Disclaimer: I don't own nor profit from my GW stories

Warnings: Yaoi, some language, mild angst, possible NCS

Second Chances
Part 11
by Dyna Dee

Sunday morning brought not only another beautiful spring day, but also the traditional weekly brunch that was shared by the Milliardo Peacecraft family. With his plate filled with eggs, bacon and a baguette slathered with orange marmalade, the adopted son of the family leaned heavily on his upraised left hand, his elbow on the table next to his plate while his other hand held his fork that idly moved though his mostly untouched food.

Duo shifted his sore bottom on the cushioned chair. He'd forgotten about this part of making love, but took some slight comfort in knowing that Heero was at the palace experiencing the exact feelings of discomfort that he was. He sighed, deeply wistful; it had been a long, satisfying night for both of them.

His mind rolled back over the events of the night before with a smile that was nothing short of blissful on his face. He and Heero had barely made it into the bedroom after a rushed meal of a half-cooked cheese omelet and limp, barely toasted bread, and in their haste, the dirty dishes were left neglected in the sink. They burst through the bedroom door, lips fervently locked together and hands busy undressing each other. Of course, that task wasn't difficult considering they still wore only their swim trunks and tee-shirts.

The large, king-size bed was inviting and perfectly situated under the large skylight that slid open by remote to allow the night air and the sounds of the crickets and frogs to float into the master bedroom. It was the perfect setting for their lovemaking. The complete, un-obstructive view of millions of stars in the night sky above them was the romantic canopy of their bed as they re-explored each other hearts and bodies and made full use of the enormous mattress.

They both knew at the onset of their first round of lovemaking in three years that it was destined to be short. Once Heero possessed him, it was only a matter of moments before they both came, calling out each other's name.

After a quick clean up, both lay content in each other's arms, listening to nature's song of the night and lulled into a light sleep by the beat of each other's contented heartbeats.

Duo woke several hours later, already feeling the soreness that accompanied their coupling, but determined not to let that stop him from any more pleasure. He began to nibble on Heero's neck and, once he was sure his lover was awake, he worked his own magical spell on his always ready-for-action bed partner. To his surprise, Heero turned the tables and offered himself up to him; something that had never been asked for or volunteered in the past. Duo had always dreamed of taking Heero, but the former Wing pilot had always taken the dominant position, no questions asked other than permission to do so. He felt hesitant, but only for a moment before he accepted the gift Heero was offering him, realizing his lover was once again showing him how much he had changed. Their second bout of lovemaking managed to go a bit longer than the first and, in the end, it came to the same wonderful and mind-blowing conclusion.

"Max!" A sharp but laughing female voice brought Duo out of his reverie.

He blinked and looked up, appearing confused. May was staring at him looking amused and baffled.

"What is the matter with you? I called your name several times. Talk about being zoned out." The girl smirked, a look much like her brother's usual expression.

He blushed and straightened from his slumped-over position. "Sorry May," he apologized. "What did you need?"

"I was asking if you met any girls at the pool yesterday. I saw a lot of cute guys, but Marcus pretty much scared them away."

"No, other than Relena I didn't meet any other girls," he answered a bit nervously. He sensed that he and his sister were about to have the dreaded but unavoidable discussion that was bound to happen if he stayed with Heero.

"Then where were you last night?" she asked innocently, just before she popped a fork full of scrambled eggs into her mouth.

"Heero wanted to show me his house after we left the slides." He shifted a bit and winced at the lingering ache. "It's up in the hills above Sanq and it was too late to come back down, so I spent the night there."

"Heero has a house?" Lucretia asked, looking as surprised as Duo had been. Yet the person to whom the question was asked looked to Milliardo who gave him a knowing and slightly disappointed look and a shake of his head.

Ignoring it for the moment, Duo answered the question with obvious enthusiasm. "He designed it himself. You should see it, it's perfect. It up on the mountains behind Sanq and overlooks the city. It's really isolated and fits into the hillside beautifully. At night you can see all the stars in the sky." He couldn't help the sigh that escaped his lips. "Heero has quite a talent." He smiled at his honest praise of his lover.

"I just can't picture Heero in a home of his own," Lucretia said with a pleased smile at the thought of it. "Good for him."

"Why did he build a home that's so isolated?" Milliardo asked.

There was a pause as Duo thought about what answer to give. But he had said to Heero, as a condition for having any future together, that they not be embarrassed of their relationship. If he now spoke anything but the truth, he would be dishonest to not only his family, but to Heero. These were the people he loved and trusted, and they deserved nothing but the truth from him. That decided, he answered his adopted father. "He built it for me, so that if I ever came back I would have a home to go to." Having answered the question, Duo cautiously studied the faces of the people who meant as much to him as Heero did for their reaction.

May blinked in confusion. "But you have a home Max, why would your friend build one for you?"

Duo looked from her to their adoptive parents for guidance.

"You might as well tell her Max or she'll find out some other way," Milliardo advised, his face giving an expression of seriousness, and looking to Lucretia, she nodded her head that she agreed.

The young girl who had been his sister for the last three years looked to him expectantly with a trace of worry and fear on her face, probably imagining the worse case scenario, he thought.

"It's not a bad thing May." He rushed to ease whatever horrible thing she'd conjured up in her mind. "It's just that before I became a part of this family," he paused, obviously nervous. He decided to try another tract. "You know what I was during the war, right?"

The red headed girl nodded. "You were a gundam pilot from the colonies," she replied.

"That's right." He gave her a small smile. "Well, during the war..." He hesitated, then started again. "Before I came home from the Celebration Party with Mill and Lu I was in love with someone."

The pretty teen furrowed her brow as she took in what was being said. "But, you were so sad and lonely when you came to be part of our family." Her eyes widened. "Did she die?"

"No," Duo replied, realizing he wasn't doing a very good job of explaining what he meant. "I was basically running away after being hurt. No one but you three and Lady Une knew where I'd gone."

"So this person you loved hurt you?" she asked with a frown marring her pretty face.

"Yes, along with my other friends," Duo replied.

"And you still love her?"

Duo took a deep breath. "It wasn't a her, May. It was a guy. Heero to be exact, and yes, I still love him."

The room went still and the girl ceased all movement and questions as she stared at her brother in shock. "So...you're gay?" she asked in a weak voice.

"I guess if I'm in love with another guy, then that's the right term to use," he replied with a nervous smile.

"Did Mom and Dad know?"

"Yep," he replied as casually as possible, worried at her reaction.

Her green eyes turned to the two adults sitting across from them. She saw each of them give her a reassuring smile, and gave an exaggerated huff and look of indignation. "Why am I always the last to know everything?" she complained unhappily.

"Well, you were young," Duo explained looking apologetic.

"I might have been young, but I was anything but stupid. You could have told me," she pouted.

"Are you very uncomfortable with this?" Duo asked, shifting slightly in his seat, then wincing at the bad move.

"Yeah, I'm uncomfortable that my family doesn't tell me anything. How can I know how to act properly if I don't have all the pertinent information."

"No, May." Duo reached across the slight distance separating him from his sister and took the girl's chin in his hand. "Quit stalling and tell me what you think. Your opinion is important to me."

The pretty red head smiled sadly at her brother. "I just want you to be happy, Max," she answered. "But it does make me sad that you won't be having a wedding or children. I would have liked to be an aunt one day and have a sister-in-law."

"I'm sorry I can't make those dreams come true for you, May," he said softly, his eyes filled with compassion. They both hadn't had a normal family life until Milliardo and Lu took them in. And once they both got a glimpse of what a family was like, they'd shared other dreams together of their future families. "Could you maybe be happy with a big party and someone like a brother-in-law?"

"Would he go shopping with me and do my hair?" she asked impishly with a disarming half smile.

Duo smirked back. "Well, he's done both with me in the past, though reluctantly in the shopping department. I don't see why he couldn't do those things with you. Who knows," he laughed lightly, "maybe Heero's always wanted a little sister."

"Sounds like things have gotten serious between you and Heero after one date," Milliardo observed, his face filled with concern.

Duo turned from his sister to face the two people he owed so much to. "I told Heero I wanted to take it slow," he began. "But I love him and he loves me. We'll be careful in public with our affections and I'll continue to live here until we're sure our relationship will work, after all, a lot changes in three years."

"You're sure about this. Heero's the one you want to settle for," the blond man asked.

"Mill," Lucretia spoke to her husband in a mildly chastising tone. "Trust him to make his own decisions concerning his heart. This isn't so surprising. We knew how he felt when we took him home with us that first night."

"He was hurt and felt rejected," the man reminded her with a frown at the memory. "I don't want to see him hurt like that again."

"That's why I'm not moving in with him yet," Duo interjected. "We've both changed and I want to make sure we're...compatible."

"Just be careful," Milliardo advised his son and his wife nodded her head in agreement.

"I will be," Duo assured them. "But the changes I've seen in Heero only make me love him more. You should see his home and how he designed it, with things I'd said during the war as his guide." He went on a few moments describing the setting, the fireplace, the open-air skylight that let them look up at the stars, brilliantly shining against the black drop of space with no light around them to dim the view.

"Excuse me." The older, part-time butler, Spencer stood at the door to the dining room.

"What is it Spencer?" the lady of the house asked.

"Mr. Standish is here to see Master Maximilian."

When all eyes turned to the braided haired young man, they saw the look on his face, clearly relating that he was not happy at the announcement.

"If you could ask him to wait for me in the front sitting room, I'll be there as soon as I finish here," Duo told the elderly man he'd met before the trip to Mars. There was something about the twinkle in the eyes of the sixty-three year old man that made Duo feel accepted in the Peacecraft household, unlike the other butler in training, Layton. Duo sensed that man highly disapproved of him. The formal looking butler bowed slightly, then turned and left the room.

Duo turned to his sister. "Speaking of Marcus, we need to have another talk May," he informed her, then promptly told her how she had been manipulated by the slick talker the day before.


Marcus stood from the formal, pale blue and green brocade sofa the moment Duo entered the room. "Hello Max," he said warmly in greeting the other, a smile plastered on his face as his eyes scanned the trim body before him, an obvious look a appreciation registered on his face. The long haired young man wore low on the hip black jeans and a dark blue tee-shirt with the words, "I'm legit," printed in large and bold yellow print across his chest. He watched the masculine beauty move across the room towards him with unconsciously graceful strides, distracting him from seeing the unhappy frown that was approaching as well. The person he lusted for stopped a good four feet in front of him, planted his fists on his hips, and with his chin in the air asked, "Well?"

Marcus was dressed casually for Sunday morning, pleated fawn colored khaki pants and a pale yellow polo shirt. He held up both hands and gave a slightly less brilliant smile. "Okay, I'm sorry," he said with a slight smile. "I shouldn't have crashed your date yesterday. But May gave me the perfect in to seeing how you and Queero looked together."

Duo's eyes flashed angrily. "His name is Heero, Marcus. And if you can't manage to say it right, then don't say it at all. If you had any idea who Heero is, you'd have a lot more respect for him."

"Let see," Marcus drawled as only those born rich could do perfectly. "Heero Yuy is Relena Peacecraft's bodyguard. My parents told me they'd been to the Celebration at the end of the war and that Pilot 01, as they referred to him then, was dedicating himself to keeping her safe to protect the fragile peace. I guess that means that Heero is the nefarious Wing Zero Gundam pilot, also touted as Relena's live-in lover slash bodyguard. I can only wonder how you met him. Was it during the war or after?"

Duo paused for only a moment, thinking up a quick half truth and knowing he wasn't going to tell Marcus anything he didn't need to know, that he too had been a gundam pilot. He might have guessed who Heero was by putting two and two together, but the others and himself wanted to keep their past from overshadowing their futures. "I met Heero at a school we both attended in the first war, we were roommates that became something more and kept our relationship going even through we didn't see each other very much. And for your information, he's not Relena's lover and never was." Duo frowned unhappily. "He's mine."

Marcus stared at the eyes blazing beautifully below him, more than his heart was affected by such unusual depth of passion and brilliance. "I figured," he replied a bit sadly. "I just thought you were going to give me a bit more of a chance."

Duo's frown softened, slightly. "I'm sorry, but there really isn't any more room in my heart. Heero owns it all."

To Duo's surprise, Marcus gave him a warm smile. "I'm happy for you Max. I hope we can still be friends." He stuck out his hand in a gesture of friendship.

Duo looked at it suspiciously. "Why?" He asked. "Why such a sudden change of heart?"

Marcus shrugged. "You've found what all of us search for in this life, the other half of yourself, someone who makes you feel complete. I can't be angry that I'm not that person; we were still in the beginning stages of friendship. But I can still be happy for someone who found it, and hope I'll be as fortunate one day."

Duo watched the taller man as he spoke and could only see sincerity, not mockery in his eyes and words. Putting aside his earlier anger, he took hold of the hand still stretched out to him and shook it. His eyes raised to meet Marcus's and they exchanged a friendly smile. Hands dropped and they each took a step back.

"Friends?" Marcus asked with a hopeful look.

Duo nodded. "Friends."

"Good," Marcus smiled warmly, "and to prove it, I'd like to invite you and May to come sailing with me this afternoon. That is if you haven't got anything else planned."

"I'll have to make sure my family doesn't have anything planned and then check with Heero."

"I'll wait if you want to do that now." Marcus politely offered.

Duo nodded. "I'll be back in a moment," he replied, then turned and quickly left the formal sitting room.

Marcus watched him go, then turned to take his former seat on the sofa, his pleasant smile disappearing completely to be replaced with a frowning, calculating look.

He looked up five minutes later as Max entered the room with a smiling May in tow. "Alright, you've got the two of us until six this evening," the braided young man announced.

May stepped forward. "What do we wear Marcus? I've never been sailing before," she asked.

"A swimsuit and a change of clothes in case you get wet," Marcus replied smiling in a friendly manner towards the girl.

"What time?" Duo asked.

"As soon as you're ready to go."

"Then come on Max." May grabbed her brother's arm and began to pull him towards the door. "Let's get going so we can get out of here."

"Back in ten," Duo called out over his shoulder with a smile as he was pulled from the room by the excited girl.

Left alone once again, Marcus went to the tall, narrow window that looked out over the east-side gardens. "This isn't over Max," he murmured to himself. "It's never over until I get what I want." Then a slight turn of his lips formed a contemptuous sneer as his mind began to plot strategies on how to reach his goal.

Despite his reservations and Heero's cautious warning to be wary of Standish, the two Peacecraft siblings had an enjoyable afternoon. Marcus proved to not only be an apt sailor, but also a congenial host. He was friendly, funny and charming. On top of that, he always stayed within the bounds of friendship, much to Duo's surprise and relief. They arrived home five minutes before six that evening, after having enjoyed a casual dinner at a pier-side fish and chip restaurant. Before waving at the two from his white, luxury convertible, the sandy haired man extracted a promise from the both of them that they would do something similar sometime soon.

It was Layton who opened the door to the smiling young people and, with a stiff, almost abrasive manner informed Master Maximilian that Mr. Yuy had called for him, several times in fact.

The next week brought with it a flurry of activity. While Heero spent his days guarding Relena during endless public relations and official meetings, Milliardo drove his son to the campus of Sanq University to get a feel for the school to pick up the necessary forms to apply for entrance the next semester and to see a counselor in regards to transferring his credits and finishing the last of his studies to graduate.

The press had learned of the Peacecraft's return to Earth and their two adopted children and many requests for interviews were received. Milliardo arranged for a family portrait to be taken and that, along with a general and slightly vague press release, was given to the hungry media gossips. All interviews were denied outright.

Lucretia took May to enroll her in the same school Relena had attended in her teens. Yet unlike most of the girls going to the Sanq Academy, May would be going home after her classes and not staying in the dorms. Duo spent several evenings commiserating with the distraught girl over the style of uniform she was required to wear.

Quatre, Trowa and Wufei each made phone calls to their newly returned friend that week that lasted well over an hour as they caught each other up on their lives on a more personal level than when they spoke to each other in public the Friday before. And even though his job kept Heero on call twenty-four hours a day during the three weeks he guarded Relena, he managed to have daily contact with Duo, either in person, when Relena's schedule permitted, or by phone.

Marcus called on Thursday night from his apartment in Paris saying he'd be returning Saturday morning to Sanq and asked if Duo could come to his house for a swim on Saturday night, if he happened to be free that evening. After a friendly, amiable chat, Duo promised to get back to him after he talked with Heero. An hour later, he called back. Relena was to attend some sort of official gathering on Saturday night and Heero would be on duty. He accepted the invitation with the stipulation that May would be able to come too.

Friday night came at last, and as previously arranged, Duo arrived at the Sanq Palace promptly at seven for dinner. Relena warmly greeted her nephew as he entered the diningroom at the palace. Her smile was both warm and enthusiastic. "I'm so glad you could come, Duo." Her eyes were alight with teasing. "Heero has just talked my ears off all week about you."

"I did not," Heero's amused chuckle came from behind him, and Duo turned to give him a radiant smile. "She still has both ears intact," he added.

Relena sighed at the obvious love exchanged in the expressions on both of the handsome young men's faces, and felt a small stab of envy at their more that obvious happiness. "Come on." She looped her arms through one of each of their arms, evilly sandwiching herself between the two lovers. "Let's get dinner over with so you two can have some time together."

The table was set for six in a small private dining room. Seeing this, Duo looked to Heero. "Who else is coming?" he asked.

"Just us," Quatre's happy sounding voice called out from the door they had entered through moments before. Turning with welcoming smiles on their faces, they greeted the other three former pilots just entering. Everyone was dressed casually, in slacks and shirts of varying colors. The only noticeable difference was that Wufei was wearing his hair down, something none of those present had seen much of before. The black, glossy hair fell perfectly straight and a good six inches past his shoulders.

Relena abandoned the two to greet the others with the same warm politeness she'd greeted Duo moments before. After the hellos and welcomes were done, she surprised four of them by angling herself up next to Wufei and slipping her hand under his arm to hold onto it, looking quite comfortable with the contact, and allowed him to lead her to the table. Wufei, for his part, looked equally comfortable with the physical contact with Relena at the role of escort she'd subtly given him.

Heero and Duo had watched the whole episode with a smile, Heero's arm wrapped around Duo's slender waist, holding him close to his side. After hugs and hand shakes were exchanged between the five young men, Trowa looked to Duo with an amused gleam in his eyes. "So, what do we call you now, Duo The Dip Stick or Max de Millions?"

Duo looked dumbfounded at Trowa, then turned his eyes to Quatre. "Alright Que, when did bang boy, the living blinded-sided 'oh no, I'm out of ammo' punk get a sense of humor?"

The blond billionaire laughed. "He's always had one, Duo. You just always upstaged the rest of us."

"Well, you've had your three years to shine Trowa," the braided man said, putting his around Heero's waist and giving him a squeeze. "But I'm back, and I'm going to stay, and you can call me Duo."

"We wouldn't have it any other way." Trowa smiled at his two friends, obviously having mended their past differences. He took up Quatre's hand and gave it a loving squeeze, which was readily returned.

They let Relena guide them to the table and the staff brought in the entire dinner, set it on the table and withdrew from the room.

"We're eating family style tonight," she explained the informality. "Because in many respects, we are a family." There was a mummer of agreement all around the table and the meal began with reminiscing, laughter and moments of poignant pauses for more somber memories.

The evening proved to be a wonderful one to which the five young men thanked their hostess for bringing them together. It was just after midnight before the three reluctantly took their leave and Relena excused herself for the evening, leaving Heero and Duo to their own devices.

Several hours later, Duo collapsed in sated exhaustion on top of the slick and heated chest of his lover and mumbled a barely coherent, "Finally." Laying his head against the moist skin, he listened to the fast beating rhythm of Heero's heart as it began to slow with each passing moment.

Having caught his breath and using what little bit of strength he had left, Duo shifted slightly and gasped as his lover slipped out of him. Raising himself up to gaze down on the happy and exhausted face below him, he gave his Heero a look of exasperated wonder. "What the hell was that, Heero?" he questioned in disbelief. "I came twice and you were still going strong." He told his lover what they both obviously were aware of. "Now I've always considered you to the perfect soldier, but you've never displayed that much prowess in bed before. So what gives? Did you take an Underdog Super Energy Pill or something?"

Heero chuckled, though having no idea what the pill was Duo referred to, he nevertheless found his lover's statement humorous. "No. But because the last time ended so quickly I wanted to make sure our lovemaking lasted a bit longer this time. I went to the pharmacy and found something called Maintain. It kind of numbs you, desensitizes you so that your erection lasts longer."

"Longer?" Duo's voice rose in response. "We're talking marathon here." He collapsed to the side of the muscled chest and rested on his side, his head on Heero's shoulder.

"Maybe I used too much." Heero guessed.

"Ya think?" came Duo's sarcastic reply. "I'm not going to be able to walk at all tomorrow, much less sit," he complained.

"Then I guess I'll just keep you in bed all day," Heero teased.

Duo sighed deeply and rolled halfway onto Heero's chest again, resting his head on the strong shoulder. "If only we could."

"I have to work all weekend, but my time off starts on Monday," Heero said in an apologetic voice as he turned on his side and kept his lover's body flush against his. This position allowed his to look into Duo's eyes. "Do you want to come and stay at our house for the week, or have me come down to see you daily?"

Duo yawned deeply, even as he felt his heart warm at Heero using the words, "our house" and what that simple phrase meant to him. "I'm too tired to think about it right now. Can I get back to you when we wake up?"

Heero whispered, "Yes" against Duo's lips, then began a series of light kisses on his cheeks, eyelids, ear, and moved down to his neck. "Did I hurt you during our marathon? I'm sorry if I did."

With his eyes closed, Duo could barely find the energy to answer. "Not during, but I'm sore now," he whispered back, unsuccessfully fighting back another yawn.

"I'll make it better, alright?"

Duo opened one eye to look suspiciously at the dark haired man who held him. "How are you going to do that?" he asked.

"Wait here and don't fall asleep. I'll be right back." Heero kissed the tip of Duo's pert nose and slowly extricated himself from his lover's limbs that had been twisted around him.

Curious, Duo watched through heavy eyelids as the trim and muscled body that he adored moved in the direction of the bathroom. The door closed and the light and fan went on as evidenced from the slight crack under the door. The sound of water being run could be heard a moment later.

The room suddenly seemed colder with Heero gone, and Duo shivered, reaching down with his foot, he hooked the sheet and blanket they'd tossed aside at the onset of their lovemaking and pulled them up to cover his chilled body. Snuggling into the covers, in possibly the only place that was dry, he found himself helpless from falling asleep.

"Not yet, love." Heero's voice sounded in his ear, and Duo registered the blankets being pulled back and he moaned in complaint at the loss of warmth. But his complaint ended when strong arms picked him up and carried him against a warm chest.

Squeezing his eyes tight against the bright bathroom light, he didn't realize what was happening until he felt very warm water encase his body and that Heero was still holding him. He sighed contentedly into Heero's chest, feeling warm and cherished, he lay nestled in his lover's strong arms as Heero's soapy hands began to clean their submerged bodies. Then the soft hum and the bubbling pulse of the water jets surrounded them, adding to the pleasure he felt and gently easing his over-used muscles.

With his head on Heero's shoulder, it was only a short distance to the strong yet slender neck. Duo leaned forward and began nibbling on it. "Love you so much," he whispered against the damp skin.

Heero's arms tightened slightly. "I love you more than word can say," he whispered back with emotion in his usually placid voice. Feelings of peace and happiness followed the euphoric sense of contentment that was felt by both young lovers.

When the blue-violet eyes opened the next morning around ten, it was to the sight of Heero resting on his side, his head propped up on his elbow, his chest bare to the waist where the blanket they shared lay seductively draped, and his sparkling blue eyes were warm as was the smile that lit his face as he greeted his sleepy lover.

"Morning." Duo stretched and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

"How are you feeling?" Heero asked, a knowing smile on his handsome face.

Taking a moment to assess his body, Duo was relieved that he was only slightly sore from their rigorous lovemaking the night before, the hot jacuzzi bath had helped a lot. Despite the dull ache that was tolerable, when he looked up from his place on the bed to see Heero laying beside him looking like a seductive god, his body reacted instantly.

With a wicked gleam in his eyes and a crooked smile, he reached for Heero's hand and brought it to his lips to kiss the back of it gently before flicking his tongue out and licking it. Delighting in seeing Heero's eyes widen and his breath catch, he took the hand of his lover and led it down beneath the covers to the current barometer of emotions. "I feel really good," he answered, and all but purred as Heero's hand enclosed around him and his top leg moved slowly to ease between his own. "What a wonderful way to wake up," he said breathlessly a moment before Heero's body settled on top of his and his lips were claimed once again.

An hour after Heero left his room to report for work, Duo emerged. His walk was more sedate than usual and, if anyone cared to look closely, the recognizable bounce in his step was definitely still there but was just temporarily toned down as the braided man walked with caution, mindful of the soreness he felt. Yet the glow that emanated from him clearly displayed the young man's state of happiness, and happiness looked very good on Maximilian Peacecraft.

Heero had requested that Duo's car, well it was actually Lucretia's impressive, German-made, antique sports coupe, to be brought to the front of the palace at noon; and there it sat, ready from him to drive home when he exited the elaborate front doors.

Duo sat down in the driver's seat and started the car, a large satisfied-with-the-world smile on his face. Having used Heero's shampoo, his hair and borrowed shirt smelled like his lover and, breathing in deeply, he could almost pretend that Heero was at his side. Feeling at peace with the world at large, he put the car in first gear and began the drive home.

That evening, after dinner with his family, Duo and May walked over to the Sheffield estate. The sun was lowering on the horizon, but the air stayed warm and comfortable.

Marcus met them at the front door and led them through the large country estate and back to the pool area, chatting and teasing in a friendly manner on neutral topics. On the table near the pool were a variety of snacks and deserts as well as a pool-side bar. A uniformed maid was putting on the final touches to the serving table when they arrived.

"Thank you, Marguerite." Marcus's voice was warm and gracious to the middle aged woman. "Why don't you take the night off with the rest of the staff."

The woman looked surprised. "You won't need me to clean the food away?" she asked.

"No, I think I can handle it. Go ahead, I'll see you tomorrow around noon."

"Thank you, sir." the older woman rushed to say, then promptly excused herself. By the time Marcus had finished dismissing the woman, he turned around to find his two guests were already in the water, splashing and having what looked like a good time.

The three exited the water well after the sun had set and proceeded to towel off the excess moisture that clung to their skin and hair.

May pulled her bathing suit cover-up on and went to the buffet laid out on the table to sample the treats, her towel wrapped around her shoulders. She returned to her brother's side with a plate full of assorted goodies to share with him.

Marcus fixed and brought three drinks on a tray to them and set it on a smaller patio table that sat between the lounge chairs. He handed a tall glass filled with a ruby red concoction to the red head. "A Shirley Temple," he told her as she looked at him quizzically. "It's non-alcoholic, and flavored with grenadine juice," he explained.

May sipped it, then smiled in approval.

Marcus handed Duo a drink and said, "A Margarita," he told him. Then took the other identical looking drink in his free hand and put the tray down. "I've never made them myself, so if it tastes a little off, let me know." He took a sip of his and gave a smile of approval to the long haired young man sitting next to him.

Duo sipped at the drink and, though he found it pleasant enough, there was a slight odd taste to it. He decided it wasn't worth commenting on as it was probably just the mix that was added to the alcohol.

Marcus turned on some soft listening music and they talked of minor things as they watched the moon rise in the early evening sky. Having finished a second Margarita, Duo felt comfortable and uncommonly sleepy. He turned his head to gaze lethargically at his silent sister to see that she'd fallen asleep on the chaise lounge she was stretched out on. "I shhhould get 'er 'ome," he mumbled sleepily, his words slurring.

"She'll be okay," Marcus said in a reassuring and soothing tone of voice. "Don't worry Max, I'm going to take care of everything."

Duo barely managed a slight nod before he lost consciousness.

on to part 12

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