Heero repeated his first question. "Have I offended you?"
"No," Duo said quickly.
Heero looked at him for another long moment. "Then I hope this doesn't cause offense," he said softly. Using his grip on Duo's wrist, Heero pulled the bemused young man to him and covered his lovely mouth with his own.
Lighting ran through Duo's body and traveled straight to his groin. He tensed in shock. He couldn't believe what was happening. All the dreams he'd been having were coming true. Heero was kissing him. But the dream didn't come anywhere near the reality. Duo moaned as Heero's soft but firm lips moved surely over his.
Galvanized by the erotic sound, Heero let his tongue seek entrance to the warm, wet haven of Duo's mouth. Duo parted his sensuous lips in response and Heero invaded his mouth. Duo moaned again as their tongue's met in a seductive dance.
Heero raised himself up to his knees and brought Duo with him, never breaking the kiss. He placed his strong hands low on Duo's back and pulled him close, so close that it was as if their bodies were attempting to meld into one. Heero groaned at the feeling of Duo pressed against his arousal. His groaned turned into a low growl as he realized that Duo was as aroused as he was.
Duo felt as though he was drowning in sensation. He was pressed so tightly against Heero that he could feel Heero's arousal against his own. The feeling made him lightheaded and he gasped, grabbing Heero's broad shoulders for support. Heero broke the kiss as they ran out of breath. But he gave Duo no respite, instead attacking the long sweet column of Duo's throat with his hot partially opened mouth.
Duo's chest heaved with his labored breathing as he let his head fall back languorously, his long braid sweeping the ground behind him. His eyes were closed and his lips were parted as he struggled to draw breath. Heero's strong hands moved under his tunic, touching his bare skin. Feeling as if he were on fire, Duo moaned again. His moan turned to a cry when Heero's hands traveled higher and brushed against his sensitive nipples.
The sound of his own voice raised in passion brought Duo back swiftly to the present. With a sob of dismay, he pushed Heero away and stood up quickly, panting with unrelieved desire. Heero looked up at him, still caught in a sensual haze. Duo groaned at the sight of him. Heero's deep blue eyes were glazed with passion as he looked up. His cheeks were flushed and his firm lips were parted invitingly. Duo's hands clenched into fists, so as not to reach out, and he turned away, unable to bear the incredible vision Heero made kneeling before him.
Heero struggled to wrap his mind around what was happening. For some reason, Duo was no longer in his arms. He shook his head, trying to dispel the sensual fog which trapped him. Slowly coming to his senses, he looked at Duo and took in the tense lines of his slender body. He remained silent, waiting for Duo to speak.
Duo tried desperately to control his breathing. Finally, he felt able to form a coherent sentence. Without turning around he whispered, "Why did you do that?"
Heero stared at Duo's back while he attempted to think of an answer. A million reasons ran through his mind. The way Duo's beautiful eyes twinkled when he smiled. The way his hair looked in the light of the fire. The way he always went out of his way to help those he came in contact with at the palace. The way he'd looked when he danced.
"I've wanted you from the first moment I saw you."
Duo shivered as Heero's deep voice raced across his nerves. He almost turned around in astonishment as he took in the meaning of Heero's words. He couldn't believe that Heero had been thinking about him for as long as he'd been think about Heero. Duo was forced to face the truth. He'd wanted Heero from the moment he saw him upon that dais.
"Why do you think I wanted you to be my valet," Heero continued. "There was no other way I could think of to have you constantly near me. So I could see you everyday. So I could touch you..."
Duo closed his eyes as another shiver ran deliciously through him. He still did not turn around, reeling at the discovery of why he'd been given the position as Heero's valet. 'He asked for me personally?' He tensed as he heard Heero stand up.
"Duo, look at me." Heero sighed as Duo stubbornly refused to turn around. "Duo, I think - no, I know - that I'm falling in love with you."
At that, Duo did turn around. Duo felt as though his heart would explode out of his chest it was beating so hard. He shook his head slowly, either trying to deny Heero's statement or to clear his head to be certain he'd heard correctly. Duo looked at Heero's intent but composed expression and knew that the prince meant what he'd said. Duo felt a sudden flash of terror.
"We have to get back," Duo said suddenly. "I-I have to go." Without waiting for Heero, Duo turned and ran to his horse. Untethering it quickly, Duo mounted and rode away as if demons were on his heels.
Heero looked after him, making no move to follow. A slight smile lit upon his lips. Behind the fear in Duo's eyes, Heero had seen a brief spark of pure joy when he'd confessed his love. Despite Duo's subsequent behavior, that quick flash of emotion was enough to give Heero hope. He packed away the remains of the interrupted picnic and leisurely followed Duo back to the palace.
Duo sat huddled on his bed with his knees bent below his chin and his arms wrapped around his legs. He rocked himself slowly as the events of the afternoon replayed themselves in his mind. Just thinking about that kiss was enough to make Duo hot all over again. Groaning in despair, he lowered his head to his knees.
"What do I do now," he whispered to the shadows. "How can I kill him? I love him." As Duo had sat in his darkened room, he'd finally faced up to the truth. He was deeply in love with the prince and had been for some time. It had just taken Heero's profess of love to make him accept his own feelings.
Duo felt tears sting his eyes as he thought about Hilde. How could he save his cousin without having to murder the love of his life? Duo's head began to hurt as the impossible conundrum chased itself through his brain.
Duo sat up abruptly, and wiped the tears from his face. As much as he hated to do it, he had to contact the duke and beg him to spare both Hilde and Heero. Swallowing his pride, Duo rose off of the bed and took the enchanted mirror from his nightstand. He spoke the incantation and waited for the Duke to appear.
"Duo, you have news for me I hope," the duke stated impatiently.
Duo swallowed and pressed forward. "Sir," he said, not even wincing at using the term of respect on the vile duke. "I beg of you, ask me to do anything else, but not this. I can't do as you've asked. I can't kill the prince."
Dermail's face became even uglier as it showed his anger. "*What*? You little brat, you dare try to bargain with me? No, Duo, you will do what I've asked of you or I will kill your cousin with my bare hands, do you understand?" Suddenly the mirror was filled with a vision on Hilde. She was huddled into a corner in a small room, eyes wide with fear. Duo gasped, his heart clenching in pain at the sight.
The duke came back into view. "I've indulged you long enough. Either you show me the prince's dead body by this time tomorrow, or the girl dies." The connection terminated abruptly.
Duo exhaled on a sob feeling utterly trapped. How could he choose between his beloved cousin and the man who had his heart? Duo closed his eyes as he realized that there was really no choice to be made. He just hoped he had the courage to see his course of action through to the end.
Heero sat at dinner oblivious to the commotion around him. Dinner at court was a noisy affair as servants wandered about, courtiers vied with each other for the attention of the king, and traveling musicians played. Heero's only thought, however, was for Duo. The braided boy had disappeared after their picnic. Heero had returned to the palace hoping to see Duo and talk things over with him, but he was nowhere to be found.
Heero occasionally glanced around the dining hall hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful servant. He knew that Duo would probably avoid serving at the dinner in a further attempt to evade him. However, he hoped that he would see Duo soon. The tension of not knowing for certain whether Duo returned his love weighed heavily on his heart. He saw Quatre glance at him. Heero avoided making eye contact with the blond mage in a vain attempt to prevent Quatre from knowing his feelings.
Heero felt a sudden shiver go through him. Without thought, he looked towards the servants' door just in time to see Duo enter the hall. Heero locked his eyes onto Duo's face. Duo's countenance was calm but he kept his eyes focused on the floor as if the answers to life's deepest mysteries were written upon it's surface. Heero kept his gaze upon Duo in a futile attempt to meet the boy's eyes.
With eyes firmly glued to the floor, Duo approached Heero. A dull roar sounded in his ears. He stopped next to Heero's chair and carefully bent to place a goblet of wine in front of him. He felt Heero's gaze upon him and a frission of heat ran through him. However, he prevented himself from returning Heero's look as he straightened. He moved behind Heero's chair in order to escape from that intense cobalt stare.
Heero fought the urge to turn around and keep Duo in his line of sight. Now was not the time or place to confront the braided boy but he promised himself that the moment would come sooner rather than later. Sighing in frustration at the enforced delay, Heero reached for his goblet.
Duo's eyes locked upon Heero's hand as he moved to pick up the goblet. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Quatre look at him questioningly. He'd learned that Quatre was an empath as well as a mage and figured that Quatre had picked up on the tense emotions coursing through him. However, Duo remained focused upon Heero. He held his breath as Heero slowly lifted the goblet to his lips. Duo felt as if time had slowed to a mere crawl. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, even years passed while the goblet moved towards the lips that had so recently been pressed to his own. Duo's breath stilled and he felt as if he were strung as tightly as a lute string, ready to snap at any moment.
Heero had begun to tilt his head to take a drink of wine when an anguished cry came from behind him. Before he could react, a hand reached out like a flash and knocked the goblet from his hands. Heero turned quickly towards his attacker. It was Duo! Heero stared up at him in confusion as the spilled wine spread over the table.
Duo's face was flushed and his beautiful amethyst eyes were filled with tears. His lips were parted and his chest heaved from the heaviness of his breathing. The look of abject despair on his face made Heero's heart clench. Duo turned his head and for a moment their eyes met. Duo's eyes were filled with immeasurable sorrow. Then before Heero could move, Duo turned and ran out of the hall.
The dining hall had fallen into absolute silence at Duo's cry. Heero hesitated but a moment before he rose from his chair and ran after Duo. Wufei and Trowa quickly followed. Quatre rose but took at brief moment to whisper an incantation over the spilled wine. Seconds later he gasped, shocked at his discovery. He turned and ran after the others.
Duo ran towards the stables. His entire being cried out in torment. He'd had the opportunity to save his beloved cousin but his foolish heart had sealed her fate. Duo had learned many things from the gypsies including a knowledge of plants and herbs. The poison he'd put in Heero's wine, the yuudoku root, would have caused him to die peacefully in his sleep. Duo would have been able to escape before anyone learned of Heero's death and return to Aku to claim his cousin.
But when Heero had gone to drink the poison Duo had reacted without thought. There was nothing that could make him watch his beloved prince ensure his own demise. Duo did not know why he ran. If he was caught, he would be killed for trying to murder the prince but surely death was preferable to knowing that he'd killed his cousin and lost Heero forever.
Duo skidded to a halt as he reached the stables. He rushed over to the gelding he'd rode on his outing with Heero earlier that day. It seemed as if a thousand years had passed since Heero had kissed him with such passion in the clearing. Duo used his sleeve to wipe the tears from his face as he tried to saddle the horse. He heard running feet enter the stable behind him and he paused. A tremor in his heart told him that Heero was there. Clutching the saddle to himself like a shield, he turned.
Heero stood there with Wufei, Trowa, and Quatre behind him. Wufei's face was a study in dark fury. Trowa's face was impassive as usual. Quatre wore a look of confused betrayal and burgeoning anger. Heero's eyes, however, held only a question.
"Why did you run?"
Duo fixed his huge eyes on Heero as if trying to imprint him in his memory. He shook his head slightly, unable to answer.
Quatre spoke up. "Duo, you poisoned Heero's wine." Wufei and Trowa looked at him sharply then turned back to Duo. Wufei's face darkened even further and Trowa's took on an air of quiet menace.
Duo did not notice the others. He kept his attention strictly on Heero. At Quatre's pronouncement, Heero did not react other than to blink. His gaze remained fixed on Duo as softly repeated his question.
A sob escaped from Duo's throat. He dropped the saddle and fell to his knees. He closed his eyes as his shoulders heaved and tears fell silently down his face.
Heero again felt his heart twist at the sight of Duo's misery. He turned towards the others and motioned for them to leave. Three faces looked back in obstinate denial. Heero narrowed his eyes in an attempt to assert his authority. He turned back towards Duo a moment later when he realized his friends wouldn't budge from their resolve not to leave him alone with his attempted murderer.
Heero moved to Duo and knelt in front of him. Wufei moved forward and opened his mouth to voice a warning. Quatre took hold of his arm and shook his head. Wufei tightened his lips but remain where he was.
Duo felt Heero's hand upon his shoulder. The other hand reached for his chin and slowly tilted his face upwards.
"Duo, look at me."
Duo found himself unable to resist the gentle command. He opened his eyes and found himself falling into deep pools of concerned blue. He felt Heero's thumb softly stroke his cheek and he unconsciously turned his face into the caress.
"Why, Duo," Heero repeated.
"Hilde." Duo took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "Duke Dermail has my cousin, Hilde, held captive and he'll kill her unless I ..." Duo shook his head, unable to continue.
"Kill me," Heero finished. His eyes narrowed as hatred for Dermail filled him. "What happened?"
Words began rushing from Duo's mouth. "Hilde and I had only been on our own for a month. We had to leave the gypsy camp. I ... I just couldn't stay there anymore. We were so hungry, so I tried to steal some bread. We were discovered and I fought but the guard got Hilde. They took us to the dungeon ... they were going to cut off my hands for stealing. But Dermail said that if I killed you he would let us go. He wanted you dead because your father killed his son. I laughed at him but then he said he would give Hilde to his soldiers and let them hurt her unless I did as he asked. So I came here and I danced and you made me your valet and I was going to try to kill you and save Hilde but I couldn't do it, I-I just couldn't d-do it ..."
Duo broke off as sobs once again ripped from him. Heero held Duo in his arms and felt his teeth clench in fury at what Dermail had done to this boy who meant more to him than his next breath. Without releasing Duo, Heero turned towards the others. Various degrees of sympathy and anger were upon their faces.
"Go to my father and tell him what's happened. Dermail *will* pay for this."
Quatre, Trowa, and Wufei departed without a word.
Heero turned back towards the sobbing boy in his arms. He pressed his lips to Duo's shining hair. Loosening his hold slightly, Heero leaned away from Duo and placed the fingers of his right hand under Duo's chin. He again lifted the beautiful tear-covered face. Duo's shimmering amethyst orbs gazed up at him. Heero used his thumb to wipe away the tears from his flushed cheeks. He took a deep breath and asked the question which could determine the entire course of his future.
"Why did you spare me?"
Duo felt himself falling into Heero's intent gaze. Suddenly all of his doubts lifted from him. With a feeling of serene calm he opened his heart.
"I love you."
Heero closed his eyes briefly as relief and a blinding elation filled his soul. He tightened his hold upon the beauty in his arms as the depth of his emotion caused him to reply in the tongue of his mother's people.
Although the words were foreign, the intent spoke clearly to Duo's heart. He smile slightly and leaned forward to press his lips against Heero's. Heero's arms tightened further around Duo's waist as he parted Duo's lips with his own, invading his mouth with hot ardor. Duo's arms slipped around Heero's neck as he tried to pull his beloved prince closer. Tongues dueled in a dance of passion. Moans rose from them simultaneously as their engorged members were pressed together. After long moments had passed, the need for air forced them reluctantly apart.
Duo and Heero gasped for breath as their eyes continued what their lips could not. Finally, Heero groaned and closed his eyes, breaking away from the amethyst chains that held him in willing thrall. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to the hollow of Duo's neck.
"To my deepest regret, we must go. This isn't the place for this and we must speak to my father about Dermail."
Duo shivered at the delicious feeling of Heero's warm breath upon his neck. He closed his eyes and pressed closer to his love. After a moment, he pulled back and met eyes that had gone dark with desire.
"Alright," he breathed.
He touched his tongue to his lips to moistened them. Heero's eyes locked upon the movement and he let out a low groan. He stood and pulled Duo his feet. He took Duo's hand in his and squeezed. With a reassuring smile, he turned and the two walked from the stable hand-in-hand.