Damsel in Distress versus the Knight in Shiny Armor
Chapter 2 - Heart-Shaped Spots in Pink Shoe Polish
It took Heero two days to conclude that the dragon was not in residence and one day to verify the accuracy of the information. He had witnessed nothing to indicate that a large reptile that breathed fire was in the vicinity during the first two days. He had watched as a person in a dress had been pitched through a window and into the moat. The person had bounced out of the water and yelled through the portcullis until it opened, then disappeared back inside the castle. Based on his information, it was likely that this was the other princess. G had stated that the princess was getting tossed out of the window by the dragon. The accuracy of this information was in doubt as the individual tossing the person in the dress out of the window had human hands, arms, and face; none of which a dragon reputedly possessed.
Logically, he could wait until she was pitched out the window again, then just pluck her from the moat and ride back with her. The problem was that he didn't think he could adequately swim in the remnants of the armor and the moat was deep. That and he didn't know how long until she would be thrown out again. He had only witnessed the one incidence and there was nothing to indicated the regularity of the event. He did not want to delay the mission indefinitely.
There were indications of other people, at least two, within the castle. One of them had made a habit of throwing the alleged princess out of the castle while the other person had let her back in. He hadn't seen much to support the idea of a populated castle. Generally there was more activity and noise to indicate that a castle was occupied by a population rather than a few individuals. Additionally, if he looked at the window-tossing logically, at least one person did not want the alleged princess in the castle and he might be persuaded to simply hand her over.
It would be difficult to assault the structure by himself as the armor still made too much noise and the chest plate interfered with his range of motion. While he did not doubt that he could successfully lay siege to the persons in the castle, he did not think he could breach the castle walls in the armor. Since removing it was impossible, that meant he had to find another way in. He briefly courted the idea of a ruse, perhaps a delivery-man or wandering minstrel, to get in. Baron J had fully trained him the use of deception to accomplish a mission. The problem was the armor. He couldn't think of a means of successfully explaining it away. In the end, he decided that the best available alternative was to knock on the front door and ask after the alleged princess. As far as plans went, it was nearly as bad as the parameters defined by the Princess Relena's Code of Chivalry, but it was the best he could come up with. With that aim in mind, he mounted the horse and pointed it toward the castle.
He stopped the horse in front of the portcullis. "Hail the castle!" he bellowed, as Baron J had said he should do when approaching a potential ally. It would be best if the occupants of the castle thought him an ally.
There was a flurry of motion, the sound of running feet on stones, and a boy appeared in front of the gate. He was shortish, and blonde, with big blue eyes. He wore expensive silk that had seen better days and stood with his shoulders back in a posture that indicated that he was Someone Important. Heero was forced to conclude that, despite his regal bearing and the clothing, this was not the princess. The dictionary had been adamant on that point, princesses were female.
"Er, hello," the boy said, his wide eyes going from the armor, to the bare legs, to the pink, heart-shaped splotches on the white horse.
Heero was at a loss. Conversation hadn't been a part of his training program and Baron J hadn't had much to say about what one should do in order to make an ally.
The boy with the big eyes blinked. "You're here for the," he giggled, "princess, aren't you?"
"Yes. It is my mission to rescue and marry the princess."
The eyes got bigger. "You're going to marry the," another giggle, "princess?"
The boy started laughing.
Heero frowned. He had expected armed resistance to his mission, not laughter.
The boy collapsed, leaning into the wall, still laughing. His arm slapped at something beside the portcullis, then it abruptly shot upward. He then shoved himself to his feet, clutching his middle in what appeared to be an attempt to control himself. "Come," wheezing laugh, "with me," a snorting chuckle, "please."
Heero touched his heels to Wing's sides and the horse blew snot everywhere in a long, horse sigh. The boy took a hold of the bridle and tugged him into the bailey beyond the castle walls. It was just as run-down inside as it was outside, though it presented several problems in rapid escape. At least he had been correct in one respect, this castle had few occupants.
"Trowa!" the boy yelled when the laughter had died down. "There is a knight here to rescue and," giggle, "marry, the" outright laughter, "princess!"
Another boy, this one taller and what Heero would consider the more dangerous of the two, stepped through a doorway that led to a darkened great hall beyond. Baron J used his great hall as a war room. The one eye that Heero could see beyond the taller boy's hairstyle took in his armor and the horse. While the boy's mouth didn't move, Heero still felt as if he were being silently laughed at. He concluded that while amusement at his expense was unlikely to affect the outcome of the mission, he didn't particularly like it.
"Trowa," the big eyed boy said, "look at his horse!"
The tall boy, Trowa, looked at Heero. "Does the," the boy's lips twitched into something dangerously close to a smile, "princess know?"
"I was not informed when I was given the mission parameters." Heero's eyes narrowed as he considered this. "Is it important?"
"The," Trowa's lips twitched again, "princess might not--"
A shriek followed by a crash cut through the bailey, spooking the horse. A moment later there was an explosion of a princess-shaped whirlwind in white from a door on the ramparts. She bolted along the battlements, still shrieking at the top of her lungs. Behind her, a black-haired boy followed, threatening all manner of death in three different languages. Heero was impressed with his ingenuity and made note of several of the methods for later use.
"There's the," the big eyed boy giggled, "princess. Hey, Princess! Your Knight in Shiny Armor is here!"
The princess stopped dead in her tracks, jaws gaping.
The black-haired boy took the opportunity to throw her over the battlements with a deft twist of his body before he, too, turned to gape at Heero.
Thirty minutes later....
"I'm not going!" the princess shrieked from the depths of the castle. She sounded enough like the Princess Relena that Heero considered altering the Do Not Excite Princess Relena mission to the Do Not Excite Princesses mission.
She hadn't fallen into the moat, it turned out. With surprising strength and tenacity, she had climbed back over the battlements and snuck into the depths of the castle. The big eyed boy, who was designated Quatre, had given him an apologetic smile and bolted into the castle after her.
Feeling a bit out of his depth, Heero had jumped from the horse's back and exchanged awkward looks with Trowa.
"Welcome, Sir Knight," the black-haired boy said, emerging from the door to the war room. "I am Chang Wufei, Last of the Dragon Clan."
"I am Heero Yuy."
Wufei bowed briefly. "I understand that you're here for the princess?"
Heero nodded, once. "My mission is to rescue and marry the princess."
Wufei looked momentarily disconcerted. "Marry the princess?"
"Marry him!" The princess's shriek had risen distinctly in volume. A moment later, she stormed from the war room with Quatre on her heels, shoved her sleeves up as she stomped across the bailey, and swung at him.
Heero ducked the punch easily, despite the remnants of his armor. He reminded himself that he was not permitted to shoot princesses and took a step back.
Huge, amethyst eyes the color of fresh, spring violets met his. They were brimming with emotions that inspired passion: anger, rage, fury, and indignation. Porcelain cheeks were flushed with a delicate cover of blushing pink above a generous mouth quivering with the force of roiling emotion. The gown, ripped and stained as it was, clung to the princess's body as faithfully as a lover's caress, molding to the slim hips, and sensually curved ass. A long braid, the color of warmed cinnamon and melted chocolate flowed down the princess's back, a few of the silken strands working themselves free to swirl delicately around the beautiful face and neck.
Heero noticed none of this. Neither did the others. Heero was staring at the princess as if she were a new species of stink bug. "You are not the princess."
The princess's funny colored eyes narrowed. "I am too!"
Quatre looked confused. "But you never wan--"
"I'm the fucking princess, Quatre! Goddammit! I've been the fucking princess all my life!"
Heero ignored the outburst. "The dictionary states that a princess is a female sovereign or ruler, a wife of a prince, a daughter or granddaughter of a sovereign, a female member of a royal or princely family, or a size of roofing slate, 24 inches by 14 inches. You are male, therefore you are not the princess. Please produce the princess."
Wufei appeared aghast. "How did you know? I didn't figure it out for nearly a week."
"Yeah, and you're still pissed off about that, Wuffers."
"Do not call me that!"
The not-princess grinned impishly. "Wuffee? It's okay that you kissed me, you know. I like guys."
Wufei turned an interesting shade of red. "Out! Get out!"
The not-princess ignored that. "Hey, Knight, where's the rest of your armor? Not that I have anything against spandex, but it doesn't really go with the rest of the outfit."
Heero glared. "My mission is to rescue and marry the princess. Shiny armor and a white stallion were required by the mission parameters, however, upon re-evaluation of the mission objective, I concluded that armor would be detrimental to the mission's success. I was able to remove most of the armor, but these pieces require assistance that I do not have."
The not-princess exploded into gales of merry laughter that had him doubled over.
It occurred to Heero that this was not a princess, therefore he could shoot him.
"Would you like some help?" Quatre offered.
Heero considered this. An offer of help was indicative of either a potential trap or a probable ally. The recent behavior of these individuals, while nonsensical, had not been hostile. Abruptly, he nodded. A moment later, he was surprised when Trowa slid forward and undid the buckles that kept the armor plates locked to his body. While he did not have sufficient data to predict these social situations, it logically followed that the person who offered help would be the one to give it. However, he was too relieved at being armor free to probe too deeply into the dynamic.
"I would offer you accommodations for the night," Wufei stated, "however, you must return the princess to his family immediately. I'm certain they're worried about him."
"Awww, Wu-man, that's sweet of you, but you heard the man. I'm not a girl, so I can't be the fucking princess, so he can't rescue me."
"And marry you," Quatre said, snorting back giggles.
The not-princess stuck his tongue out at Quatre. "I'm not marrying him!"
Quatre laughed. "Are too!"
"I am not!"
Trowa was watching the pair, appearing faintly amused behind his deceptively placid expression. Wufei appeared to find the budding argument ludicrous. Heero agreed with him. Perhaps Chang Wufei was a useful, potential ally. He decided to test the theory. "Chang, do you have a dictionary I might use?"
Wufei's brow furrowed in confusion. "Of course. Why?"
"I require the definitions of a few words if I am to complete my mission."
Curiosity gleamed in the boy's eyes. "Perhaps I might be of assistance?"
"What is marry? I am required to marry the princess, but it was not defined by mission parameters."
"Mawage," the not-princess intoned, drawing himself fully erect like an Impressive Clergyman, "Mawage is wot bwings us togedder too-day. Mawage, that bwessed awangement, that dweam wifin a dweam...."
"Duo!" Quatre said, giggling.
Ahh, the winsome beauty's name was Duo. It was a fitting name for the gloriously maned, waif-like boy who stood in the center of a ray of sunshine as if all the angels between heaven and earth had descended to kiss the luminous glow of his perfect skin and bring a delightful sparkle to the almost eclipsing joy that was his jewel-like, amethyst eyes.
Heero was not thinking this. Neither were the others. Heero was wondering if Duo was somehow mentally deficient and how to minimize its effect the outcome of his mission.
Wufei pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers and squeezed his eyes shut. "I see that there are more problems to getting rid of Maxwell than I thought. Perhaps it would be best if you remained here tonight so that you might understand what you're getting into. While I wish to be rid of that pest as soon as feasible, it would be an injustice to send you off to marry him without knowing what you're getting into."
"I'm not gonna marry him!" Duo crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Wufei.
"You are not the princess. My mission is to marry the princess."
Duo yanked on his braid and whirled around in a flurry of torn dress. "I am so the fucking princess! I'm the first born fucking princess! I've got the stupid fucking princess clothes and the stupid fucking princess dream bedroom set and the stupid fucking princess goddamned tiara!" Duo produced a bent tiara from the depths of the gown somewhere and brandished it at Heero as if it were a pistol.
Heero shook his head. "No, you are not. You are male. Princesses are female. The dictionary was clear on that point."
"We will discuss this inside," Wufei decided. "Barton, please see to our guest's," he frowned at the large pink heart on the horse's rump, "horse. Winner, start dinner. Maxwell, get out of my castle."
Trowa took the horse's bridle and led him off toward a low stable near the wall. Quatre smiled and trotted toward the hall. Duo stuck his tongue out at Wufei, then followed Quatre.
"Please come with me, Yuy."
Heero was given a change of clothes and a place to clean up. He considered doing a quick recon mission through the castle, to see if the princess had been stashed someplace, but there simply wasn't time before he was due in the war room. Chang Wufei had promised to explain some things to him and he decided that any data Wufei had was more important than recon. It would be simpler, in any case, to perform a more thorough examination of the premises after everyone had gone to bed.
The bathroom was a horny, rich man's fantasy playroom. It was completely at odds with the crumbling state of the rest of the castle, not to mention the simple fact that castles generally were never equipped with hot running water, jacuzzi-bathtubs built for three, and a toilet complete with working flushing mechanism. Heero thought that the amenities were odd as he stepped into the room, but he was just a soldier, what did he know about the kind of facilities castles were supposed to be equipped with?
He pulled off the tank-top and skinned out of the spandex shorts. While some might consider going commando the mark of an eternal optimist, Heero considered it a practical sort of thing. There were less clothes to wash. Mostly, though, it was because he had long ago, for whatever reason, decided that panty lines were detrimental to completing missions. He had thought up a reasonable line of logic for it, but had forgotten it. Efficiency in dressing had been a part of the syllogism, as he recalled. That and sometimes the spandex would bind up with briefs and he would end with a wedgie that distracted him sufficiently to be annoying. Boxers were out of the question as they bunched and were occasionally longer in the leg than the spandex shorts. Dropping the shorts and tank top on the floor, Heero turned on the shower, pleased to note the instant heat in the water. He stepped into the shower, past the perfectly clear, fog-resistant glass door (isn't every bathroom equipped with one?) and picked up a thin washcloth and sweet-smelling soap.
The closed and heretofore locked bathroom door slipped open slowly. Not-Princess Duo had perfected the art of breaking into the bathroom without being noticed on Wufei. His last, er, visit to the bathroom with Wufei had prompted the Last of the Dragon Clan to throw him over the battlements. Again. He didn't plan on being pitched out of the castle by any one of the nearby windows and/or ramparts for this, er, visit, however. He had a different mission than joining an irritable Chinese man in the bathtub. He had more important things to do.
In the shower, the drops of hot water beat down across the perfect soldier's perfect pecs, dripping over the hardened nipples and along the perfectly sculpted, washboard abs. The perfect soldier's gorgeous golden skin provided a startling contrast to the thick, rich, white lather he was slowly building along the length of one perfectly formed and exquisitely naked thigh. Fiery, burning, cobalt eyes hidden beneath silken, chocolate-sable, mink soft bangs concentrated the full power of his will in what could only be called a cleanly ardor for the deliciously sensual task of sliding the slippery soap over the heated planes of his skin, closer, ever so closer to the center of his body where his recumbent maleness awaited the gentlest of teasing touches to make it sparkly clean.
Duo noticed none of this. Neither did the others, mostly because they weren't present for the obnoxiously short, gratuitous nude scene. He hooked his fingers into Heero's discarded spandex and tank top, then slunk out of the bathroom. "Whew. And I thought it stunk when Wuffers made me clean out the stables," he muttered on his way to dinner, via the nearest window where the clothes were pitched into the moat. "Stables. Ooh. Idea!"
A short while later....
The mess hall was silent when Heero arrived, dressed in a borrowed, blue tank top and borrowed white jeans. Not-Princess Duo sat piously at one end of the table, an innocent, I-didn't-do-it! expression plastered on his face. For some reason, that particular expression didn't appear to be a natural one for him. The others ranged around the table, staring at Duo as if they either expected him to suddenly leap across the table and bite them or explode like a fragmentation grenade. Duo smiled at Heero when he chose a seat that afforded him the best view of all possible entrances to the room. The fine hairs on the back of Heero's neck lifted at that smile. It wasn't an evil smile that one would expect from an enemy; it was a rather welcoming smile. There was no sense in the sudden unease that filled him. Glancing around at the other occupants of the table, Heero noted that he wasn't the only one feeling a bit anxious.
"I am not hungry," Wufei abruptly announced.
Duo looked briefly hurt. "Oh c'mon, Wuffers, I didn't do anything to your food! Swear! On Deathscythe's butt even!"
"What did you do, Maxwell?"
The not-princess continued to beam innocence to all and sundry.
Wufei pushed his plate away. "We will forgo dinner," he decided. "Maxwell cannot be trusted."
Heero frowned. "Not eating is not good for maximum efficiency. For the body to maintain optimal performance levels, it must be fed nutrients at regular intervals."
"True," Quatre said thoughtfully, "but eating anything when Duo has that look on his face is hazardous to your health. It does no good to have him test it first. He has a cast-iron stomach."
"Oh come on guys! I didn't do anything to the food." The choir-boy expression on the not-princess's face had been replaced by annoyance. "You think I want to get tossed in the moat again? I've got three more days of no-moat and Wuffee will give me my pants back."
"Do not call me that!" Wufei snapped.
"I don't understand," Heero said.
"Princess," Trowa said, his lips twitching in that not-smile of his, "Duo doesn't have any clothes of his own except for that dress. When he bothers Wufei too much, Wufei hides all of the clothes so Duo has to wear the dress. If he can go a week without being tossed in the moat, then he gets pants again."
"It's not funny!" Not-Princess Duo bellowed.
"Yes it is," Trowa said.
Heero nodded once, curtly. "That would explain why a man would choose to wear clothing that restricts combat readiness."
Duo slammed his head into the table with a long groan. "I don't choose to wear this stupid dress. I'm the fucking princess with a goddamned tiara!"
Heero frowned. Not this again. "You are not the princess. Princesses are female. You are male. Therefore, you cannot be the princess."
"Maxwell is the princess, Yuy." Wufei sounded disgusted by the notion.
"That is not possible." Heero looked from the top of the not-princess's head to Wufei.
"Oh yeah, it's possible. Just as long as everyone is too stupid to figure it out." Duo threw himself backwards, to sprawl in the chair, one leg hitched up on the arm. His voice rose to imitate the irritating whine the Princess Relena was fond of indulging herself in. "Ooh, Duo, you silly girl. You're not a boy, everyone knows you're a princess! You're such a beautiful, delicate girl. No, you can't learn how to fence. Girls don't fence. No, you can't have that horse, it's too dangerous. Don't be ridiculous! Girls don't wear breeches. Don't be silly, Duo, you're not a boy. Anyone with eyes can see that you're the very flower of princesshood." Duo squeezed his braid between his fists as if he were cheerfully strangling someone. "And that's just G. You should hear the shit my father says."
Heero's frown deepened. "I'm confused."
"I found it difficult to believe in the beginning as well, Yuy," Wufei said, idly twisting his chopsticks in his soba. "I thought that it was some sort of colossal joke that someone was having at my expense. I attempted to return him to his home several times, but it was difficult. Instead, I went to see King Howard, to get help in returning him. They thought that I was insane for thinking he was male, despite evidence to the contrary." Wufei blushed.
"You could have joined me, Wuffie, I wouldn't have minded a bit." Duo grinned when the blush deepened.
Wufei gave Duo a glare. "The king's advisor insisted that I marry the princess. I thought they were referring to his sister, but they wanted me to marry him. Once I married him, they would gladly allow him to visit, or so I was informed."
"It's true. I've been friends with the," Quatre giggled, "princess for most of my life. The entire kingdom seems to think that he's a fragile, delicate damsel."
"It's a curse, I tell ya. I know I'm gorgeous, but I always thought I was a hunk, not a babe." Duo suddenly grinned. "Of course, as a princess, I ought to get to see more co--"
"Duo!" Quatre turned beet red, then grinned. "I always knew you were a flamer."
"I am not! Take it back!"
"You are, too! Princess!"
"I am not!"
"Says the man who owns a tiara!"
"Oh, low-blow, Q-babe, I'm so gonna get you for that one."
"Enough!" Wufei slapped his open palm on the table. He turned to Heero. "While the dictionary is correct in that princesses are usually female, in this instance, Maxwell is a princess out of ignorance."
Duo sniffed. "I'm feeling insulted here, Wuff. You wanna come kiss it and make it feel better?"
"He is the princess that I am to rescue and marry?" Heero didn't think that sounded quite right.
"This makes no sense." Something occurred to Heero. "This is not a joke, is it?"
Wufei steepled his fingers and sighed. "No, it's not. Maxwell is one of King Howard's princesses."
Quatre giggled. "How can you say that with a straight face?"
"Wuffers has no sense of humor, Quat," the not-princess said, glaring at Wufei with a remarkable lack of humor.
Heero abruptly decided to consider this princess problem at length, later. He had other questions he wanted answered. "What is marry?"
"You did that one, Duo," Quatre said.
"I will explain this," Wufei snapped. He put a studious expression on his face. "Marry is when two people vow to unite themselves and create a familial bond between themselves and their families or clans."
"That's not it at all." Quatre gave Wufei a pitying look. "Marry is when two people who love each other promise to stay together."
"It is not!" Duo flounced in the seat. "Marriage is when two dopes get together and promise not to have any more fun until they split. No one gets to have sex either. I'm not marrying him."
Trowa stood up. "I'll get the dictionary."
Twenty minutes later....
Four sets of eyes, well three and a half, stared him as if he had the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything riding on whatever it was he found hidden the pages of a Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. Heero had noted that the publication date was a decade previous, so the information was bound to be slightly out of date. Of course, the source itself, while reputable, wasn't as reliable as the Oxford English Dictionary that Baron J kept at home base. A brief scan of the definition of princess proved that Webster wasn't as informed as the OED. There was no mention of roofing slate.
Marry confused him. It carried more unfamiliar words that required defining. Spouse, for instance. What was a spouse? A husband? Was that the noun or verb form? Was he expected to manage and use the princess prudently? If so, how did one go about managing and using a princess, prudently or otherwise? Marriage. That made sense. He was expected to contract a union to form a consensual relationship with the princess. This was a legal contract.
He peeked up at the four faces waiting for the pronouncements of wisdom the dictionary had to offer and decided to look up romantic while he had the chance. Rescuing and marrying princesses was supposed to be romantic, according to the Princess Relena. Most of the definitions dealt with the word romance, but he found two that agreed with his analysis of the term: having no basis in fact, imaginary; and impractical in conception or plan, visionary. This did add a problem to the current mission, however. If rescuing and marrying a princess was romantic, and romantic was imaginary, did that mean he did not have to actually rescue and marry a princess in order to complete the mission?
"I understand marry now," he informed his audience. "It is a legal contract to form a consensual relationship."
Wufei nodded slowly. "At its basest definition, yes. There is far more to it than that, however. Particularly when marriage involves royalty."
"I was told that my mission was romantic," Heero said. "I agree."
Duo spit out his drink, choking. "You? Robot boy? Spandex-has-strangled-my-balls boy? Romantic?"
"Yes. The dictionary defines romantic is impractical. This mission is impractical."
Three and a half sets of eyes stared at him as if he'd lost his mind.
"The not-princess does not require rescuing. I have seen no evidence of a large, fire-breathing reptile attempting to eat him. It would have been far simpler to remove rescuing from the mission objective and contracted the consensual relationship via courier. I would have been able to remain at base and continued my training." Heero frowned. "Perhaps it was a princess who developed the mission. I have observed a high incidence of impractical planning on the part of princesses. It is odd that Baron J would permit a princess to design a mission. He is usually meticulous in his plans."
Duo got control over his gaping mouth before the others could. "Uh, yeah. Look, uh, Knight, this soldier stuff is cute and all, but can you maybe drop into the real world with the rest of us? You know, Planet Earth?"
"I have not left the planet," Heero said. "I don't understand."
Duo laughed. "Great joke, okay. Not funny anymore. Be a person, not a machine."
"I am not joking. I am a soldier. Joking compromises combat readiness."
"Come on, no one is like this all the time."
Heero said nothing.
"Shit! You're like this all the time?"
"Even when you have sex?"
Quatre blushed. "Duo!"
Heero shook his head. "I do not have sex. Sex requires a partner. Partners compromise combat readiness."
Duo's mouth dropped open again.
Wufei diplomatically cleared his throat. "Perhaps there might be a better way to show you what marriage entails. I have a few volumes that deal with the subject."
"No way, Wuffers!" Duo bounced to his feet. "It's Movie Night! Time to get out the chick flicks!"