Heero stopped at the first vendor he could find and purchased a medium sized bag of honey sweets. He turned and presented them to his companion.
"Here. Now, no whining the rest of the afternoon, got it? We're here for Lucrezia's birthday present, remember," he said firmly.
"Yes, sir!" Duo grinned, taking the bag. He hadn't even had to ask this time! He thought something funny about having Heero well trained, and dug into the bag. Heero turned quickly to get started with their quest, but Duo caught the smile on his face. Duo grinned again as he popped a candy into his mouth and happily followed Heero through the market place.
Duo was happy because he had Heero back. Or, Heero had him back, one of the two. It had been a week since Stella left, and they'd been doing practically everything together. They did the normal routine like going to the palestra and riding the horses, but Heero was also taking Duo with him nearly everywhere he went. Duo had gotten to sit with Heero at a new play, he'd accompanied Heero to a few lavish parties, and now they were scouring the import booths for something special for Lucrezia. Heero had already mentioned that Duo would be attending that party as well.
He was excited to see Heero so eager to spend time with him. Of course ‘eager' for Heero just meant informing Duo that he would be coming along, but it still would have been just as easy to leave him home. It made Duo feel a little better after his week with Stella when he had been afraid Heero didn't want his company. But that was not the case after all. Except for when Heero reported for military matters, he had Duo with him almost constantly. When he wasn't with Heero, he did chores, ran errands, played with the puppies, and amused himself by working on a new song. Stella had been right, Duo really did feel like he belonged here.
As happy as the mood was, within the next week, Duo found Heero deep in brooding one evening as he served dinner. It was the worst Duo had seen in a long time.
"Something bothering you, Heero?" he asked as he set the plates down. At the palestra this afternoon, Quatre had mentioned wanting to speak to Heero, and that's where he'd been right before dinner. Duo wondered what they could have talked about.
Heero was silent a moment before answering. "Quatre," he shook his head angrily. "He told me he plans on officially announcing to our family that he does not ever intend to marry or have children."
"This is because of Trowa, right?" Duo asked. "Isn't that good news?"
"It is for them, but not for me," Heero explained. "This means my father will be putting more pressure on me to marry, and probably soon."
Duo's shoulders slumped. That was not good news.
"I tried to talk him out of it, but we just got into an argument," Heero said gruffly. "He expects me to be happy for him. He was very offended that I was not. He called me selfish and thoughtless." Heero sighed heavily. "Of course I am happy for them, but he does not understand the kind of position this puts me in. I also don't really have an interest in marriage or children. I wish my father would understand that."
Duo looked troubled. "When does he think he's going to make the announcement?" he asked.
Heero shook his head angrily again. "As early as tomorrow. He is being very immediate about this."
"How do you think your father will take it?"
"He won't like it. He will be disappointed. I'm sure he knows that Quatre and Trowa are more than just good friends, but I think he expected their relationship would not last, and Quatre would take a wife. That is how many relationships between young men go. They are common, but not lasting. Or he may expect Quatre to get married anyway, which is something I'm sure he will not do. I do want my brother and Trowa to be happy, but I know my father will put the burden of the family on my shoulders as the other son."
Duo just nodded solemnly. This was not a good predicament.
Sure enough, news came around lunchtime the next day that Quatre was arranging a formal family dinner that evening. The rest of the afternoon, if Heero wasn't storming around the house, he was locked in his office. Duo knocked timidly on the door when it was time for their daily practice. Clearly, they weren't going to the palestra, but maybe Heero could still use some exercise to get his mind off things.
"Go away," Heero growled from inside.
"Feel like sparring today?" Duo asked hopefully.
"No," Heero replied flatly.
From the sound of it, he probably wouldn't want to fight Heero in the state he was in right now anyway. "Ok, well, Lucius asked me to help out tonight, if that's ok with you," Duo told him.
"That's fine," Heero said. Duo might as well be there. The entire household was going to find out anyway.
"So, I'll be there if you need me, ok?" Duo added gently.
Duo looked worriedly at the door for a few minutes, and then went to find something to do.
The dinner was held in the big dining room in the main house. All family members were in attendance, except for a few brother-in-laws, but all of the Winners were there. Trowa, however, was not there, and Duo suspected Quatre wanted to minimize the awareness that he was doing this because of his lover. Duo noticed everyone seemed very excited tonight. They did not know what this was about, but they suspected good news. Only Heero was sullen and quiet. His sisters knew enough to leave him be when he was like this.
Duo helped serve dinner, which was very nice fare. Everyone, except Heero, laughed and talked joyously together. Duo and the others were clearing dishes when Quatre began his speech.
"I'm so glad to see everyone," Quatre beamed from the head of the table as he stood smoothly. "I'm sure you've all figured out that I have some news for you. And I do. Father," he nodded respectfully to his father, "sisters, brothers, I have decided that I do not wish to marry. Families are wonderful things, and I thank the Gods everyday that I have such a wonderful one, but I have realized that a family of my own is not where my happiness lies. I want to be thoroughly devoted to my job as a senator. The government and the lives of the people of our nation are very important to me, and I do not wish for further distraction from my duties. I know this may take a while for some of you to understand, but I hope you accept my decision and celebrate with me that I have chosen to devote myself to my work."
Almost everyone at the table knew he really meant he was devoting himself to Trowa, so they were very happy for their brother. Quatre sat and looked at his father for a reaction. Master Winner looked a little troubled.
"Well, Quatre, I must say this comes as something of a surprise. I had assumed you would have children and carry on the family name. I am proud of your accomplishments in your work, and wish it to continue. If this is how you intend to do that, then I must approve. Besides, we have another son here, don't we Heero?" Master Winner turned to Heero and smiled. "What do you say, son?"
"I am very happy for Quatre, he seems to know what will make him happy in life," Heero answered in a detached tone.
"Good!" Master Winner smiled. "What about you, Heero? Have you given any thought to what will make you happy in life?"
"No," Heero answered flatly.
Duo felt his mouth gape. He and some others were listening from the kitchen and trying to look busy. He wondered if what Heero said was true. Did Heero never think of his own happiness?
Heero's father gave no indication of having heard him. "Now, surely, you must be thinking about getting married and starting a family?" Master Winner hinted.
"Father, can we please not talk about this now?" Heero asked. Duo pursed his lips, he knew that tone. It was the voice he got when he was on the edge and shouldn't be pushed. Duo wanted to rescue him, rush out there with some urgent excuse and get him out of there.
"This seems like as good a time as ever!" his father observed jovially. "Quatre is putting his thoughts in order; I suggest you start to do the same. You should be thinking about finding a wife. We'll help you of course, I'm sure your sisters know many suitable young women. You know it would please all of us very much to see you happy and settled with someone! What about Peacecraft's daughter, Relena? She is a very pretty girl, very smart too."
Heero looked away without saying anything. Duo watched him, he looked absolutely livid. Duo prayed Master Winner would not continue.
"If you don't like her, there's many more! I believe Noventa has a daughter about your age, perhaps a little younger. That can't hurt! And there are a few young unmarried women in the Chang family, although they do tend to marry early," Master Winner mused.
"Father, please, I do not wish to discuss marriage, I am not ready," Heero stated.
His father's eyes narrowed. "Do not wish to discuss marriage?" he repeated in a challenging tone.
"No, I am not sure I wish to marry either," Heero told him.
"Don't be ridiculous! You will have children and carry on the family name, Heero!" Master Winner insisted. "You must!"
"I must?" Heero questioned. "What if I had told you my intention not to marry last week? Would you be giving him this speech?" Heero demanded, motioning to Quatre.
The guests at the table where looking very uncomfortable at this point and Duo was wringing a napkin in his hands.
"My son, marriage is your duty to this family! If I say you will begin to think seriously about it, that is what you will do!" the older man commanded.
Iria cut in, "Father, maybe we should - "
"Duty? Duty?" Heero asked, voice rising above his sister. "I have done my duty to this family! I have sacrificed my own will to live up to your expectations! I have fought in battles and risked my life more times than I care to count for the sake of our name!"
"Heero!" his father exclaimed angrily.
"I am a soldier, father," Heero continued, standing from his chair, "and that is all I am! You made sure of that! I would not know what to do with a family, nor do I want one!"
"Do not speak to me in this way!" the Master growled, also standing. "You will do what is needed of you as I demand! You are a Winner, and our family name needs to be continued. You will take this responsibility whether you asked for it or not!"
"I am NOT a Winner!" Heero shouted. "You are forcing this upon me, and I am not even OF this bloodline! What good would it do to have me carry on the family name? I am not even your son!"
Master Winner crossed the room in seconds. He slapped Heero hard across the face, so hard he stumbled to the side. Duo's hand clamped over his mouth.
"Father!" Iria cried, bolting to her feet.
"You are my son," the master hissed to Heero. "How dare you disrespect me and all of us with what you have just said? You are part of this family! We have loved you as a son and brother, Heero, when have we not? When have we ever not treated you as a part of this family? You insult us all."
Heero's fists clenched and he seethed at his father. Putting a hand to his face, he stormed out of the room towards his house.
Duo looked at Lucius in a panic. Quatre's head slave looked as shell-shocked as the rest of them.
"Go," Lucius ordered him. Duo nodded and hurried through the dark servant corridors back home. He was not worried about how the Winners had taken it; he did not care if Quatre felt guilty. He did not care about anything right now except for Heero. Without a doubt, he was going to lock himself in his room again.
Mona and Baltus looked sufficiently upset and confused, and Duo tried to explain it quickly. Then Duo ran up the stairs to Heero's room. As he predicted, the door was shut.
He stared at the door for a moment, biting his lip. Heero would probably yell at him, but that was inconsequential at this point. He gulped and knocked on the door softly.
"Heero, it's me," he said quietly, "may I come in?" He knocked again when there was no answer. "Heero?"
"I don't want to see anyone," Heero answered in his scary flat tone.
"Heero, please?" Duo all but begged. "Please let me in, you shouldn't be alone. Let me get you a glass of water or run you a bath. Please..." He put a palm up to the door, waiting for an answer. He needed to see Heero, he needed to make sure he'd be ok.
"Go away," Heero ordered. He sounded far away.
Duo rested his forehead to the door and slid down until he was sitting on the floor. He leaned against the door and did not move. He sat there for a very long time just listening to the silence from within.
He quickly got to his feet again when he heard footsteps on the stairs. Quatre rounded the corner and looked questioningly at Duo. Duo shook his head.
"Heero?" Quatre said to the door. "Please come out and talk. I feel absolutely terrible, I had no idea this kind of thing would happen. I'm so sorry, I feel so sick about all of this. Will you come out? Please?"
There was no answer.
"Brother, please come and talk to me when you are ready," Quatre begged. He looked sadly at Duo and then turned to leave.
Iria, Julia, and few other sisters came sweeping up the stairs next. Their faces looked tear streaked and red. They gave Duo the same questioning look.
"He's not even speaking," Duo told them quietly. Iria nodded again and steeled herself.
"Heero, listen," she started. Duo could tell she was going to have a difficult time speaking without choking up. "We've calmed father down. You really upset him, but I'm sure he didn't mean for things to end up this way. We told him to leave you alone for a little while, ok? We told him not to force you into anything. We - we just want to see you happy, Heero, that's all we want." Iria sniffled slightly. "Please come out soon. We love you so much."
Tears spilled down her cheeks as she turned away. Duo was reminded of the time Quatre had told him that while they tried to help Heero, there were times when even they could not get through to him. He squeezed Iria's hand. He hated seeing them like this. Obviously, any fights affected the Winners pretty badly, and of course, Heero's silence was very frightening for all of them.
She squeezed back and then they retreated down the stairs. Duo took vigil by the door again. He sat without saying anything for a moment. "Heero," he said finally, "I'm going to stay right here, ok? I'm going to be right here if you need anything. I'm really worried about you, and... and, damn it, I wish you'd let me in."
Heero did not bother to correct his language.
"I'll just be here," Duo promised him.
Duo leaned his head on the door and did not realize he'd fallen asleep until a quiet noise from inside awoke him. It was dim in the hallway now, the sun was going down. He heard the noise again.
His name! "Heero? I'm here! What do you need?" he asked, bustling to his feet.
"Duo..." for a moment it seemed like he had trailed off, but then Duo heard, "would you come in?"
Duo held his breath and opened the door slowly. It was as dim in the room, too. Heero had not lit any lamps. Duo shut the door after him. At first, he could not see Heero. He was not at the desk, or in the reading chair, and the bed was empty. Then Duo saw him, sitting on the floor in the corner, hugging his knees to his chest.
"Heero!" Duo exclaimed softly and was instantly sitting in front of the other man. Heero looked at him from where his cheeks rested on his knees. Duo felt a wash of distress. Heero had retreated just like a child would! Was it really that bad?
"Heero," he whispered, resting a hand on the other's elbow, "I'm here, it's ok."
"It was so hard, Duo," he whispered back, cringing, "...it was so hard for me to walk away. When he hit me... I nearly attacked him. It's just the way I react. I could have killed him, Duo. I might have. My own father! In front of my family! I almost didn't walk away..." He buried his face on his arms. His dark hair looked black in the dusky room. "I'm such a terrible person... The things I said... I do not deserve them. I should die."
Duo gulped, speechless. Maybe it was all the emotional women around the house, but Duo felt like sobbing now too. He scooted as close as he could and put both hands on Heero's arms. He rested his own forehead against Heero's. "You're doing ok," he told Heero gently as he squeezed the man's arms. "I know you feel like that sometimes, but you did walk away. You'd never hurt them. I know you wouldn't, even when you scare them... and yourself. They love you, and they're not going to give up on you. And neither am I, ok?"
Heero closed his eyes.
"Hey, look at my face," Duo said more firmly. "Look at me, Heero," he said again, squeezing Heero's arms harder. He saw a flash of blue from behind the dark hair. "Look," he said and shook Heero gently, "complete faith in you. Not giving up."
Heero saw it. It was written all over Duo's eyes and the faint, hopeful smile on his lips.
Duo heard Heero swallow and take a deep breath. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Your father should not have hit you," Duo said, "it was wrong, and I'm sure he'll come to realize that and apologize."
"I said some terrible things," Heero said as if he just realized that.
"Don't worry about that right now," Duo insisted. He just wanted to see Heero calmed down for the time being. "You don't have to talk to anyone until you are ready. For right now, you should rest. Do you think you want to sleep?"
"Ok," Heero agreed, allowing Duo to help him up and lead him to the bed. He sat heavily and then lay down. Duo sat down on the floor next to the bed. "No, Duo, not there," Heero said softly. He moved all the way over, leaving Duo sitting room on the bed. Duo sat on the bed, and Heero curled up facing him.
"Duo?" he asked, a hint of his normal voice returning. "Would you... sing something?"
"Of course," Duo agreed. A certain song suggested itself immediately, the one he'd been working on the last couple weeks. It was probably a really bad idea -- he'd never intended on performing it for anyone, and it wasn't even finished -- but he found himself starting anyway. "This is a song I wrote recently," he said, "I've never sung it for anyone before."
Duo started to sing in a low, warm voice. The song was a ballad, sweet but sad. It was about a boy who had nothing and no one in his life. Sure, there had been people who had cared for him, but no one who would stay, whom he wanted to stay. There was nowhere he belonged. He was all alone in the world: lost and purposeless. He had tried having anger as his purpose, but discovered that that was no way to live. He had tried having pleasure as his purpose, but that had been unfulfilling as well, so he wandered aimlessly. One day, the boy met a soldier, a man empty inside, but heavy in his soul. He was tired of blood and killing and longed for something more, except he did not know what it was or how to find it. He was also lost and felt worthless. The two lost people wandered together now, and it was better than alone. The boy soon fell in love with the soldier, even though the soldier warned him that he had no heart. Wanting more than anything to make the soldier whole, the boy gladly gave him the only thing he had in all the world: his heart.
Duo stopped singing then and brushed the hair out of Heero's closed eyes.
"Is that the end?" Heero murmured, sounding half asleep.
"I don't know what happens next," Duo smiled sadly, "I haven't finished the song yet." He leaned down to kiss Heero's cheek. "Go to sleep now, I'll be right here," he promised and stretched out on the bed.
You all might think that Heero's dad was mean for hitting him, but it's Heero who commited the big no-no. He was way out of line. In the classical Roman concept of Pater familias, you are your father's son until your father dies, so Heero and Quatre are both expected to follow directions and not argue. (There will be more on that and marriage in the next chapter.)
Adoption - the Name was really the most important thing, so it would have been totally feasible for an adopted son to carry on the family name.
And anyone expecting a lemon will be sorely disappointed...