The Winners must have rejuvenated their spirits at the party because everyone was feeling much better the next day. Only a few of them went to the games, however. Heero brought Duo to watch more of the gladiatorial fights. Heero also acted as if nothing had happened. Duo was relieved that at least he seemed to be back to normal. Well, normal for Heero.
They sparred again after the games. Heero was very impressed by how much Duo was improving, even over the last few days! It made him feel pleased. Baltus interrupted their practice.
"Sir, you have a visitor," he said nervously.
"Who?" Heero asked.
"Miss Dorothy, sir," Baltus said almost in a whisper. Duo noted that Heero did not look happy about that.
"Show her in, please," he said.
A young woman with extremely long blonde hair entered the room. She had the forked eyebrows and elegant demeanor of her cousin, the Emperor. Something about her made Duo edgy, though. It was probably her glassy blue eyes and their tiny cat-like pupils.
Heero turned to face her, but did not greet her.
"Heero Yuy," she said. Her voice sounded like a serpent to Duo. "The Dark Winner Son," she continued, giving Heero an evil little smile, "the man with two names. Fearless - "
"What do you want, Dorothy?" Heero asked sharply, losing his patience. He disliked Dorothy. Not only was she a friend of Relena's, but she was the most unnerving person he'd ever met.
"The Emperor was disappointed not to see you at the party last night," she began. Heero frowned. It was always so obvious when she was leading up to something. "He wanted to congratulate you on your magnificent battle!"
Heero scowled when he saw her gaze shift to Duo.
"And this must be the slave I've heard so much about!" she exclaimed, still serpent like. Duo just gave her a guarded look. "Yes, the Emperor would like to have met him, too!"
She turned back to Heero. "In one week's time, the rebuilding of that town will be complete. The Emperor plans to throw a large celebration and honor those who have served him so valiantly, and announce who he will send as the new governor. Captain Yuy, you will be a Guest of Honor! And, His Excellency requests the talents of your slave as well," she continued, eyes glowing. "He desires a performance for the festivities."
"I will gladly attend," Heero said politely, "and Duo will be honored to perform."
"Wonderful!" Dorothy smiled, clasping her hands at her chest.
Heero's mood did not improve with her departure, but Duo was ecstatic.
"I get to perform for the Emperor? He wants to see me? Oh man! I can't believe it!" Duo gushed to Heero. "And you're a Guest of Honor, Heero! Aren't you excited?"
"Not really," Heero answered flatly.
"I'm kind of surprised you're going to let me perform!" Duo teased.
Heero looked at him. "It's not like I have a choice," he answered in monotone, "he's the Emperor." The Emperor could have anything he wanted.
Duo raved on excitedly, oblivious to Heero's apprehension. Heero decided they were done for the day and had Duo clean up.
Duo shared the exciting news with Quatre later as they visited in his peristyle.
"Congratulations Duo!" he exclaimed. "We've been expecting this for Heero since he got back, but it's wonderful that you are getting some recognition as well!"
"Yeah! I guess I'll have to come up with some new material!" Duo grinned.
"Duo," Quatre said more seriously, "how is Heero today? I haven't seen him since yesterday."
Duo knew Quatre was still concerned about how his brother had acted during the Hunt. "He seems normal to me, I think he's ok. I'm just glad he came out of his room," Duo sighed.
"Me too," Quatre agreed. "He does that sometimes, he just goes away, won't see anybody. It really makes me worry."
"Yeah, I was getting worried about him too," Duo said with obvious concern.
Quatre looked at his face and it clearly showed his feelings. The young man obviously cared a great deal for his brother. He wondered if Duo even realized his own feelings. "Duo," he said after a moment of thought, "there's something you should know about Heero, it might help you understand him a little better."
"He was adopted. I know, he told me," Duo said sensitively. Quatre just looked at him for a second.
"He told you that?" Quatre blinked. "I didn't think he told anybody about that."
Duo shrugged, "He mentioned it the other day."
"Ok, well that wasn't actually what I was going to say," Quatre continued, still surprised that Heero told someone about that. "There's more. You see, when my father found out he had two sons, he decided to expand the breadth of the Winner influence. Our family has always been a presence in the senate, but we've never had any really successful military men. When we were still infants, our father chose that I should be the senator, and Heero would be trained for the military."
Quatre paused to collect his thoughts a little. Duo just listened.
"My mother did not survive my birth, and I know that if she had, she would never have allowed this. I know my father regrets it deeply. As children, Heero and I went to school together, and learned basic swordsman ship and equitation, but around age 10, he started special training with a very... dangerous man. Some war hero run out of his own country, I don't know, I barely remember," Quatre paused and shook his head sorrowfully.
"What I do remember is seeing my childhood playmate quickly replaced by ... by this... stranger. He stopped talking, never laughed, never played. He didn't even live with us at the time. We still went to school together, but it was like we barely even knew each other! When he was here, he learned with me about appropriate behavior of a Winner son, you know, the political and social obligations. He excelled at everything, always the best in school, but he barely seemed human. His eyes looked dead, at times I was even scared of him, Duo!"
Duo nodded. "He scares me too sometimes, like yesterday, after the hunt."
"Yes, I know exactly what you mean," Quatre agreed. "Heero enlisted in the military at age 15, and was sent to Gaul. My father could have gotten him a higher ranking, but he refused. Luckily, his teacher was killed while he was away. His past caught up with him, I guess. Heero came back victorious, and lived with us for a while. We didn't know what to do with him! Seeing the way he was, my father knew what a huge mistake he'd made. We've been working hard to help him rediscover some part of his former self. I know he seems cold now still, but you have no idea how far he's come!
"But the battle field is another story. All his comrades are worried about him. He fights without fear of death, they say. Wu Fei and Zechs have both talked to me about it. Trowa has fought him, he says the same thing. He frightens even war-hardened career soldiers. They say he'll do anything to execute the orders he's given."
Quatre stopped and looked down. "We try to mend him when he's home, keep an eye on him, you know? We love him with all our hearts, and as sorry as I am you had to see that little scene yesterday, that's how it is sometimes. It takes such a toll on all of us to see him put himself in danger like that. Zechs says he's even worse in real battle. I hate to think about it."
He looked at Duo for a moment to try and judge his reaction. Duo was frowning as he absorbed this new information. Quatre knew that he and his family had tried their hardest to bring Heero back, but they couldn't bring him all the way. There was still something missing. He could tell how fond Heero had become of Duo, and he hoped it could be the final step. Heero was subtle, as always, Quatre wondered if he realized it himself. No one else might have noticed, but Quatre knew his brother very well. Trowa had said the same thing.
"Is there anything I can do?" Duo asked.
"Yes, I think there is, Duo," Quatre smiled wanly. "He likes you, Duo, just be around for him."
Duo nodded solemnly. "I'll do whatever I can, Quatre," he promised.
Later in the day, Duo was sent to Zechs and Lucrezia's house to return a borrowed sword. Always eager for the chance to catch up with Duo, Zechs invited him to stay for a bite to eat. Finished with his other errands, Duo accepted. Zechs was also quite eager to find out how his friend was doing after the dramatic events of the day before.
"How is Heero doing, Duo?" Zechs asked after some chitchat.
"He seems ok today, back to normal I guess," Duo answered. He paused a moment as Zechs considered this, and then continued unsurely, "Quatre said he does stuff like that all the time. Is that true?"
Zechs sighed and looked at Duo sadly. "Yes, I'm afraid he does. He's even worse on the battlefield believe it or not. I've taken it as a kind of personal duty to keep an eye on him out there, make sure he doesn't go overboard. I'll tell you, it's a tough job!"
Duo shook his head. Everyone seemed to love and care about Heero so much, they even went out of their way to try and keep him safe. He realized he would probably do the same. He wondered if Heero even knew he had such good friends.
"Did you get a visit this week?" Zechs asked, changing the subject and obviously hinting at something. "Perhaps a certain messenger of the Emperor?"
"Oh yes!" Duo remembered with excitement. "Heero is going to be the guest of Honor at the ceremony coming up! I'm sure you'll be honored as well."
Zechs smiled and shrugged it off. "I hear you will be getting some acclaim as well," he said, arching his eyebrows.
"Yeah, the Emperor wants to see me perform! I can't believe it!" Duo grinned.
"I know," Zechs smiled at his excitement, "it was I who recommended you!"
"You did?" Duo asked, shocked, "I... I don't know what to say!"
Zechs laughed, "Don't say anything! I'm not your only admirer you know! I'm glad you're looking forward to it."
"You have no idea! I can hardly sit still!" Duo exclaimed. Zechs chuckled. Something occurred to Duo. "You know, Heero doesn't seem all that excited," he relayed.
Zechs snorted. "Well! Of course, he hates parties and ceremonies! You know how he is... and he's not fond of the Emperor, either."
"No?" Duo asked.
"It's a long story," he sighed as he sat back in his chair. "Trieze was a general when Heero enlisted in the military. He was foolish enough to think that offering Heero a higher rank would get him into bed. That was a pretty stupid move, it should have been obvious he'd never go for it since his family could have gotten him a higher rank if he'd wanted it."
Duo's eyes bugged. He was a little shocked at Zechs' candor and blushed slightly.
"Of course Heero turned him down flat," Zechs continued with a knowing smirk. "Trieze was not pleased, to say the least, and passed him up for every promotion. Heero didn't care, but his family was outraged. Then after the whole Trowa thing, the former Emperor demanded Heero be promoted. So Trieze gave him a promotion, but Heero refused it! Just to be a little shit, I think. He can be like that. Anyway, when Trieze became Emperor, he stopped holding a grudge for the most part, but he did force Heero to take a promotion or two!"
Zechs had been watching Duo's reaction with some amusement. "You seem surprised," he smiled, resting his chin in his hand. "Well, maybe it's time you know that your owner has been the subject of many people's desire, myself included!"
Duo blushed more, much to Zechs' enjoyment. "Of course, he turned me down flat as well," Zechs rolled his eyes. "He's so damn picky, it'd be nice to see him be interested in someone. I used to drag him to brothels with me, but god knows if he ever made use of them or just sat in the corner with that sullen look on his face!"
Duo was now deep red. Discussing Heero's sexuality, or lack there of, made him quite uncomfortable. Lucky for him, Zechs decided to relent on the subject.
Zechs could tell that Heero was very fond of Duo, and he had thought about pressing Duo into admitting that Heero was attractive, but he decided that this was enough for one day. He was sure that these two could make each other happy, whether they knew it yet or not, and he was going to do what he could to help things along. He'd known from the beginning that he could never have Duo, so he wanted Heero to have him, to enjoy him. For the gods' sake, Heero needed somebody.