Heero returned to the party just as guests were starting to be seated in the banquet hall. He found his family and sat with them. Emperor Treize made a speech and the feast began.
The accolade ceremony was after dinner, and Duo would be entertaining right after that. Emperor Treize made another eloquent speech and then General Septum summarized their victory and all they had won. Treize stood again to honor the military heroes. Heero, Zechs, and a few others were called to the front of the hall. Zechs was awarded General status and the others received promotions as well, including one promising Centurion Heero had recommended for promotion. Heero's award was last. Treize came to Heero and praised his bravery and strength in front of hundreds of guests. He was also awarded General, a title he had earned several times over. For the sake of his family and their esteem, he accepted. The hall thundered with applause.
The announcement of the new governor was made; it was a man famous for regional government already. Then the Guests of Honor and the Emperor were seated in the front row as the stage was changed for Duo's performance. His instruments were set out and he was introduced as a captive from the victory they were celebrating tonight. This annoyed Heero greatly. He wondered if Duo was aware of how he was being introduced.
Heero's annoyance dissipated when Duo appeared on stage. He was still wearing the terribly short purple and gold skirt, but nothing else fancy. He wore nothing above that but the collar, and his own dark leather sandals below. The audience applauded and he gave a deep bow center stage. He sat down on the stool center stage and picked an instrument. He played and sang the first two songs beautifully. The first was new, the second an old favorite.
He picked up the next instrument and strummed it. It was horribly out of tune. Duo made a face at the noise it made, and there was awkward shifting in the audience. Duo strummed it again.
"Yuck," he said to the audience. "Thought I tuned this one..." he mused out loud as he fiddled with the strings. He strummed a few more times and sang a harmony of thirds and fifths to the note he was tuning. The audience was now hushed with delight. He was only warming up, but it sounded lovely. He continued for a bit, even after the instrument was perfectly tuned, and then pondered out loud, "I'll have to use that in a song." He looked at the audience. "Maybe I'll call it ‘Discord'" he winked. People chuckled and Duo started the song when it was quiet again.
Heero sat back truly enchanted. Duo never failed to charm. He had turned a potentially embarrassing situation into a moment of intimacy between audience and musician that the guests had relished. Heero felt like his chest was swelling up, ready to burst. He was feeling a lot of different things, and it was just the wine. Mostly he felt pride, but it wasn't the same as when his father did something good, and he was proud to be his son. And it wasn't the same as when Quatre, his brother whom he loved, did something that made him happy and proud. And yet it wasn't the same as when Quaterine did something brilliant or said something smart. This was a new feeling. He recognized pride, and awe, even gratitude. He did not believe in deities, but he felt thankful to someone that Duo was in his life. Perhaps to Duo himself. There was also love. He was not able to understand what kind of love, but he recognized it as such. He had come to love Duo, much the way he had come to love his family.
Duo finished playing and stood to tell stories and funny tales. He told the audience that he knew slaves who had been brought to Rome from all over the known world, and he had collected their folktales and lore. He told several of these new ones, and a few of his own. Then the other musicians took the stage as he prepared to dance.
The hall was dead silent as Duo danced. Maybe it was his imagination, but he swore Duo looked at him a few times during the performance. Heero watched and refused to allow himself to think the thoughts buried deep in his head. The same things he had thought when he was slightly drunk and watching Duo dance for the first time. He is mine. I could have him. All these people here want him, but only I could have him in my bed. They were terrible, shameful thoughts. On one level, it was primal. Feelings of ownership and, yes he admitted to himself, lust. But Duo belonged to him no more than to anyone else in the room. Instead, he considered it his duty to protect Duo from those who would abuse him. He would not be one of those people.
People stood to clap and cheer when he had finished. The Emperor raised his glass and tipped his head. Duo was whisked away and the guests resumed mingling and chatting in the gardens outside.
A slave approached Heero. "General, sir, His Excellency wishes to see you," he told Heero. Heero followed him out of the hall. He had been afraid of this. Duo's talents had not gone unnoticed by Treize. He was probably going to offer to buy Duo. Heero hated the idea of Duo sleeping with Treize. All he could do was pray to gods he didn't believe in that Treize would not just take Duo from him.
Treize was reclining in a sumptuous room. He ordered all servants out when Heero entered.
"Congratulations, General," Treize said.
"Thank you, Your Excellency," Heero said stiffly.
"Your slave deserves acclaim as well," Treize said, his voice like honey, "I'll tell you up front that I desire him for my household. He would do well entertaining for my guests."
"I am sorry, Sir, but he is not for sale," Heero said trying to sound as final as he could.
Treize offered him an outrageous sum and acres of land outside the city. Heero refused again.
The emperor rose from his chair, his eyes narrowed dangerously. "And I suppose a promotion won't sway you," he said sarcastically, "I should have known that money and power would not win the great Heero Winner Yuy."
Heero did not respond. It was obvious to him that Treize was alluding to their past disagreements.
Treize's posture relaxed a bit and he continued in a more diplomatic tone. "But honestly, Heero, don't you think you're being a bit selfish? Don't you think he'd rather be entertaining for rulers and dignitaries from all over the world? He'd live here in the palace, have anything he wished for; I'd even take him on my travels. Think of the places he'd get to visit! Do you realize you're holding him back from a destiny greater than you can give him?"
Heero wondered if that was true. He looked at the floor and swallowed hard. Duo probably would like to travel to exotic places and perform for all sorts of important royals. He would get to meet people from all over the world and learn their stories and songs. It would be much more exciting for him than living at Heero's boring home and playing at the same parties and running his errands. Errands! He had the most popular performer in the city running his errands! Maybe Treize was right that he was holding Duo back and being selfish.
"Your offer is generous, Your Excellency," he said quietly, "I will think on it and you will have your answer tonight." He left without waiting to be excused.
He quickly made his way to Duo's dressing room. Having a sharp spatial memory really came in useful finding his way through the maze of a palace. He had told Treize he needed time to think when, really he was going to ask Duo what he wanted. Treize would have though it was ridiculous to ask a slave's opinion. He also needed a little time to prepare himself to say good-bye if that's what Duo chose.
There was no answer when he knocked on the dressing room door. After another knock, he opened it and entered. The room was empty. "Duo!" he called. There was no answer. He bolted out into the hall and found a servant. He demanded to know where Duo was.
"In his dressing room," the frightened slave answered. "He was not supposed to leave there."
Heero swore under his breath. It was just like Duo to do what he wasn't supposed to do. He had no idea where to look for him. He was distraught and confused and he really needed to talk to Duo. He began to suspect Treize had already taken him.
He was about to start wandering the halls shouting Duo's name or punch through a wall when he caught a glimpse of coppery chestnut hair. The window to his left overlooked a small, empty rose garden. Heero couldn't see a door anywhere nearby, so he called to Duo as he climbed through the open window. Duo appeared from the other side of a large bush. He was wearing his own clothes again.
"Heero!" he exclaimed as Heero limberly climbed through the window, even in all his trappings. "Door's over there. Man, you really do like to do things the hard way don't you? It's beautiful out, don't you think? This weather is perfect! Oh, congratulations, General," Duo grinned.
"Duo we need to talk," Heero told him.
"Ok," Duo said uncertainly. Clearly, something had upset Heero. He hoped it was not his performance. Whatever it was, he would try to help. "Look at the maze," he said, pointing to the thick bushes taller than their heads. He smiled at Heero, "I already figured it out."
"Duo, this is serious," Heero told him urgently.
"There's a bench in the middle, follow me," Duo said, stepping inside without waiting for an answer.
Heero followed him. Occasionally, Duo would reach for his hand around tight bends. Heero's heart felt like it was being wrenched in a vice. He did not want to give Duo up. The light and joy Duo brought to his life could not be replaced. But could he sacrifice Duo's happiness for his own?
Duo led him to the center in only minutes. There was a fountain and a bench and roses everywhere. It was very Treize.
"You look upset," Duo said leading him to the bench. "Tell me what's wrong."
Heero sat next to him. "The Emperor has offered to buy you," he told Duo.
Duo did not look excited. He did not look ecstatic. He just looked down at the paving stones.
Duo's heart sunk into his gut. So, someone had finally found Heero's price. Or rather, his own. "He must have offered you a lot of money, huh?" Duo asked bitterly.
"Yes," Heero replied, thinking how inconsequential that was.
"I can't believe it..." Duo said bitterly. "Is that all I am to you? A possession? A price? Something to show off and sell to the highest bidder?"
"No! Gods, NO, Duo! Not at all! I don't want to sell you, I don't want you to ever leave," Heero said, words pouring from him. "He's offering you an opportunity, don't you see? To travel and meet important people, and live in luxury. You'll visit glamorous places and perform for Kings and Queens and have the best of everything. Duo, I can't offer you these things. I am only considering his offer because it would benefit you. Do you understand?"
Duo was staring at him now. He had never seen Heero so emotional. Not even in the argument with his family. On the contrary, he had been completely void of emotion then.
"Tell me what you want Duo," Heero urged. "Please be honest, I will accept your decision. I couldn't stand you to be resentful to me or unhappy at home because you felt you couldn't tell me you wanted to leave. Tell me what to do."
The travel did sound exciting, but Duo knew more about the Emperor than Heero gave him credit for. "Would he expect me to sleep with him?" Duo asked.
Heero's eyed bugged. He had not been expecting such a direct question. Wasn't that pretty much implied? Heero stuttered a yes and added, "But he's not unattractive. You never know, he might be good to you."
"But you wouldn't sleep with him."
Heero was completely thrown by that. "I - No - How did you know about that?" he stammered.
Duo chuckled. "Zechs told me. I was wondering why you weren't excited about the celebration."
"Yes, there's our past, his and mine. But I also knew that he would want you, and - " Heero faltered, "And I didn't want to have to give you up."
Duo's heart lurched. How could he make Heero understand that he didn't want to leave? He turned to look Heero directly in the eye. "Would he set me free, Heero? Would he leave me with my dignity and appreciate my spirit and not care that I don't call him ‘Master'? Would he defend me and teach me to fight? Would he let me roam free around the city? I want freedom Heero, I know you understand that. I don't want to leave you! I want to take care of Ala and Ares and see Diana's puppies and play with Quaterine! Don't send me away!" Without warning, Duo threw his arms around Heero and squeezed.
"Ok, then, it's settled," Heero swallowed from the grasp of Duo's arms. Duo let go and sat back with a smile. "I'll tell Treize I am not selling you."
"Will he threaten you?" Duo asked, worried again.
"He might. Technically, he could."
"I'll go if he threatens you or your family," Duo promised.
"He won't. My family is too powerful. Zechs is also a powerful ally, especially when it comes to Treize," Heero said, "I'm not afraid of him."
"Can we leave?" Duo asked suddenly and got to his feet.
"I have to tell him my answer first," Heero said as he stood.
"Can I come with you? I don't want to be alone in that room anymore," Duo admitted.
"Yes, but you can't be in the room when I tell him," Heero said and followed Duo out of the maze.
Heero found a servant and met with Treize privately to tell him his answer was no. The Emperor was not happy to say the least. Heero ignored his snide comments and attempts to change Heero's mind. Heero felt very manipulated. Treize could tell he cared for Duo and had tried to take advantage of a weakness. He knew in his heart that what Duo really wanted was freedom, and Treize would never give it to him. The Emperor was not in the habit of freeing slaves. With him, Duo would be a slave until he died. Heero paid his respects and left.
"Ready to go?" he asked Duo, who was waiting outside the door.
"Heero, let's stay," Duo suggested, "this is your night. I want to follow you around and get you drinks and watch people admire you."
"Why?" Heero asked incredulously.
"Because you really are great, and you deserve it," Duo said simply. His brows drew together and he looked slightly angry. "And because all night I've felt like that bastard has been trying to separate us. That crazy outfit, the necklace covering your collar. They wouldn't let me go to the party because I couldn't be seen with you, and then they didn't even announce that I belong to you! Like he thinks he already owns me or something," Duo spat. His look changed to a fierce grin. "Let's go be seen together. I won't leave your side," he promised.
Duo could hardly believe he was saying these things. It concerned him that he might be taking on the mindset of a slave, but he realized Heero did not treat him like a slave, Heero treated him like a friend. What other "owner" would ask the SLAVE if he wanted to be sold and expect an honest answer! No, Heero was his friend, and he wanted to be seen with his friend.
Heero walked into the peristyle gardens like he was strolling on air. Duo was willingly by his side! He wanted to be shown off and for everybody to know where he belonged. It showed too. As promised, Duo didn't leave him, in fact he practically clung to his side. Like before, he was nearly as popular as Heero. He chatted with the men and charmed the ladies. He graciously accepted compliments and talked openly about his past and how he wrote songs and constructed stories. Heero listened just as interested as everyone else. His presence made Heero comfortable, he felt more talkative and actually began to enjoy himself. The best part was, Relena avoided him like a leper.
"I know why you really wanted to go back to that party," Heero sighed as he removed his cape later when they'd gotten home.
"Why would that be?" Duo asked.
"So everyone could fawn over you," Heero suggested. Duo laughed and pulled the Guest of Honor sash off of Heero. He fastened it across his chest, threw on the cape and paraded around the house singing fanfare music. Heero couldn't remember the last time he'd laughed so hard. For that matter, he could scarcely remember feeling this happy before. The rest of the night after he and Duo had rejoined the party had been highly enjoyable.
Mona poked her head out of the kitchen. "Did you have a good time?" she asked, shocked at this little display.
"Yes, Duo managed to get Relena to avoid me!" Heero informed her.
"By trying to woo her!" Duo added, bubbling with laughter. Heero snickered as he removed his breastplate and belt.
Mona sighed and wiped her hands on a rag. "Explain it to me tomorrow," she shook her head, "I'm exhausted. Good night!"
"You can keep those," Heero told the grinning Duo. The cape looked very dramatic with his braid.
"Think I will," he mused.
"Duo," Heero said like there was more he wanted to say.
"Hm?" Duo responded, removing the cape and coming near.
"Thank you for tonight, I did have a good time," Heero tried to explain. He cursed himself. That wasn't at all what he'd meant to say.
A smile lit Duo's face. "I'm glad," he said, "I had a good time with you, too." He aimed that smile right at Heero. "Don't wanna be with anyone else," he added quickly. His mental Idiot Alarm sounded. "Ok, well, goodnight!" he said, already hastening down the hall to his room.
Heero watched him go and then retired to his own room.
There would have been no sitting at a Roman banquet as far as I know. They typically ate reclining on U-shaped couches (triclinia). However it was a big party, so I dunno. I took some liberties.
I wasn't referencing this really, but mythically, Discord is the Greek goddess who caused the events that led up to the Trojan war.