because that's how the bonding works. I've never had anyone take me."
"Then how can you know how it feels?" Duo questioned with a frown and drying his tears with the back of his sleeve. "Maybe it does always hurt."
Heero found that he had no answer for his Heart. "I always thought the others would tell me if I hurt them." he reasoned. "I've never heard a complaint." he added.
"Are you always bonding?" Duo asked. "Is it a continuous thing that you always need to be the taker?"
"No." Heero's brows drew together, not quite sure where Duo was going with this line of questioning. "I'm as bonded as I'll ever be to the other three. If I lie with them it is for pleasure and a strengthening of that bond, but no, the bonding is complete."
"Are you allowed to have it done to you?"
Heero's head tilted to the side as he thought about it. He'd never been told he couldn't be taken, only that he had to take his chosen companions in order to bond with them. The others had always assumed, as had he, that it was the only way. "I don't think it's forbidden." he said, and then an idea occurred to him.
"Duo," he cupped the other boy's heart-shaped face with his hands, locking their eyes on each other. "Would you be willing to take me?" he asked anxiously, his heart began to beat rapidly at the thought. "That way you and I will both know if there's a lot of pain. I promise that I'll be honest with you about what I feel."
Duo's eyes grew wide with surprise and fright. "I... I don't know, Heero. I don't know what to do. Wufei or one of the others would at least know what to do." he reasoned.
"I'll tell you what to do. I've certainly done it enough to know how to go on about it." he urged, hoping to convince him. He was quickly becoming aroused with the visions flashing in his mind of the boy he'd wanted for so long, poised intimately above him, his incredible eyes filled with passion as he took him. A shudder of delightful anticipation coursed through him at the thought. Maybe, if he could prove to Duo there was more pleasure than pain, he could help him overcome the last obstacle to their joining. He searched Duo's face seeing doubt and fear. "Please." he whispered, hoping it didn't sound too much like begging.
"All right, I'll try." Duo said with a definite lack of confidence in his voice and eyes.