Wildflower : Promises
by Becca Abbott

Prologue

Captain Wendy Schuster looked up at the four men in suits who walked into her office. Her mouth tightened into a thin line. The call from the Commissioner had been a contentious one. Now, mindful of her superior's irate commands, Captain Schuster kept her expression neutral as the suits arranged themselves in front of her.

"Which of you is Grayfield?" she asked coldly.

"I'm Jason Grayfield." One of the lawyers looked down at her, unmoved by her hostility. He handed her a disk. She took her time reading the documents thereon. There was no question, of course. The judge's code was good. She checked it twice anyway. Through it all, the handsome lawyer said nothing, smiling slightly, apparently relaxed.

"Everything is in order?"

"Have you considered simply asking him?"

"Of course, Captain Schuster. We may be a large corporation, but MDI is run by civilized, compassionate men and women just like you. It was his adamant refusal to consider our position that has forced us into this distasteful situation."

"Why do you need our help?" she asked. She would have the bad taste from this affair in her mouth for weeks.

"We felt, and your Commissioner agreed, that it would distress the neighbors if an unfamiliar security unit descended upon them." "Bad PR, eh?" Captain Schuster abandoned attempts to conceal her disgust.

"Captain..."

"Yes, Mr. Grayfield, I know -- the Commissioner. I have already spoken to him and we will make sure to keep the corporation's involvement at a minimum. It doesn't mean we have to like it."

"No, ma'am," agreed Grayfield smoothly, "it does not. We will expect to be notified when you plan to take custody." He hesitated, as if waiting for her to raise further objections. She scowled at him. His smile widened but it never reached his eyes. They were cold and empty as space. "Good day, Captain."


Chapter 1

The peculiar, cloying sweetness of death hung in the air. It clogged his lungs, choking him. Underfoot, glass crunched. He kept going, a terrible fear uncoiling like a snake in his belly. Running when it would have been smarter to walk, he clambered over fallen masonry and beams, ducked past evidence of the latest fighting. Through the roiling smoke, he saw the broken walls of the church and the burnt out hulk of Father Maxwell's old van.

Sheer terror gave wings to his feet and he flew through the wreckage, screaming their names. He saw Sister Helen suddenly, standing in the doorway of the small kitchen. She waved to him. There was a big hole in her chest, but she was smiling. He shouted to her, but no sound came out.

"Good-bye, Duo!" she cried. "Good-bye!"

No! Wait! I got the MS for them! You can stay!

"Good-bye, little one." Her form became indistinct. He could see the kitchen straight through her, flames licking along the back wall.

Please! Sister Helen! Take me with you!

"We have to go, Duo. Be a good boy and say your prayers." Father Maxwell, jaw blown away, stood before the chapel. He was carrying a suitcase. "Remember! Nothing lasts forever! Nothing lasts forever..."

Father Maxwell! Sister Helen! No! Don't leave me!

"DUO!"

"Gah!" Duo sat straight up in bed, heart pounding. He saw a slim, shadowy figure in the dark beside him and the universe shifted. For one awful moment, he thought it was Yamada reaching for him.

"Duo! It was a nightmare! Duo!"

Not Elion. Not L2. He was in Sanc with Heero. Duo closed his eyes, breathing hard, and felt his heartbeat slow.

"Sorry," he rasped, rubbing unsteady hands against his face. "Guess I shoulda slept in my room, eh?"

Heero slid an arm around him. Dream images lingered. Duo shivered a little.

"Was it about Elion?"

Hearing the apprehension, Duo shook his head. "L2."

Heero said nothing, but kept hold of him. It was almost morning. Duo could see grey dawn between the slats of the window blinds.

"You've been having bad dreams all night," said Heero finally. "Is something wrong?"

Duo shook his head. "Nah." He laughed a little. "It's funny, but actually, things couldn't be better. Maybe there's a part of me, deep down, that can't believe it's true."

Heero released him. He regarded Duo with tilted head, his dark hair tousled from the pillow and falling into his eyes. What a gorgeous, sexy man he was, thought Duo dreamily. Lots of people were afraid of Heero Yuy. Few of them ever saw the sweet smile or how brightly those dark blue eyes could shine.

"What do you still fear that you dream like this?"

"Bein' alone. Guess I'll always be afraid of that."

"But you're not alone," Heero said reasonably. "I'm here."

How goddamned lucky could a guy get? Lifting a hand, Duo brushed a tendril of brown hair away from Heero's face. In fact, he decided, except for the occasional nightmare, life was just about perfect. His name was finally cleared. He would be flying again, even if it was only a cargo plane, and best of all he had a beautiful, amazing lover who adored him!

"Oh, god, Heero," he whispered thickly, pulling the other boy down and hugging him tight. "Thank you so much."

"Mmmmm? For what?"

Duo shivered as strong white teeth sank gently into his earlobe.

"For lovin' me, of course."

"Like I can help it," muttered his boyfriend in mock annoyance. He pressed Duo into the pillows. "Baka."

Duo laughed, then gasped. Heero began kissing his shoulders, chest and nipples. Trembling at the delicious sensations, he caught Heero's head in his hands, guiding Heero from one erogenous zone to another.

Straddling Duo's hips, Heero rose on his knees. The wan light of the morning outlined his body in ghostly silver and for just a second, Duo remembered the big old Bible in the chapel of Maxwell's Church. There had been wonderful pictures inside. Among them, his favorite, a beautiful, dark-haired angel with a sword.

"Archangel Michael," he said, remembering. He'd had such fierce eyes, the angel -- like Heero's.

Duo's gaze drifted up that expanse of hard muscle, the tiny brown nipples standing so seductively at attention. He licked his lips and thought about dragging Heero back down for a taste of them. Heero's hand crept to his own erect, beautifully shaped cock, his eyes never leaving Duo's face. The light in them seemed almost preternatural, reflecting need so primal that Duo felt a delicious thrill of almost-fear. Heero lowered himself back down again and started rubbing his rigid sex against Duo's, tearing a soft gasp from the boy.

"Gonna fuck you," he growled, kissing the corner of Duo's mouth. "Gonna fuck you until you scream."

"Promises, p-promi.... Ah! Heero!"

His lover's lips and hands were everywhere, it seemed. Duo shook under the onslaught. When Heero brought his attention to Duo's cock, the boy was certain he would come on the spot.

"Don't --- don't stop -- aagh!"

There was a wicked chortle and Heero was gone, leaving Duo wet, aching, and even more needy than before.

"You son of a ..."

Back again with lube, Heero smirked. "Open wide."

"Yes, sir." Duo bent his knees, pulling his legs up and apart. Heero's sparkling gaze softened. For a second, Duo saw an expression of near reverence. Gentle fingers brushed lightly over his balls, then Heero bent and licked along the crack between Duo's buttocks. Helplessly, Duo closed his eyes, breath coming in short, harsh gasps. Heero's tongue and lips worked busily. Duo, lost in the sensation, could do nothing except hold on with all his strength, head tossing from side to side. He sobbed when Heero thrust his tongue past the tight ring of muscle, a promise of things to come.

"Fuck me," he rasped, shaking, desperate to feel Heero inside him. "God damn you!"

"So impatient," murmured Heero, the words a gentle wash of warmth against Duo's wet skin.

"Yeah, yeah...ah -- YES!"

A couple of greased fingers slid into him. Duo couldn't have moved if he wanted to. Precisely, attentively, Heero reduced his lover to a puddle of helpless flesh and bone, stoking the fire in Duo until the boy all but screamed at him. Having mercy at last, Heero rose and, positioning his gleaming cock, sank slowly into the waiting sheathe.

Duo arched against the exquisite invasion, losing his grip on his legs. Heero seemed barely to notice, simply grasping them and pulling them up to his shoulders, never once breaking the rhythm of his thrusts. Bedclothes bunched in his fists, Duo rode the waves higher and higher, losing track of himself in a rush of pleasure and need. Dimly, he heard Heero groan. The other boy's thrusting grew faster and more forceful.

"Harder!" Duo snarled, thrusting back, wanting every inch.

Heero's fingers clamped around Duo's shaft and Duo nearly levitated off the bed. Heero slammed his hips against the other boy, pumping at the heavy cock in his hand.

It was the end. Try as he might, Duo was past control. He screamed, head flung backwards against the sheets, coming in long, exquisite spasms. Distantly, he hard Heero's answering shout. The other boy collapsed on top of him and they lay together, limp and covered with sweat.

Duo felt Heero's lips brush his cheek and, finally, the other boy slid off to curl up beside him, reaching out for the towel nearby to clean them both. Then he gathered Duo in his arms and held him close. Soft lips touched Duo's ear.

"Don't be gone long," Heero whispered. "I need you."

Not as much as I need you, thought Duo. He deposited a kiss on the flushed cheek so close to his.

"My first run is only to Boston. I'll be back before you know it," he promised. "And you better make it worth my while, Hee-chan."

"Hn," said Heero and gave Duo one of his rare, brilliant smiles.


Zechs climbed out of the car and stared up at the glass and steel building in the center of the park. Emerging from the passenger side, Wilder stretched and gave the young king a thoughtful look. Zechs managed an unconcerned smile.

"Shall we go?"

"Are you sure?" Wilder asked.

"No." Zechs didn't even try to lie; Wilder easily saw through such things. "But they are my responsibility," he added.

Wilder shrugged. Zechs took a deep breath and started up the walk to the private hospital, his alien shadow at his heels.

Eight months had passed since the discovery of the White Rose clones. Two of the clones had been created from Peacecraft genes, so it had fallen to him to determine their fate. Mariameia Kushrenada had taken only seconds to decide what she would do with the clone of her father.

"He's a Kushrenada," she had declared, no doubt whatsoever in her shining eyes. "He must have the best of everything! I will have my papa after all!"

It wasn't the fault of the clones that they existed. Although it chilled him to look into his own face, Zechs knew he had to do the best he could for them, even the horrible travesty that was Relena II.

Shields, their creator, had kept detailed notes on the attempts to modify his neuron-building serum. He languished in a high-security prison now, but under Mariemeia's constant urging, Zechs won authorization for J and some of his geneticist colleagues to continue the scientist's work. To Zech's surprise and over Maxwell's vociferous objections, Yuy had volunteered enough of his blood for serum synthesis. By all reports, the new version was working well.

Karen Liu, the physician in charge of the clones, met Zechs and Wilder in the lobby.

"We're very pleased with their progress," she greeted him. "All of them are reading and writing at seventh grade levels. Dr. J has located the faulty gene that contributes to Relena II's psychosis. They've been able to design a medication to compensate. I think you'll find her much less aggressive and with a better attention span. All in all, Your Excellency, we couldn't be more pleased."

Zechs nodded, relieved. He felt Wilder move closer and found the support reassuring. The two followed Liu to the elevator and up to the private floor that was the whole of the clones' world.

Dr. Liu paused in front of a large observation window. Inside, still and pale on her bed, was the clone of his sister. Two previous surgeries had eliminated much of the terrible scarring that so disfigured the beautiful girl. The plastic surgeons promised that eventually, it would be all but impossible to tell she had ever been burned. Zechs wasn't sure whether to be happy or scared by the idea.

Zechs III and Treize II were in the ward's small classroom, bent over open books. Zechs got a jolt at the sight of their heads leaning together, one silver, one copper. Zechs III lifted his eyes suddenly, sensing them, and his face lit into a bright, innocent smile.

"Your Majesty!" he exclaimed, rising at once. "Wilder!"

Treize II was scarcely slower. Zechs swallowed hard. It wasn't Treize -- at least not his General. This man had Zechs II's sweet innocence. Nerves a-jangle, Zechs smiled and said: "Hello, Damon."

He had renamed his clones, had insisted on that straightaway. Zechs III was Damon Arlington Peacecraft and Relena had been renamed Patricia Regina. Mariameia, however, was adamant that Treize II keep the name. Zechs wondered occasionally if, like Une, the real Treize's daughter had dreams of renewed glory.

"Hello, Treize." As always, his throat tightened around the name. Bright eyes met his, shy and admiring. Treize reached a hand to Damon, a charming, unrehearsed gesture.

"Hello, sir," he replied. The hand remained on Damon's arm. Damon's cheeks reddened and he ducked his head, but made no effort to dislodge it. Zechs' lips twitched. At his shoulder, Wilder choked.

"Like father like..."

"Don't go there," Zechs advised his unearthly bodyguard, "or I swear I will hurt you."

Wilder leaned close, mouth against Zech's ear. "You will? Pretty please?"

Zechs groaned and caught two pairs of curious eyes looking back at him. With an effort, he calmed his thumping heart and, acutely conscious of Wilder behind him, sat down to have a discussion about the history of Europe.


Chapter 2

Since it was the last day before his new job, Duo slept late. Heero settled for a breakfast of cold rice and miso and sat at his computer, researching his latest case. The phone rang.

"Yuy," he said, eyes on the screen as names rolled past.

"Heero, it's Noin."

"What can I do for you, Director?"

"There's trouble coming."

He straightened, hearing real concern in her voice.

"Have you ever heard of MDI?"

"Mars Development, Inc." Cold settled in Heero's gut, but his voice was calm. "Twenty years ago, they acquired a number of Brannigan's assets, including the patent for the biosynthetic. They were here awhile ago -- wanted me to go to Mars, to submit myself to their scientists and to possibly serve as the base unit for more synthetics."

There was a stunned silence. Noin started to speak, stammering in her outrage. He cut her off smoothly. "I said no."

"So would I expect! Unfortunately, it seems the corporation bought a judge somewhere. They have a legal writ to collect you. They've arm-twisted the police into accompanying their lawyer over to your place. The police stalled as long as they could, but the lawyers are threatening multi-million dollar lawsuits. They're on their way. White Rose was one thing; this is quite another. Get some legal help. If this looks like it's going to be a long-term problem, let me know, and I'll put you on paid leave."

"Right. Thanks, Noin."

"Heero..."

"It's going to be fine, Commander. Don't worry."

"I hope so," she said, "You're my friend and my best agent!"

Heero set down the phone. His heart was thumping. He went straight into his room. "Duo?"

"Hmmm?"

"The police are coming over."

"Huh?" The youth lifted himself up on his elbows, squinting at Heero in confusion. His hair was a cloud around his back and shoulders, having inevitably come out of its braid during their energetic morning. "How come?"

"Remember the MDI people?"

"Bastards," agreed Duo, falling back into the pillow.

"They're on their way." Briefly, Heero explained the situation and Duo sat up again.

"What? And you're still here? Get the hell away! Jesus H..."

"I won't leave you here to face them alone."

"Fuck that! They can just holler at me. Go. It'll stall things until I can get help. Head down to the docks. We'll meet up at Sam's tonight and I'll fill ya in."

"They'll follow you."

Duo snorted derisively. He threw back the covers and grabbed for his jeans "Get!"

Heero got.


The cops came, looking uncomfortable, and searched the apartment while Duo stood nearby, simmering. There was a lawyer with them, a handsome, well-dressed man who stared down his nose at Duo and asked him several times where Heero had gone.

"Dunno," Duo had replied. "And I wouldn't tell you if I did, ya fuckin' shark."

The lawyer, somebody Grayfield, had only smiled politely and said something about accessory to a crime. Duo sneered. After Elion, threats didn't much scare him, especially threats of jail which was, when you got right down to it, a thousand times better than that hellhole.

After they left, it took Duo almost four hours to hunt Zechs down on some distant colony, but once he found the king, things got moving with typical speed and efficiency. Duo sat by the computer, sniffer program activated in case of unwanted snoops, and waited for word from the royal legal team.

By five o'clock the king of Sanc had found his own judge, one higher up, and a stay had been placed on the custody order.

"The battle lines are drawn," came Zechs' email. "He's free, but their lawyers are already on the move. I'll do everything I can."

He would, too. Duo had that comfort. Relieved, he found Heero's car keys and drove down to Sam's.

Heero was slumped in a back booth of the restaurant, waiting. His eyes darted past Duo, but no one had followed. Duo had made certain of that. Court order or not, he didn't put it past the MDI bastards to take matters into their own hands.

"Zechs got the dogs called off for now," Duo told him, wishing he could hug Heero until the strain disappeared from that fine mouth. "We gotta talk about this, Hee-chan."

Heero's lip curled in automatic response to the nickname, but he nodded. "Did Zechs say what the chances are of them getting permanent legal control of me?"

"He has no idea. J says Brannigan probably destroyed the other synthetics just to avoid forcing a precedent."

"I see."

"Zechs suggested we take a long vacation."

"Run?" Heero blinked.

"Yeah. Lay low and give the lawyers time to duke it out. I don't know shit about the law, dude. Do you?"

Heero shook his head. "But running..."

A waitress appeared. Duo wasn't hungry. His stomach was in knots, but he ordered a milkshake. She left.

"It's better than bein' a guinea pig again, ain't it? Or did you like your stay with the White Rose? And you remember what that son of a bitch lawyer said. You'll have to agree to do whatever they tell you. In other words -- if you walk into their damned laboratories, you can't just walk out again until they say so! That's slavery, Yuy!"

"Only if I were human."

Duo dropped his head onto his knuckles. "Heero..."

The waitress returned with the milkshake. Duo pulled on the straw, thinking. "Howard has a cabin on a lake in America somewhere. It's way out in bumfuck nowhere and Howard will keep his mouth shut."

"You just got a job."

Duo smiled sadly. "Yeah. Oh, well."

Heero shook his head.

"C'mon, Heero! Please?" Duo tried to keep the plaintive note out of his voice and didn't succeed.

"Do you think MDI will win?" Heero asked finally.

Duo swallowed hard. "I dunno," he admitted. "I -- I'd like to think they wouldn't, but shit. MDI's huge."

Heero nodded slowly. "And I'm only one man," he said finally.

"One man with a bunch of friends, including a king."

"Zechs can't spend his life watching over us."

"Exactly. That's why we should do what he says and take off."

"It's why I should take off." Heero met Duo's eyes squarely. "You've gone through enough misery because of me, Duo Maxwell. I'm not going to be the cause of more of it."

"No way."

"Duo, please..."

But Duo shook his head violently. The end of his braid, now long enough to tickle the middle of his back, swung wildly around and nearly knocked over his milkshake.

"No," he said. "No."

Heero made a small, anguished sound and his fist came down hard on the table-top. The coffee cup and milkshake jumped. Duo made a dive for his shake and caught it before it could go over the edge.

"Calm down, Yuy," he admonished, heart thumping. "I'm comin' with you. We promised each other we'd always be together, right? I dunno about you, Heero, but I meant it!"

"All I want..." Heero began, then shook his head, shoulders slumping. "Baka."

And Duo knew he'd won this round.


Chapter 3

Howard's directions took the boys to a lake thirty miles from the little airport. At the end of a rutted, gravel road was a cabin. It was old, built of logs, with a peaked, wood-shingle roof. Their shoes made hollow sounds on the steps leading up to a sagging screen door.

Tall pines surrounded the place, and through the trunks and shifting branches, Heero saw the glitter of the lake. According to Duo, who got it from Howard, there was a small grocery store on the other side as well as a couple of bars and a tiny marina. Otherwise, there were only vacation homes and most of them were empty since summer had ended and their owners returned to the cities.

The interior of the cabin had a faint, musty smell and all the appliances looked at least thirty years old. The electricity was hooked up, however, and there was plenty of wood to feed the fireplace.

"It ain't the palace," Duo said, dropping his bag where he stood, "but it's better than nothin'. Hope we got hot water."

Heero picked up Duo's bag and carried it with his own into one of the two small bedrooms. Tossing them into the closet, he checked the windows. Those, too, were old. He tested the lock on one and it came off in his hands. Pfagh.

He returned to the front room. Duo was crouched in front of the stove, peering into the oven. "Gas feed's blocked," he announced. "Guess I won't be making the strawberry cheesecake tonight."

The long-haired youth began rooting through drawers in search of something to repair the oven. Heero watched him for several seconds, then muttered and turned off the gas valve.

"Oh, yeah," said Duo, grinning. "Good thinkin'."

"That's one way to end MDI's plans," observed Heero dryly. "Blow us up."

"Always the optimist," opined Duo with a soulful look. Heero cuffed him gently and continued his exploration of their safe house.

The other bedroom had twin beds with chenille covers. A loft was filled with old boxes and suitcases. Heero poked around a bit, then returned to the kitchen. Duo had pressed a kebob skewer into service clearing out the gas line. There was a smudge of soot on his nose and his hands were filthy, but he wore a broad grin of triumph.

Heero smiled back. "How soon before the cheesecake is done?"

"Yeah, yeah. Everyone's a comedian." Duo stood up. "You find the water heater?"

"Yes, and it works. Try not to use all the hot water." A futile hope.

Duo bounced off, laughing. Heero went to the big front window and looked out into the woods. The tops of the pines were swaying wildly. Gray clouds thickened. Somewhere he heard a banging sound. Loose shingle, probably.

Fugitives again. It seemed odd that the idea frustrated him as much as it did. In the war, he'd simply taken his hunted status for granted. But almost four years of peace had shown him what could be and now...

He drew the curtains tight against the advancing dark and turned away from the window. Building a small fire in the fireplace, he stripped their bed and draped the damp sheets over the screen to air. Duo appeared twenty minutes later, drying his hair with a threadbare bath towel.

"Good for you!" he said, seeing the dancing flames. "It's gonna get cold tonight." Throwing himself down on the sofa beside Heero, he leaned forward, disappearing under the towel. Heero tore his eyes from the nape of that long neck, exposed and vulnerable. A moment later, Duo straightened, shaking the thick, heavy mass of chestnut over his shoulders. In another year it would be as long as it had been before Elion.

Duo coaxed, "Braid it for me?"

Heero, who didn't have to be asked twice, took the brush and went to work. He plaited in silence while Duo sat, elbows on knees, eyes half closed with the pleasure of it. The first time Heero had done this, they had been on Elion. Then he'd been trying to tell himself he didn't care about Duo. Now there was nothing or no one he treasured more.

"I think we should try and get off-world," Duo announced suddenly. "Maybe L2 or Zoe."

"Zoe?" Heero snapped the hair tie around the end of the braid. Duo sat up.

"Good place to disappear and they don't give a shit about where you come from or what baggage you're draggin' after you."

Heero thought about the mining colony. Duo had spent two wretched years in the place when he'd been wanted for Relena's murder. He still wore the scars from that bleak period -- fine white marks on his hands and arms. Another scar, long and puckered, ran from his ribs to his hip. Duo had never told Heero what had happened to get that one.

"You're not going back there," said Heero finally.

"It wouldn't be so bad if you were there, too."

"No."

Duo shifted around, curling his legs under him and nestling close to his lover. As always, the contact relaxed Heero. Slipping an arm around those slender shoulders, Heero leaned his cheek against Duo's head. A log popped in the fireplace, sending a shower of sparks up the chimney.

"Well, then. How 'bout L2?"

"Could you handle the flight?"

"We could get some tranquilizers. I can handle space travel if I'm asleep."

Heero's arm tightened, hearing the wistful note. Although Duo steadfastly refused to admit it, the abuse he'd endured at Arcane's hands had done permanent damage to his health. Only the fact that Heero rode him mercilessly about bundling up, eating right and getting enough sleep had kept Duo relatively healthy. Wilder helped, too, but while the alien could make simple repairs, like mending torn tissue or clearing out infections, Yamada's drugs had altered Duo's very genes, and that was beyond even Wilder's magic.

"We'll deal with it when the time comes," Heero said.

They sat for a long while in comfortable silence. Duo dozed against him, tired out by the long trip. Heero thought that he could stay like this forever, alone with his lover, untouched by an uncertain and dangerous world.

Outside the rain started, hitting the big window and rattling on the roof. It would be snow by morning, he figured. The fire began to die. Gently, he dislodged Duo and put more wood on the flames. When he turned around, Duo was sitting up, yawning, and watching him, eyes luminous and sleepy.

"Ugh," he said, straightening. "I'm starvin'."

"I'll make something."

"We ain't that desperate." Duo got up, grinning, and headed into the kitchen, braid swinging. Heero watched him with lazy delight. So damned sexy, his Duo. He swivelled around on the couch and watched the other boy move back and forth in the small space, banging the battered pots and pans, muttering at the old stove. Soon delicious smells filled the cabin.

They ate at the little wooden table, grilled cheese sandwiches and fried potatoes washed down with soda. Heero asked teasingly about the cheesecake.

"I'll show you cheesecake," smirked his lover, standing up and mooning him.

Heero was out of his chair in the blink of an eye. He grabbed Duo before the other boy could pull up his jeans again and they landed together on the floor.

Duo, laughing, put up a half-hearted fight, but Heero was determined and soon his lover was clad only in a t-shirt, arms around him, kissing him hungrily. Heero disappeared briefly, returning with the lube. He gave Duo an evil grin.

Duo stuck out his tongue. Heero, eyebrows lifting, pounced.

"AHHH! HEERO!" Half laughing, half gasping, Duo arched his back as Heero's fingers slid into his ass.

After that, he was incoherent. Heero, always single-minded when it came to sex with Duo, proceeded to tease and tantalize his lover to the breaking point. Only when the echoes of Duo's ecstatic cry faded did he allow himself to climax, exploding into the warm body beneath him. They lay, sated, and if the cold air hadn't come creeping across the floor, neither of them would have made the effort to rise.


Zechs opened his eyes and stared across the moonlit bedroom, wondering what it was that had awakened him. Awareness crept back and he realized he was alone. Sitting up, sweeping aside the covers, he looked around. The room was empty, but one of the French doors to the balcony stood open. Frowning, he swung his long legs over the side of the bed. Grabbing his robe from the nearby chair, he made his silent way, barefooted, across the gleaming maple parquet.

Wilder stood on the far end of the balcony, leaning against the rail, staring up. There was nothing in the sky but stars and a fat, golden moon. Was he thinking about his home, Zechs wondered?

The alien almost certainly knew Zechs was there and, sure enough, a moment later, he turned and looked back. Zechs came out, shivering a little in the chill.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

The fine mouth tilted in a smile, but those expressive eyes were haunted. "I don't know."

It seemed perfectly natural now to have the beautiful young man turn and come into his arms.

"What does that mean?"

"Bad dreams," said Wilder into Zechs' bathrobe.

"What about?"

But the alien shook his head and wouldn't say, so Zechs simply held him until the tension faded.

There were times when Zechs wondered what would become of them. He'd thought that seeing the clone of Treize might bring back all the old feelings, but it hadn't. The Treize who studied dutifully in his hospital ward, who got daily injections of serum to accelerate neuronal development, was not really Treize. He was an innocent, just like Damon -- brilliant, quick, but completely unworldly. No -- each day it seemed, Zechs was drawn closer and closer to the creature who now hugged him with near desperation.

And what would happen, Zechs wondered suddenly, if people were to find out about Wilder? He thought about Heero's troubles and was afraid for his lover. Wilder's body was completely human, of course, and Zechs knew of no way, no machine, that could detect what Wilder was. Even so, he worried.

"Wilder," he tried again. "Something is wrong. Please. Don't shut me out."

But Wilder gently pushed away and this time, his smile was almost real. He set a hand on Zech's chest, fingers slipping under the robe to stroke across the king's broad chest.

"They're only dreams," he said, almost as if trying to convince himself. "Some things are just hard to get used to in this body. Dreams are one of them. Why undergo such a hallucinatory experience every night? What purpose does it serve?"

"That sounds like a question for J," replied Zechs, leaning forward and kissing the tip of that perfect nose. "I slept through biology."

Now the grin was real. Wilder moved away, leaning forward across the balustrade, looking down on glittering, nocturnal city. Again a shadow moved over his face.

"Any word from Duo?" he asked finally.

"No. And I don't expect to get any," replied the king. "I need to be able to say under oath that I have no idea where he is. My job is to get MDI to drop their case."

"I read about them," Wilder said. "Didn't they make Leos during the war? From what I've seen, they're very powerful and very rich."

"It will be a battle," agreed Zechs grimly. "Everything would be so much simpler if I could just fire a couple cannon beams into their Eo facility. That would take care of those bastards."

"There's the Typhus. No one would recognize it."

Zechs laughed, but there was an edge to it. "I'm the scion of a long line of pacifists," he said finally, "and I've stained our name with enough blood to last centuries. I know this, but even so -- it's damned tempting."

"Hm," was Wilder's only comment. He turned back to embrace the king again. They kissed, lingeringly. "Make love to me, Zechs," he whispered.

Zechs kissed his forehead. A shooting star blazed across the sky and he pulled Wilder so close he could feel the other's heartbeat against his own. "A request I'm always willing to grant," he said, and then, hand in hand, they went back inside.


Chapter 4

Duo woke, shivering, and crawled closer to the warm body beside him. Heero muttered and shifted, an arm flopping over Duo. He opened one eye.

"It's cold."

"Nothin' gets past you, does it, Yuy?" Duo mumbled, scooting even closer.

"We need more blankets."

"Uh-huh. Go get some."

"Baka. Why me?"

Duo burrowed closer yet. He was all but underneath Heero now. It was damn cold!

"Because you know where they are. You've searched over every inch of this fuckin' place already, know everything in it, and probably have a half dozen escape routes plotted in case the enemy descends."

There was a sound from Heero that Duo realized was a laugh, quickly cut off. "Smart-ass."

Then Heero was gone, leaving Duo to moan at the loss of his heater. In short order, however, the dark-haired youth was back and with more blankets. Teeth chattering, Heero tossed them hastily over the bed and jumped back in.

"Ahhh," he mumbled happily as Duo wrapped arms around him.

Duo kissed the slim, straight jaw. He loved it when Heero was like this, still warm and dazzled by sleep. Once upon a time, when Heero woke, he'd been instantly alert, every sense active, every muscle tensed for action. Lately, though, his patterns had been getting more normal. Now, every once in a while, Duo would see him stumbling around in the morning, dazed and yawning, just like any ordinary idiot.

"What are we gonna do today?"

"I'm going to set up the satellite dish. I want to start researching the legal definitions of property."

"Don't," Duo said, nipping his shoulder. "What if they're lookin' for you?"

"They won't get past my sniffers."

"I hope you're right. Hmm. I guess I'll go into town and see if I can get some fuel cells. Howard swears the furnace works and it looks like we're gonna need it."

Heero got up at last, dressing quickly, his breath frosting in the frigid room. He threw back the flimsy cotton curtains and revealed a whirl of blinding white. Duo was up after him and they discovered upon opening the outside door that there was a foot of snow already on the ground. While Heero dragged firewood inside, Duo found batteries for the old radio and listened to the weather report.

"The storm that was supposed to stay south didn't," he reported. "They're saying twenty-eight inches or more by tomorrow."

Heero stacked his last armful of wood onto the neat pile by the fireplace. Duo made hot chocolate and toast while the dark-haired youth coaxed the embers back to flames. In a closet, Duo found two space heaters. He put one in their bedroom. Every time it went on, the lights dimmed. Fortunately, there were extra fuses. What an antique this place was!

They ate lunch in front of the fire, listening to the howling wind and the rattling of snow against the window. Between the heaters and fireplace, the cabin warmed nicely.

A pleasant day passed. Heero fussed around the cabin, trying to find the optimum place for his satellite dish. He eventually ended up in the loft, banging around as he cleared a spot in the clutter. Duo listened to the radio and worked at an ancient jigsaw puzzle. He was congratulating himself on assembling a three inch section when Heero, taking a break from the computer, came down to inspect his progress. Within the hour, the irritating son of a bitch had finished the entire puzzle.

"Thanks a lot! Now what am I supposed to do?" Duo scowled at his lover.

Heero's stare became solemn, but there was faint color along his cheekbones. The sparkle in those deep eyes could only be described as mischievous. "I can think of something."

Duo stood up, walking around the table to stand behind Heero. He leaned down, wrapping his arms loosely around the other boy's neck, and put his mouth to a pink-tipped ear. There was a sudden catch in Heero's breathing. "Watcha got in mind, Hee-chan?"

"I - um -- the bedroom's nice and warm." Color stole up Heero's neck. He caught Duo's hands, bringing them to his lips and kissing them. "Want play in there for awhile?"

Duo laughed and pulled Heero out of the chair. "I get to be on top," he growled.

"Hai," agreed Heero.

He was right. The bedroom was toasty warm.


Chapter 5

"What a waste it would have been," sighed Duo, shifting about in Heero's arms.

"Hn?"

"A farm laborer." Duo stared into the ceiling. "J says you were bred to be a farmer."

Heero's arms tightened briefly. He laughed a little. "Actually, I've always thought it would be nice to have a little farm. It seems like the most -- the most peaceful way to live."

Duo, startled, lifted his head.

Heero's eyes dropped. "Well programmed, ne?"

"You ever think about it?" asked Duo. "About bein' synthetic?"

"All the time."

"You do?" There was surprise in Duo's voice. "I didn't know that. You never say anything."

"Well -- you don't like to talk about it."

Silence. Heero felt cool fingers slide into his.

"Maybe I don't," Duo admitted finally, "but if you think it will help, then we should."

"I don't want you to be upset."

"Oh, Heero." Duo's voice thickened. He came closer and hugged Heero to him. Heero closed his eyes blissfully.

"I know you love me," Heero said. "It's all I need."

More silence. He could hear Duo's heart beating, feel the pulse under that fine, scarred flesh. The other boy's warmth enveloped him.

"How's your butt?" Duo asked finally, the smile back in his voice.

"Hurts."

"Sorry."

"Uh-uh. It's okay -- reminds me."

"Of what?" Duo was getting drowsy.

"That I'm yours."

A sleepy smile. "Mine," mumbled Duo. "All mine."

He was asleep after that, a wanton sprawl under the covers. Heero lay still for awhile, enjoying it. The wind continued to screech around the eaves, but it was an oddly reassuring sound. They were safe and warm inside the cabin. The wild elements formed a peripheral defense not easily penetrated.

Sleep wasn't coming. Heero got up, pulling on his pants and sweatshirt. He threw another blanket over Duo and went back into the living room.

More wood on the fire raised the temperature nicely. He scrambled up the ladder to the loft and the makeshift little office he'd fashioned for himself. The other space heater pumped warm air at him as he sat, cross-legged on a pile of old rugs, computer in his lap. Inches from his head, held back by board and shingle, the blizzard raged.

Activating his sniffer program, he logged into one of his auxiliary mail drops. An encrypted message from Zechs waited for him.

"The game of musical judges continues. New warrant, including authorization to move you off world. Stay out of sight. I won't contact you again. There's talk of subpoenaing me and the other pilots."

Great. Heero stared bleakly at the window, not seeing the intricate frost patterns that decorated the glass. He thought about the young man sound asleep downstairs. Their lives had only just started to take on normalcy again and now this. It just wasn't fair!

Heero knew that Duo was strong -- you had to be strong to survive what he had. But Heero had researched MDI and, because he was Heero, gotten past a few firewalls and security blockades to have a look at some of their less well publicized exploits. The corporation was ruthless in pursuit of its goals.

"I wish I were a real human," he whispered finally, because there was no one to hear. "I want to stay with Duo forever."

Maybe it was foolish. Maybe something like him had no right to dream. He looked down at his hands. They looked so real, his skin, the bones beneath. He could feel pain and pleasure. When cut, he bled, and the blood was as red as any human's. But that mystical spark of life that burned in him hadn't come by nature's will, but by man's. There were elements in him that no human body owned.

If they say I'm property, maybe I could belong to Duo.

But that was foolishness, too. He sighed and continued his research.


"I have to go."

Zechs stared across the dinner table at Wilder. It was past ten. The trade negotiations between Icarus 9 and Earth had run late and been acrimonious; Zechs' nerves were already frayed. "Why?"

Wilder's mouth tightened. Zechs regarded him cooly. "You don't have my permission to leave."

Wilder's mouth grew more stubborn still. "Then I resign."

So. Zechs backed off. He stabbed an asparagus spear and watched the sauce drip off the end. "Have I offended you in some way?" he asked finally.

"No!"

"Then why must you leave? Where? And for how long?"

Indecision flashed across the alien's perfect face. Zechs sensed vulnerability and went for it. "If I haven't offended you, then you're tired of me?"

"No!" Wilder was on his feet. "Stop it! You're playing with me now!"

"Then stop playing with me!"

The two handsome young men glared at each other across gleaming wood and fine food. On the far end of the spacious chamber, a fire burned in the massive hearth, throwing reds and golds in dancing profusion across the marble floor. Rain spattered on the tall, many-paned windows. Winter was coming to Sanc.

"They're here."

Zechs stared at him, not at first understanding. "The dzril?" he asked finally, chilled.

"No. Not them. Not yet." Wilder's broad shoulders slumped. He bowed his head, hands flat on the tabletop. "There are Protectors here. Clansmen."

"Here? On Earth?"

Wilder shook his head and sat down again. "Still far from it, I think, but it's hard to judge accurately. There is too much sensory equipment in this body and it seems to interfere with long range communication. Regardless, Zechs, they know I'm here and they will come for me. I would rather face them far from Earth, for Earth's sake."

"I thought you said you came here through a transient wormhole. How could they have found you?"

"I don't know. No one really knows of what the dzril are capable."

"But you say it's not the dzril who've come."

"They'll send their technology. The Overlords themselves wouldn't waste their time with such a trivial problem as myself. They will expect the Lineage to deal with me or be disgraced."

"I see." Zechs leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled before him. "So you intend to surrender yourself?"

"No."

"You'll fight them? How many?"

"I'm not certain. Four, I think. Most likely my clan brothers."

"Equipped with Typhuses?"

Wilder met Zechs' angry gaze directly. "I have to meet them, Zechs, if only to find out how they got here." He sighed. "Some among my people feel as I do about the dzril. There's a very slight chance that they may leave me be."

"And if not?"

"Then I'll fight, but not here."

Zechs looked away, chest tight. He thought about all the meetings that filled his schedule in the next weeks, the trips planned. You are king, he told himself. You are not your own man.

"I'll contact Arbiten," he said.


Chapter 6

Heero was not in bed when Duo woke. Duo didn't realize it at first because he was so warm, but after groping fruitlessly around under the covers, he opened his eyes. There was no sign of the other youth. Jumping out of bed, Duo turned on the space heater and jumped back in. "Heero!"

No answer. Frowning, he lay abed for awhile, waiting for the room to heat up. Then he got dressed and went in search of his lover.

Heero was in the loft, curled up on some rugs, sound asleep. One was pulled over him like a blanket. Shaking his head, Duo set a hand on his boyfriend's shoulder. Dark blue eyes flew open.

"Duo?"

"Loony. It's freezin' up here. Come downstairs."

Heero nodded.

The storm had passed in the night. While Duo pulled open the living room curtains, Heero built up the fire. They were almost out of wood. Outside, the world lay under a deep blanket of snow. As Duo watched, the thinning clouds broke and a weak ray of sunshine spilled through the heavily laden pine branches. The snow turned to diamonds.

"Whatcha want for breakfast?"

"Whatever." Heero got up and followed Duo into the kitchen. He sat at the table, watching Duo cook.

"So," Duo said, breaking eggs into a bowl. "Didja manage to get a law degree last night?"

Heero shook his head. "MDI got another warrant," he said.

Duo's chest tightened and his stomach knotted. "Shit."

"Yeah."

"Yer not going to say somethin' stupid about turnin' yourself in, are you?

"No."

"And you're not going to try to make me leave, right?"

Again the shake of the dark head.

Duo remembered the cold-eyed lawyer. "Good," he said. "I'm here 'cause I wanna be. Now -- how do you want your eggs -- scrambled or over easy?"

After breakfast, they bundled up as best they could and went out for more firewood. In places, the snow had drifted waist-high and they had to literally plow a path to the woodpile with their bodies. Duo discovered that it packed pretty well and lobbed a couple of snowballs at Heero while the other boy was conveniently weighed down with wood. Heero dropped his burden at once, coming after Duo with his own rapid-fire volley. Duo yelped and went down. When he shook the snow out of his eyes it was to see Heero standing over him.

"You're such a little kid," scoffed his lover.

"Oooo. Listen to the old man." Snow showered off Duo, melted in large drops from his hair. Heero extended a hand and pulled him back to his feet.

"Race ya back inside!"

He beat Heero up the creaking steps and into the warm cabin, laughing and breathless. Heero grabbed him just inside the door, pushing him to the wall and kissing him hungrily. That warmed Duo better than any fire.

"Well -- we can try to get into town," he said into Heero's jacket.

"Roads aren't plowed," replied Heero, hands sliding under Duo's sweater.

"Got something in mind, Hee-chan?" gasped Duo. Those fingers were cold.

"Um-hmm."

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what. Heero bore him determinedly across the cabin to the couch in front of the fireplace and threw him down. Duo smiled slyly, sitting up and pulling off his sweater. He rubbed his nipples through the t-shirt underneath, then pulled that off, too. Heero growled and pounced.

Strong hands caught Duo's wrists, pushing them over his head, pressing them against the back of the couch. He turned his head, practically purring as Heero kissed his neck, sucking on the soft flesh.

"Ah, Hee-chan..."

The hands around his wrists tightened. Heero rocked back, seized one of Duo's nipples in his teeth and bit down. Duo yelped.

"Don't call me that," hissed Heero, eyes gleaming.

"Or what?" taunted Duo, meeting that sparkling gaze. He twisted lithely out of Heero's grip.

"Or I'll have to punish you."

Heero's fingers groped at the snap at Duo's waist. Duo was hard as a rock. He wriggled his hips to help Heero get rid of the encumbering garment.

"H-how?"

"Would you like to see?" Heavy-lidded, the cobalt gaze held Duo transfixed. Duo's heart hammered in sudden uncertainty.

"O-okay..."

Heero's jeans were whisked away. His sex was beautifully erect.

"Do you trust me enough for this?" Heero asked.

Duo's face was pale. His heart thudded, but underneath the apprehension was excitement. "Y-you'll stop if I say?"

"Of course." Heero reached over and smoothed hair back from the high forehead. "We don't even have to start, if you don't want to."

"Okay," whispered Duo, closing his eyes. "Let's go for it. What are you gonna do?"

"Nothing bad." Heero leaned forward and kissed him again. "Wait here."

He disappeared into the bedroom. Duo waited, mouth dry. A moment later, Heero was back. In one hand, he held the lube. In the other, an ugly old neck-tie. Duo straightened, hands clenched in spite of himself and pressed to his bare knees.

"I'm going to blindfold you," Heero said. "Will you let me?"

Duo stared at the tie. He swallowed and nodded. "Are -- are you gonna tie my hands?"

"No."

Duo nodded. "Okay," he whispered, relieved.

Heero leaned forward. The silk settled over Duo's eyes and the bridge of his nose. He was in the dark.

"Just sit here," he heard, " and let me, um, 'punish' you.".

Heero pushed him gently back into the couch. A knee nudged Duo's legs open. Duo's breath came and went rapidly. His groin ached with dull persistence.

"Put your hands behind your head."

Duo licked his lips nervously, but did as he was told. The position forced him to arch his back slightly, pushing his chest forward.

Heero started by kissing Duo on the mouth, long and deep. It helped relax Duo, leeching the tension from his muscles. Heero's mouth moved to Duo's jaw, following the line of it up to his ear. Duo's head fell back against the couch.

Blind, he had no idea where that demonic mouth would go next. He felt it on his neck, sucking on the thin skin. Heero's hands slid up Duo's straining arms, then moved down again to stroke his chest. When, finally, those lips covered Duo's nipples, Duo sobbed aloud, bottom writhing against the cushions. He reached blindly for Heero, but strong hands caught his wrists and forced them back in place.

"Behind your head," came the implacable voice. Duo swore, but obeyed. His cock hurt, so badly did he want to be touched.

Heero continued to feast upon him, to suck the soft flesh by Duo's armpit, to run his tongue over the now swollen nipples, kissing down Duo's breastbone to his flat belly. Duo heard himself making soft, keening sounds and was helpless to stop. He strained to keep his hands behind his head and away from Heero.

"Ahh!"

He felt the mouth taken away. His skin tingled where Heero had touched. Strong hands on his knees pushed his legs open as far as they would go. Instinctively, Duo slid forward until his behind was pressed against the edge of his seat.

Heero left more kisses along the skin of Duo's inner thighs. Strong thumbs kneaded Duo's perineum, then began a gentle massage of his balls and cock.

"Heero...oh, my god, Heero!"

Duo couldn't get any harder. The hands were gone and he whimpered. Then they were back, slick with lube, slathering the stuff heavily on his twitching cock, pausing now and then when Heero sensed his touch might end things here too quickly.

Finally, "Sit back."

Duo obediently slid back a bit from the edge of the cushion. He felt the couch move slightly under Heero's weight. The boy straddled Duo's hips and thighs. Those hands were back, this time locking hard around his erection.

"Oh, god..." Duo moaned, realizing what Heero intended. The tip of his cock was guided into place.

"AHHH!"

Slowly, Heero impaled himself on Duo, groaning as his hole stretched to accommodate the organ. The effect on Duo was electric.

"HEERO!"

The hot, tight space put merciless pressure on his erection. Behind the blindfold, Duo saw stars. For a moment, Heero was still, then Duo felt the Japanese boy's hand come around the back of his neck to grasp it loosely, to pull Duo forward and press Duo's mouth to his breast. Lips parting, Duo's tongue brushed over the rigid nub of Heero's nipple.

"You can lower your hands now," Heero allowed.

At once, Duo reached between their bodies, groping for and seizing Heero's cock. Heero gasped his approval. Keeping one hand lightly but firmly on the back of Duo's head, he said in a guttural voice, "Keep sucking. Hard."

"Mmmmm," agreed Duo, and did so. He sucked and nipped and teased, each sensation making Heero twitch, even that slight movement doing amazing things to Duo's cock.

Then he felt Heero lift slowly on his knees, felt that exquisite sensation as powerful muscles gripped him. Up and down, harder, faster. Duo moaned, the sound muffled in Heero's skin.

Heero's hand tangled in Duo's hair, pulling him away to reclaim his mouth. Duo moaned again and again, losing coherent thought.

"Do you want to come?" Heero demanded hoarsely.

Every muscle in Duo's body was strung tight as wire. "Yes -- oh, yes... Oh, god, Heero ..."

"Do you love me?"

"More then life....AHHHHH!"

It was over, Duo screaming, body arching under the storm of release. Heero's cock, gripped convulsively in Duo's hands, spasmed wildly. Ejaculate, warm and wet, spattered over Duo's chest and belly.

Heero collapsed forward, pressing Duo's body into the back of the couch. Duo wrapped his arms around his unseen lover and held Heero tight. He whimpered when Heero finally recovered enough to roll off and slide limply to the floor beside the couch. A moment later, the tie was taken away and Duo blinked rapidly. The flames in the fireplace were spangles of crimson in his vision.

He looked down at Heero, bemused and utterly sated. 'Love you,' he mouthed.

Heero kissed him lightly and got up. He disappeared into the bathroom, returning with a warm, wet washcloth. Carefully, taking his time, he cleaned off his dazed lover and himself, an act that was, in its own way, as pleasurable as what had gone before.

"Oh, man, Heero...you're so damn good."

"I love you," replied Heero matter-of-fact. He curled up beside Duo and lay his head on Duo's shoulder. He pulled the afghan around them. "That makes it easy."

"Mmmm," agreed Duo, nuzzling Heero's dark hair. "Get no argument here, Hee-chan." He grinned slyly. "Oops. Guess you're gonna have to punish me again."


"Let's go for a walk!"

Heero looked up from the print-outs scattered over the table. Duo was bouncing from the front window to the fireplace, to the table, and back. Three days of forced inactivity was driving the baka up the wall and the baka was taking Heero with him.

"I thought you liked walks!" Duo added, seeing Heero's expression.

"It's freezing," objected Heero mildly. "We weren't exactly prepared for this weather, remember?"

"So what? There's that trunk you found -- the one with all those old coats and gloves 'n stuff. C'mon!"

"Hn." Heero decided to ignore him. When silence fell, he looked up, uneasy. A moment later, Duo emerged from their bedroom. Heero's eyebrows rose.

The other boy was wrapped in an ancient raccoon coat much too big for him. It was so old it had bare patches in the fur. A long, fluffy scarf was wound around his neck and face until only his laughing eyes were exposed. There was a stocking cap pulled over his head and he wore a pair of suede work-gloves.

"See ya!" Duo announced cheerfully, if somewhat indistinctly. "I'm gonna check out the lake."

"Duo..."

But the boy breezed past and a moment later, Heero heard the door slam. He dropped his head into his hands in exasperation. Then, with a heavy sigh, he got up and went to have a look in the trunk.

The cold didn't bother him as much as it did Duo. An old down coat, battered and stained, a woolen scarf and some wool gloves were adequate for his comfort. He followed Duo's trail through the woods to a steep embankment that led down to the beach. From the churned snow, it was obvious that Duo had lost his footing and probably rolled to the bottom. Heero was briefly entertained by that vision. Chuckling, he made his way down in a less dramatic fashion.

Footprints wandered away to the east, following the curve of the lake. Heero was not far behind. Rounding a rocky bluff, he saw his lover a few hundred feet ahead, walking slowly, meandering back and forth, stopping now and then to draw something in the snow with a long stick.

Duo turned as he approached. "All right, Heero!" he cheered, waving his stick.

Crazy son of a bitch.

Heero looked down. A big heart was drawn at his feet. 'Duo loves Heero,' read the words inside it. A few feet on was another heart. 'Duo wants to fuck Heero.'

He was laughing helplessly when he finally reached the mischievous American. Duo's cheeks were bright pink and his eyes sparkled above the scarf. Heero walked right up to him, pulled the scarf down under his chin and planted a kiss on those rosy lips.

"Heero loves Duo, too."

A happy smile.

Do you know how adorable you are? Can you possibly comprehend how much I love you?

"Isn't this pretty?" Duo waved expansively at the quiet, snow-bound wilderness. "You just can't beat Earth for this kinda shit."

"I guess not."

Duo reached out a gloved hand. "C'mon."

Heero took it and was tugged along the beach. They came to a place where the land bent inward. A stream fed the lake here, covered by a wafer-thin sheet of ice.

"Oh, dude! Do you think that's gold?" Duo pulled off his glove. Heero saw what had caught the other's eye -- a sparkle under the ice.

"Duo, be care..."

"ACK!"

Duo slipped. Heero made a mad grab and missed. With a yelp and a splash, Duo fell into the stream.

"Shit, DUO!"

Showering ice, water and snow, the irrepressible youth staggered to his feet, gasping. Did he sensibly jump out and insist on heading back to the dry, warm cabin? Of course not!

"Ah! There it is!"

Dripping water from scarf and coat, Duo bent and grabbed the coveted item. He held it up.

"Pyrite," Heero said, trying to keep a straight face.

"Oh. Well. It looks like gold."

"Have you ever seen a real gold nugget?"

"Um, no..."

"Baka."

Duo shrugged and began patting up and down his coat. Heero sighed and held out a hand. Grinning, Duo handed over his prize and watched Heero pocket it.

"Okay," he said then, splashing out of the stream. "You can stop glowering. I'm ready to go back."

By the time they reached the cabin, Duo's teeth were chattering and his lips were blue. Heero got him up the steps and into the cabin in record time. "Out of your clothes!" he ordered sternly, propelling the trembling boy across the room to the fireplace. "NOW!"

"Okay! Okay! Jeez!"

Duo tried, but his slender fingers shook uncontrollably.

"Huh. Allow me."

Looking sheepish, Duo let his hands drop to his sides and was still while Heero stripped him. Heero tossed the sodden garments to the floor. He retrieved the blanket from the couch, wrapping it around Duo's cold, pale body and holding on tight. Gradually, the shaking stopped and Duo sagged against him.

"Oh, man. That's better."

"Sometimes, Maxwell..."

"I'm a baka, okay?" Duo lay his head on Heero's shoulder. One cold hand crept up to touch Heero's cheek. "Duo loves Heero," he whispered. "Duo wants to fuck Heero."

"Hopeless," announced Heero and dragged Duo to the couch to fulfill that particular fantasy.


On to part two.