Written: November, 2000
Rating: G
Pairings: None
Category: Original Fairy Tale, Mild Angst, AU
Warnings: Fairy Tale, mild angst, AU, AU-OOC, fluff (?)
Disclaimers: Not being a mage myself, I did not conjure up the Gundam Guys. I'm not making any money off this story. It's written out of love, so please don't sue me.

NOTES: Written for presentation at a public Middle School, this is intended as a fairy tale of the classical style. The story is built based on ancient precepts for such tales and seems redundant as they were wont to be. Hence, the language styles of the individual characters is intended to reflect their origins within the story and not typical Gundam Wing fanfic conventions.

***This is the first ever Enigma non-shonen ai/yaoi GW fic!***

Lonely Elfling
Part 4

Zechs, the roguishly handsome leader of Treize's personal guard faced off against Heero.

"What is your business here?" The knight demanded imperiously. He did not consider himself a member of the household, but he had fought in many battles and had enemies even he was unaware of. Any man commanding him to "halt", regardless of the reason, found himself facing the tip of a broadsword.

"I come seeking Lord Wufei on official business. Who are you and why do you threaten a stranger within these gates?" Zechs was angry at being deterred from his mission. He had traveled hard and fast in search of his employer's friend and did not like being held at bay by this newcomer.

"I am Heero, a free knight, who currently awaits the orders of Lord Wufei," the dark haired man frowned. "But you seem familiar. Did you fight in the Battle of the Ice?"

Astonished that someone would remember such an unpleasant piece of the past, the other man pulled off his helmet, allowing a flood of long platinum blond hair free to cascade down his back. Seeing this, Heero dropped his sword and fell to one knee.

"Lord Milliardo!" he proclaimed bowing his head to a man who had once commanded the only army he had fought against and lost to.

The other was even more surprised when he spotted the Pegasus which strained at its bindings seeking freedom to assist its master.

"Ah! Now I know you! You are the Knight of the Winged Stallion, are you not?" Zechs smiled as he dismounted and aided the knight to stand once more. "Please, sir, I am no longer 'Lord Milliardo', only Captain Zechs. Guard to Baron Treize. That was an old life, left behind long ago and best forgotten."

"But I pledged never to raise a sword against you again," the soldier was puzzled. "That was among the terms of my only surrender, and I have broken them. My life is forfeit, is it not?"

The knight had lived his life by a strict code and found it hard to forgive even when his old enemy so clearly wished to leave the past behind. Sometimes letting go of the past is harder than holding onto the future, something the knight was learning as he went.

"No, it is not, nor shall it be within the boundaries of my home!" Wufei proclaimed stepping forward to greet the newcomer. "Zechs, what brings you here? Is something wrong?"

Close on Wufei's heels came the elfling, Quatre, and the older elf in hiding, Trowa. Zechs inclined his head in greeting to the two he knew and simply chose not to be concerned with the young stranger whose eyes were filled with trepidation.

"Lord Wufei, I have hurried here to seek your presence," Zechs stated. "The baron has been injured and wishes to see you, sir."

"Treize is hurt? How so?" Wufei was worried, fearing for his friend far away.

"Do you recall the dragon which was reported in the valley this past spring?" Wufei nodded. "It was seen again near Ahzz and some ignorant people mistook its presence for a hazard and sought to kill it. Of course we knew that it is a noble creature who often looses its way, and when Treize went to try to help get it back into the wilderness, he was injured. He is hurt badly and seeks your company to ease his suffering."

Sadness filled the guard's eyes, he respected the baron and feared for his safety. "We did not believe it to be so serious, but what he asks for is my command and hence I came. Will you be able to come quickly? There has been three days passed during my journey and I have no way to know what we will face upon our arrival."

Duo glanced at Trowa as an idea occurred to him. Trowa saw the question in his eyes and nodded. "Perhaps I can be of assistance?" The elfling offered.

Zechs was clearly surprised by the sudden words of the fragile looking young stranger. Wufei's heart lifted with hope that something could be done even from afar to aid his injured friend yet did not feel that he should expose the elfling's true nature to anyone else. The war between what he desired and what he felt was right ended when Duo spoke up.

"Sir, you do not know me, neither do I know this baron of whom you speak, but I have some measure of ability that Lord Wufei is aware of. If it is his wish, then I can cure the baron from here." Duo's tortured violet eyes dropped away from Zechs to stare in fear at the knight nearby who he had feared from the very beginning. Heero watched impassively.

"How do you propose to do that?" Zechs asked suspiciously. "Lord Wufei, can he truly deliver on such an outrageous offer?"

"Yes," Wufei regarded his young friend closely to see if the offer was indeed genuine. "This is Duo, Zechs. He is an elfling who was unfairly banished by his clan. I have just discovered this myself, but he apparently wants to help Treize."

Nearby, Heero gazed at the elfling in suspicion. The knight had little patience for any of the fairy folk, especially those who had deceived him. Silently, he slid a blade free in case of treachery, but he needn't have bothered. The look of sheer terror on the elfling's face at having revealed himself to a total stranger said more than anything else the knight could have required. Clearly, he had misjudged the youth and quietly returned the dagger to it's concealed place within the scabbard which lay hidden within his garments. He watched in fascination to see what would happen next.

Zechs frowned, then decided not to pass up on opportunity to aid the baron. "What do I have to do to obtain this gift?" He asked warily.

Duo smiled tremulously and answered. "Simply state what you wish, and I shall do my best to grant it."

"That seems easy enough," Zechs remarked. "Very well. I wish that Baron Treize was once more healthy and uninjured. Is that specific enough?"

"Yes, it is," Duo frowned as he considered how best to accomplish the goal from such a distance. "Give me a moment, this is the hardest wish I've ever tried to grant." The elfling began to focus his mind on the task and soon found himself quietly repeating a very powerful spell he had learned from a mage when he was younger. It was a powerful spell that required a great deal of sacrifice, yet he had made the offer and intended to live by it.

Sinking to his knees to allow his full focus to go into casting the spell, he failed to hear the gasps of concern or words of worry from his friends.

A glowing energy orb pulsed into shape between his fingertips as he closed his eyes, concentrating. To one side, a small smile graced Trowa's lips as he, too, spoke softly in the ancient language, adding his considerable power to the young elf nearby. Without Duo ever realizing he had received this gift of power, the lavender light at his fingertips grew brighter and its radiance reflected off of his face in waves of light. When it was large enough, Duo gave a final command and the orb flew from his grasp and sped into the distance towards Ahzz at a rate of speed even the swiftest eagle could never have hoped to match.

Exhausted, the elfling collapsed, breathing heavily on the ground, eyes clamped tightly shut.

"Quatre!" Wufei commanded. "Can you sense Treize from here? You are the only one who will know if this has been successful!"

"I shall try," the empath responded. He seemed to lose focus in his eyes as he deliberately overstepped the limits of his own power as well and touched the ailing baron so far away. "He hurts, Wufei. Treize is in agony!" Tears came to the corners of his eyes as he shared the suffering of the man so distant. Refusing to break the contact, Quatre held on as his own tolerance for pain was tested. With a sudden gasp, the aquamarine eyes flew open. "It worked! Something just seemed to tingle and flash through his heart and mind! Now the pain is gone, replaced with warmth and comfort! Duo did it! He really did it! Treize is healed!"

Hearing this, the elfling smiled and slipped into a deep slumber. The power which the spell required had drained him utterly in spite of Trowa's unknown assistance.

In a moment of crisis, the elfling had learned to a certainty that helping others could be the best thing he did and that it did not necessarily lead him into greater danger.

Thus, the elfling had repaid the generosity with which he had been treated by those who lived within the manor and had even exceeded the hopes Trowa had had when he spoke so harshly to Duo. While the sorcerer had never intended to allow the young elf to be at risk, Duo had volunteered to help someone he didn't even know and this had taught the elfling much more about giving than he might otherwise have learned.

Night fell on the manor and found the young hero sleeping still as he recovered from the spell and heat exhaustion. Trowa had been concerned that he had tried to do more than he should and had added a mild healing and sleep spell of his own.

Duo finally awoke when the moon rose high into the night sky. Sleepy violet eyes struggled to open and he was surprised at what he found.

Asleep in a chair near his bed was the gentle blond who had befriended him when he had come to the manor a half year prior. Quatre looked tired beyond measure as he slept fitfully. Rising quietly, the elfling carefully placed a blanket over the sleeping boy and saw a brief smile grace the other's lips as he slipped more deeply into slumber.

Leaving his friend to rest, Duo sought out Wufei with every intention of apologizing once more for his deceit. As he approached the main hall, he heard a conversation of great interest and paused to listen.

"I believe, Lord Wufei, that the baron would still appreciate your company at this time if you are willing to come. I do not believe there will be a Midsummer's Night Festival this year in light of all that has happened."

"No, Captain, I do not believe that I can leave right now." Wufei's voice seemed sad. "There are those here who need me as well and I can not in good conscience abandon them now. Perhaps if things can be handled here first, then in a few days I can leave. I believe fully in Quatre's ability to tell me that Treize is well once more, and you yourself need rest after such a journey. Give it a few days and we shall see."

"Your Grace," Heero's voice rose quietly. "What do you wish from me, then? You have produced the shoes that Wing requires. I have no idea how best to serve you in payment for them if you no longer require my services for the journey you had planned, yet I can ill afford to leave the shoes behind. Tell me how to serve you that I might earn them still."

"No, Heero, take them. They came not by my hands, they were a gift from Duo to insure our safe passage." Wufei's voice paused. "I am still uncertain why Duo came forth with the truth the way he did or even why he added to the few who knew by speaking up in front of Zechs here, but done is done and now we must decide how best to honor his intentions. Take the shoes for Wing and we shall all be simply grateful for what he has done."

"I do not wish to leave debts unpaid," the knight remarked. The man still could not accept the gift he was offered, it was too far from the demands he had experienced all of his life. Forgiveness and kindness were alien to him and now he needed both. Forgiveness for himself as he had realized how badly he had misjudged the elfling and kindness for seeing why Wufei would give of himself and ask nothing in return.

Having heard enough to assure himself that it was still safe to be with these people, Duo stepped into the room. "May I join you?" he asked.

"Duo!" Wufei rose quickly and approached the youth. "How are you? We were quite concerned when Quatre told us you were unable to wake."

Duo smiled, unaware that he himself had been under the control of Trowa's healing spell. "I'm sorry about that, Wufei, but I guess I was more tired than I knew."

"No harm done," Wufei gestured towards a platter of food prepared in the hopes that he might rise and eat. Duo gladly sat down with the others and ate.

Zechs rose and bowed formally to the elfling. "Sir Duo, on behalf of Baron Treize, I thank you."

"Oh, you're welcome," Duo smiled around a bite of sandwich. "It was nice that I could help and everything, but please, I am not worthy of a title like that! Now, Heero over here, he's a knight and Wufei's a nobleman, they get titles, not someone like me." He shrugged and went back to eating, thinking nothing of his statement.

"You are wrong, my young friend," Wufei answered, "you have done a great deal and it is only fitting you be treated with respect."

Duo was confused by this, "But Wufei, I've always been treated with respect here, I was the one acting disrespectfully by concealing my true nature and withholding my abilities to help. In fact," he turned to face his benefactor and admitted, "I should have told you sooner. Perhaps my own fears kept me from being of more use here."

"That is not true," Trowa commented walking into the room with a sleepy Quatre behind him. The blond had awakened after Duo had left and before he could come in search of his missing friend, the acrobat had found him instead. "From what I know, you have exceeded anyone's expectations by offering to grant a wish to a stranger, someone who could have been a threat to you. That seems enough to me."

"To me, too!" Quatre added going over to Duo and hugging him. "Thank you, Duo, for saving Wufei's friend. When you meet Treize, you'll see why what you did was so important! The baron is a fair and honest man, kind and giving, much like Wufei. Ahzz would have been worse off if they had lost him."

Duo found all of the attention a bit more than he wanted and he considered finding a way to escape it. "Again, I'm glad to have helped, but I think I've overstayed my welcome here. Wufei, I'm really sorry to have been such a nuisance, and I appreciate your kindness, but I should return to my home in the forest. I, well, I have a lot to think about." Sadness tinged the words spoken as he realized this might be the last time he saw these people.

The need to escape the danger of having humans know his nature was overwhelming, yet he had one last debt he wished to pay. "Quatre? Did you decide what you want to do yet? I'm not sure if I can send you home or not, but I want to thank you somehow."

Quatre looked uncomfortable then his face firmed in resolve. "No thank you, Duo. I was talking with Trowa and I've decided that I want to remain here. This is my home now and going back would not make me happier than I am here. I don't need you to grant a wish for me, your friendship has been gift enough."

Pleased, Duo smiled as he prepared to tell them he was leaving. Just as the words came to mind, however, he realized there was a sad pair of deep-blue eyes staring at him silently.

"Heero? You now know my secret, do you want to make a wish, too? Perhaps I can ease the burdens which seem to drain your life so badly." Concern and worry surrounded this offer as the elfling wondered if the dour knight would be the one to take advantage of his offer, asking for wealth or greater rank, but the answer he received surprised him endlessly.

"We are strangers, elf, why do you offer me this gift?" Suspicion overrode the clear desire to make a wish and confused both of them.

"Well, Heero, you seem to be troubled and if I can help, why shouldn't I? Come on, you have a wish, tell me what it is and at least let me try, please?"

Still unable to accept graciously, the knight turned his wish away again. "No, I do not want to speak of such things. I doubt you could give me what I need anyway."

"Good grief!" Duo exclaimed in annoyance. "Give me a chance, would you? Try trusting someone, Heero. I did and look how well that had turned out! Now, tell me your wish, all right?"

Sighing, the knight decided to do as he was asked, just to avoid further aggravation if nothing else.

"Very well, then. My wish is to live in peace and quiet. My soul is weakened by the years of battle and struggle. I don't know that I'll ever be at peace myself, but I need to be able to live quietly for a time and not have to fight to even find out. Otherwise I will simply die on a battlefield and never know what I could have been beyond war."

"Is that all?" Duo stifled a chuckle. "Well, I don't even have to use magic to grant that! Why don't you come live in the woods with me? It's quiet and tranquil there. Plenty of berries and fruit should be ripe soon, you can live there and try to find the peace you seek."

Heero looked doubtful. "Why would you invite me to share your home? We don't really know each other."

"Sir Heero," Trowa interrupted. "Why is it you are so hard on yourself and others? He has offered what you had asked for, why not at least try it before you refuse?"

"Good point," Wufei remarked. "Sir knight, you offered to repay me for the gundanium shoes for your Pegasus, if you wish to do so, then accept the offer from Duo and seek your solitude there. If you are with him, no one will take advantage of his powers and you can have a chance to find peace as well. I shall consider that payment enough."

"Sounds good to me," Duo smiled, relieved that there would be some protection against possibly dangerous wish-takers. "Or are you in need of utter solitude to find yourself, Heero?"

Heero, realizing he was trapped and needing to either decline the demands of honor or accept the offer of a home guarding the elfling, finally accepted. "Enough, then. If all of you wish to see me accept this offer, then I shall. Perhaps it would help to have someone to talk to as well."

"Good!" Duo smiled. "Then tomorrow we shall travel to my home. I'm sure you will find it a good place to seek the truth for yourself. Have no fear of unwanted company, however, I, too, need time to think alone. Perhaps this arrangement will benefit both of us."

Trowa smiled.

He knew that the elfling was near the border of adulthood and had indeed begun to behave differently and more maturely. The two lonely souls would be good for one another and perhaps they would at some point in the future come back to live at the manor house with the others. There was no reason for either to feel like an outcast, but until they overcame their inner barriers, neither would be happy there.

The elven sorcerer was also glad he had helped Quatre chose to stay. The blond did not need the burden of discovering that his birth home no longer existed. Plague had claimed the family he barely remembered, the sadness of such a loss could easily have shattered the young empath.

No one would ever realize that the burden of loneliness was shared by those of all kinds, both human and elf alike. Also, those lost to slavery like Quatre had been or even those who chose to depart a realm of repression and cruelty like Trowa had experienced loneliness. Each of them, like the elfling, had been lonely when they were isolated.

Now, there was a good chance that none of them would feel this way anymore and they could, as the saying goes, live happily ever.

Author's Notes:

1. This unusual story is dedicated to two groups of people. First, it is dedicated to the students of Githens Middle School, Durham, NC. Thank you for making this humble author welcome amongst you. Second, this is dedicated to the administrative team of the SDDI (Society for the Defense of Duo's Intelligence) Mailing List for their hard work. Even though he is neither piloting a Gundam nor breaking into an OZ base, may you find enjoyment in Duo's adventures as an elfling.

2. The muses were not much help this time out. For such a short piece, (well, short by Enigma standards!) this took a great deal of time and effort to force out. It is much harder to write a piece without the classical fanfic approach and keeping it "G" rated was a royal pain! Therefore, the muse credit goes to *Guilt*. Plain and simple, if I didn't feel so guilty about it, this would have been discarded in favor of something more fun to write!

3. I've been asked by several folks to set up an alert system when something of mine is available, so please feel free to sign up at EnigmaFanficUpdates-subscribe@egroups.com


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