by Cinderzol

Zechs had wanted to impress him.

Zechs had wanted to impress him.

The notion is so outlandish, Duo has definite problems wrapping his head around it.

That evening the prince had been the first to retire, as it has come to be expected of him. Not having a ready excuse to follow without arousing even more suspicion - and not really wanting to cut short his time with his friends - Duo had stayed much longer. They all had, and it had all been good.

In the back of his mind, however, there had been one thing. One thought that wouldn't let him be at peace. And a decision he had already made.

In the end, while all the others had gone to their rooms to change for bed, Duo had gone to his to change into something black, soft, and comfortable. Sleep the farthest thing on his mind, in spite of the mostly sleepless night he'd had previous.

Time for action. At last.

He had sneaked around large foyers and long corridors, avoiding security by habit, making his quiet way, wraith-like, to a bedroom at the other end of the palace. A bedroom with a huge canopied bed with tan sheets, and a carpet which smells of old books and smoke up close. Like, when you nearly smack your nose on it.

It seems not everything around here is fake after all.

Once there, he had slipped inside. Heart in his mouth, sweat on his palms, and a quick prayer on his lips.

...To find the room empty.

Talk about anti-climactic.

A brief inspection had proved that not only the room was currently Zechs-free, it was devoid of any living presence at all. A permanent state, by the looks of it. Ergo, the prince was not living there. No wonder it had appeared that way the last time Duo had visited.

An unexpected problem, that. Duo had thought hard and fast, plan after complex plan of finding Zechs's real quarters, and had finally done what any smart Gundam pilot with a lot of skill and little time would.

He had gone straight to the first Preventer security agent in view and asked.

If the man had been surprised by Duo popping out of thin air next to him, in the middle of the night, in a place where he should not have been, he never showed it. The guy had surprised Duo with readily supplied information coupled with thorough lack of curiosity, sending him on his way to the other end of the palace. Almost back where he had started from.

Where he is presently going, quite openly and in plain view this time. Trying to hurry, nonchalantly. It is almost two after midnight. Soon it might get too late for social calls. No, really.

...Why though? Why another room? One as sumptuous and grand as that one?

If the prince had just been reluctant to let Duo in his private bedroom, any old coats closet would have done.

Hell, any restroom would have done.


The prince had wanted to impress him.

It's such a perfectly normal, perfectly...human thing to do, Duo still finds it hard to believe it. About Zechs.

And isn't that precisely the problem.

Duo heaves a sigh, taking another turn, trying not to think about what he will say once he meets the prince. He is too nervous as it is.

That he would see Merquise had never been in question, however. Right from when he had been left standing in that men's room on the first floor after breakfast. Duo simply can't let things end like this between them. Let those be the last words of a man Duo will possibly never in his life meet again, given the startling dinnertime announcement.

Mars. Fuck.

For his own peace of mind and for the prince's. He has some apologizing to do.

Another turn, another sigh. Sanq is a small kingdom. Why does it need such a huge palace anyway?

...But yes. He does need to apologize. Not for the punch, no. That Zechs had deserved. For almost everything else, however.

Because, impulsive actions to the side, Duo had known even then that some untrue things were being said. And that some truths were never spoken about... He can dismiss the part that had been clearly meant to hurt him - sort of - now that he is actually thinking. Heh. Hurt and pride, and the combination thereof.

What do you know. Zechs is actually human.

It's a mess, and Duo is not sure of much but he knows one thing. He had insulted the prince.

More than had been warranted.

And, unlike Zechs, this he had done blindly. Not even realizing.

What Duo had said...Had he really believed Zechs a monster? No matter how he had turned it around in his head since then, the answer was still no. And he definitely had not meant that.

Whatever they had had...coercion had never been a part of it.

He had known he could quit the game but hadn't wanted to quit in the game. He could have said no any time and ended it all...but while it had lasted, he had refused himself the option of backing down...


He didn't want it to end.

Well, damn. Hindsight, 20/20. However, to his shame, for an instant or two he had doubted...And still cannot believe it. He had started this whole affair with eyes wide open, that first time, understanding perfectly; and then had lost sight just like that. Had let himself build a situation and cast Merquise as the villain. After all, the prince has always been perfect for the part.

He seemingly enjoyed it too.

And maybe Zechs was right. Maybe Duo was too young for this, biting more than he could chew. He was such a brat...Jumping in front of the prince in the ballroom two days ago in a jealous fit. Spouting ridiculous propositions out of the blue...

In the cool conditioned air of the palace, Duo can feel his cheeks grow hot with useless regret. Now he knows he hadn't meant that either. Not really. All he had been looking for was a fight.

And he got one. Eventually.

Plus so much more, on the way there. Some truths about himself, for example.

Like, how abysmally egocentric he could be on occasion. Never in his life has he treated a person as carelessly as he had treated the prince these past few days. And, for crying out loud, he had done so on purpose.

He really is a selfish brat...

By popular opinion, Duo is a nice guy. A people person. He understands people, tries to know them, how they think, where they are coming from, what they are fighting for...It comes naturally. It's only fair. People are important. For the most part.

But for the first time in his life, he had intentionally forgotten that. As Zechs had correctly pointed out, Duo had even set out specifically to use someone for the purposes of distraction...and had had the audacity of accusing that same person of using him afterwards.

Ruefully shaking his head, Duo climbs a set of wide stairs for the next level, wondering when having a bad day had become a justifiable excuse for mistreating a random person.

Well. In all fairness, it hadn't been just any bad day, like say, having-a-bad-hair-day day. Rather, it had been having-your-heart-broken-into-millions-of-pieces day...

And the person he had chosen for mistreating...

Relena's brother. Heero's archrival.

Oh, so not random at all.

Then, he had thought his choice inconsequential - apart from the petty, abortive, not entirely conscious desire to hurt Heero and Relena in some small way - but now he finds it strange to have never wondered about the prince, even from idle curiosity.

All these months...

They, all of them, had spent the past half a year working together. Zechs had always been around, somewhere, interacting with someone Duo knew, doing something that needed doing with another someone Duo knew...Or alone, more often than not. And what Duo knew about him had always been this: Zechs Merquise, former OZ. The Lightning Count. Milliardo Peacecraft, former Ambassador of Earth to the Colonies and former Leader of White Fang. Milliardo Peacecraft, Preventer Agent Wind. Prince Royal of Sanq.

That is, Duo doesn't know the man at all.

He had tried to redress the omission after their tumultuous... talk in the restroom earlier and had come up with more. Things he should have known- could have known, had he stopped to think.

Like, for example, that Zechs is, indeed, a prince. Of a kingdom. This Sanq kingdom? Actually his home. Of course, everybody knows how it had been invaded and ruined in 182. When Duo had been two.

Simple math.

Zechs had been six.


Seeing your closest people get killed in front of you. Your whole life burnt to the ground...


Duo almost misses a step; takes a steadying breath. Not now.

And more. In the early stages of the war, for Duo, Zechs Merquise had been the freak with the hair who was always after Heero's ass. (Now Duo has to wonder whether that wasn't what OZ had called him in private...well, the first part at least.) And the name of the freak had been inescapably, always - always - connected to that of Treize Kushrenada.

Of course. Duo had heard it all. The official intelligence. The rumors.

The good: Treize's right hand, confidant, favorite, most trusted, most talented, best. Friend. The bad: lapdog, guard dog, pet, minion, lackey, henchman. Traitor. And the ugly... How exactly Merquise had been serving under the General; what special services he had provided; to what lengths the Lightning Count would go to satisfy Kushrenada's desires...

Had any of it been true?

Zechs had definitely been receiving some special favors. Come on, that hair had been hardly regulation, much less the mask. Plus, he had been Treize's friend, for a time. Protégé, undoubtedly. But anything else?

...And if it had been true, had it been a simple deference to one's superior's wishes? Or had they loved each other? Maybe it had been one-sided? That Kushrenada or Merquise could have been in love... It sounds like a joke but...

Funny enough, in war, you don't actually tend to think about your enemy's love life.

That would make them too human, Duo would guess.

Anyway. It is not his place to contemplate that now either. He has almost reached his destination. Last set of stairs, and a last sleepy looking Preventer on duty to nod at.

He is quite grateful that nobody decides to talk to him and question his roaming around at night. Just like two nights ago. There are fewer people around at any rate, now with the celebrations over and all.

He has more important things to think about than chatting with agents anyway. Like the love life of two of the biggest figures in the last war. Wonderful. As if his life isn't bizarre as is.

But still, if it had been true....That must have sucked, big time. Kushrenada and Merquise had managed to end up on the opposite sides of the war fast enough. And now the war is over and... Treize is...Oh, damn.

Duo would gladly lose Heero to Relena a thousand times over than see his ex-lover dead.

He shivers at the morbid thought and is quite glad to have the door he's looking for in sight. Thank goodness. He hates introspection for a reason.

It appears that indeed, the supposed abode of the prince is located almost where Duo's own guest room is, only three levels higher. He has just traversed the building for nothing. Twice.

He is lucky though. The dimly lit corridor is currently empty. No security around for the moment.

Which is good, since, once again, he does not feel like knocking.

And the walk has done some good. He does not feel quite as jittery as the first time around. Blessed be the wonders of distraction.

He just hopes Zechs is really here it occurs to Duo - for the first time - that the prince just might not be spending the night in his own bed. Or alone. Duo smothers the thought. Instantly. He does not need this now.

And not just because he wouldn't be able to talk to Zechs that evening.

Sneaking in is easy. For the past few weeks, he had not encountered a lock in the palace that could stop him. Not that he makes a habit out of it. Just...a little practice never hurts, right?

...And oh, yes, the prince is in.

Once inside, Duo's breath catches at the sight - the curtains are left open, and the room is virtually doused in moonlight. It's still dark, although far brighter than one would expect for the purposes of sleeping. Rather cold too. Zechs is in the bed - alone - in a dark tee-shirt barely discernible amidst darker bedcovers, facing away from Duo, and... Damn, he even sleeps with his hair loose?...How in the blazes does he manage that?

...And that's about all the advantage Duo can get, time-wise, as in the next instant Zechs is whirling around, hand darting under the pillow. Where it halts.

Lightning reactions or not, he had still been two seconds late - two seconds dead - had Shinigami come with more sinister intentions. Shinigami is childishly pleased.

Then the prince pulls his hand out - empty - and simply sits up, bracing his back against the headboard. His arms lift up unhurriedly for a moment to push the pale hair back over his shoulders and then fall to rest in his lap.

Waiting. As if all this is normal.

Once again, Duo should not find his composure admirable but he does.

He is not even sure whether Zechs had recognized him - he is still in the shadow of the door - but the prince evidently, and rather foolishly, believes his nighttime visitor means him no harm.

Or he just doesn't care.

The prince simply sits there, unmoving and unmoved. Stunning, notes some part of Duo that is in the habit of noticing such unnecessary things. The moon has that effect on the prince, realizes Duo for a second night in a row, distracted momentarily by the perfect, cold face framed by the perfect, made-for-moonlight hair.

The sight should not make his stomach feel funny. But it does.

Duo steps out of the shadow and is disappointed to find no change in Zechs. Maybe he had recognized him immediately after all. And Merquise is not only patiently keeping silent; he manages not to look even curious, or surprised, or annoyed, or...anything really. It's as disconcerting as ever.

Though he does seem somewhat tired, if one looks carefully, and Duo does. As if he isn't getting much sleep lately either...

But Duo had expected some reaction - a snide comment about how imprudent it is to visit someone's bedroom at night after accusations like that, or at least a politely phrased request - demand - for Duo to leave him alone. He did make clear he didn't want anything to do with Duo anymore after all. But there is nothing.

Duo bites his lip, nervousness building at the pit of his stomach, wondering whether he is making yet another mistake.

But he has to finish what he had started. Two nights ago.

He spots a chair near a small wall table and sits, not waiting for the invitation that isn't coming, facing the rather normally-sized bed. The room is quite similar to his guest bedroom actually, surprisingly enough for the prince who supposedly lives here, and nothing like the one he had visited previously.

The reminder of the prince's innocuous - and completely unnecessary - ruse makes Duo feel slightly better.

"Why that room?" he can't help but ask, whimsically.

The prince shrugs almost imperceptibly. "I wanted any advantage I could have," he replies, readily enough, without missing a beat, his usual rasp somehow oddly fitting the quiet atmosphere. At Duo's incredulous scoff he adds, "It worked."

...And that's that.

Though the confirmation doesn't make it any more believable.

And stalling doesn't help.

Zechs's eyes glimmer in the faint light, dilated and darker, serious. Duo holds his breath, trying to focus on the goal. The goal is to stay calm for what he has to admit now.

"I'm sorry," he says, and he means it. "I lied."

And so it begins.

He tries to explain, as calmly and as earnestly as possible, how he hadn't meant what he had said earlier in the restroom. What had led him to say it. That he would not give himself the option of refusing through no fault of Zechs's own. That he had behaved like an immature kid and had selfishly disregarded the truth of the situation for as long as it had suited him, refusing responsibility afterwards. That indeed, he had used Zechs - for precisely the reasons the prince had surmised - and the excuse of being left no choice, while welcoming the distraction all the while. That no, he had not been forced, into any of it, and the prince shouldn't feel responsible over Duo thoughtless - and baseless - accusation.

It comes out neither smooth, nor eloquent. It takes a lot. Admitting any of someone like the prince... About as pleasant as pulling teeth.

His own. With a hatchet.

But Duo owes him that, for the insult of thinking so low of him, and for more. Recent mistakes notwithstanding, Duo is grownup enough to admit the error of his ways, once he'd seen it.

It takes a while, under Merquise's watchful gaze which only serves to torture him more. Far worse than he had imagined it for some reason, and by the end Duo's voice comes strangely strangled. He has to cough to clear it.

"And I'm sorry...for the way I approached you at the ball." This time he even manages to meet the eyes of the man he is apologizing to. Pitiful. He could just kick himself for this.

He had tried several times throughout his monologue but saying these things faced with the flat and unresponsive stare of the prince had made his resolve break instantly. It's cowardly, yes, but it's imperative to say his apologies once and for all. Impossible with the constant reminder of the prince's indifference.

"I can't help it if you don't believe me but I don't make a habit of...of doing that. And the Heero was the first time... I saw them like that, I guess. I- I wanted to take it out on someone...I didn't really know what I was doing...I didn't think..."

He lets his voice fall, and his eyes drop too and slide away again as his courage deserts him once more. Damn it all to hell. But there is something about the prince: his eyes and stance and bearing - his whole attitude - that is making Duo stammer ever more, and damn, he does not need this. He grips the armrests, hard, and has to fight not to rush through the rest.

"And I- I don't know what you were doing either, and your reasons... and now that's a moot point, isn't it, as you're leaving..." For Mars. "...I don't want us to part like this, hating each other...because I...I don't think I hate you, and I don't blame you for anything that happened. Despite what you said, I know it was all my fault. So...can't we..." Can't we part like...

But there is no end to that sentence.

He looks up, hoping against hope for some understanding. And really, he should know better. There is no change. No reaction. Zechs's expression is as serious as in the beginning of Duo's little speech but that's all. His eyes are shadowed by his bangs and unnaturally dark in the moonlight but it's not moonlight that makes them so cool and dispassionate.

And he still says nothing.

Duo leans back in the chair, suddenly drained. Of energy and emotion.

Whatever. He had said what he had come to say - done right by himself. He hadn't expected a reward for it. Nor gratitude, all things considered.

There's nothing left to do.

He should say something - a farewell of some sort - and leave, but nothing comes to mind.

...Strange though... He could swear he had not expected - nor hoped for - anything coming here tonight. Nuh-uh. No expectations whatsoever.

But if that had been true...Would his stomach suddenly be hurting with something that feels cold and it does now? With each second that the silence stretches, the numbing sensation gets stronger -

And it feels too much like disappointment.

...God, Duo, but you can be stupid sometimes... You never learn, do you?

He had set himself up, again.

With no good reason, this time.

And, once again, he has only himself to blame.

But fuck - this is impossible! - it's been only a few days - and with the way Zechs had treated him- they had treated each other-

...Why now?

...Why him?

Despite Zechs's best intentions to keep him away.

...or because of them.

No...Fuck it. It is not possible to have two heartbreaks in three days. It is not.

In theory.

He really doesn't need this now.

And there's no time for this - so he better stop with the mental flailing and force his mind off the panic-inducing little notion of exactly what he had been hoping for.

Stupid, Duo. Real stupid.

Oh, Duo can readily admit to finding the prince attractive - who wouldn't - in some academic, totally irrelevant sense. Had thought him attractive for quite some time now. That's not the point.

The point is, he doesn't know the man. At all.

So this is just stupid.


He'd like to know him.

Because, reading between the defensive lines of offensive words and actions, somewhere along the way Duo had seen glimpses of a man worth getting known...Someone who, Duo suddenly feels, he would give an arm to know better. A man he could possibly... if only...

And now he won't.


All the will in the world...

...and absolutely no, fucking, way.

The whole unfairness of it all.

But the if onlys and what ifs are so damn...unbearable, it's killing him right now - this wretched feeling of missing a chance, of losing something rare, something that might have been - that for a split second Duo is entertaining the absurd thought of actually begging the prince to stay.

Futile, he knows. He would be insulting the prince's intelligence to believe Zechs's decision had been influenced in any way by a quick tumble or two in bed - or out - or by Duo's behavior at all, except maybe in timing the announcement. One does not take the decision to go to the veritable end of the world lightly, or without extended deliberation. And Duo does not overestimate his importance that much as to harbor any delusions about affecting that decision once it had been taken.

..But wait ...The prince have known he'd be leaving soon all the that why...? 'Did you want me to break your heart?' Zechs had asked...Oh, fucking great. That this could explain the nastiness of the past few days... makes some sort of perverse sense now. And given the prince's little parting noblesse oblige speech of just hours ago, Duo can't put it past him. So fucking noble.

Forget it. Even if by some miracle Zechs stayed....what good would it do anyway? Nothing could happen. Probably. After all, Duo is utterly - hopelessly - out of Zechs's league, in anything but piloting a Gundam. Totally outclassed. What could he offer the prince? Himself? That he already did, with the first words he'd spoken to the man.

And look where that had brought him.


Even if there is no guarantee...

...and the chance is one in a million...

It is still one millionth bigger than it will be with Zechs on Mars.

If only...


Can you mourn something that hasn't even started?

There is a slight movement from the bed and Duo starts with the sudden realization he is spacing out - and where. Get a grip, Maxwell. The enemy's bedroom, at night. Just his luck. The worst time and place to have an unfortunate epiphany in.

A glance at the prince reveals Zechs is still watching Duo intently. Now with a somewhat - bemused? searching? - expression.

As if he wants me to say something more.

And it's suddenly too knowing for comfort.

Screw farewells. He needs to get out of here.

Duo lets the armrests go and gathers up to leave, motions careful and deliberate, refusing to appear embarrassed or in a hurry. Body and thoughts in tight control, randomly reminding him of that one time he had to demonstrate a crew of sweepers that a thirteen-year old could, in fact, function quite well with three beers in his system. He had won the bet, but he still remembers the unnatural concentration it had taken to move his limbs in the correct manner. One foot in front of the other. Step here. And another. Now the door. Find a dark corner somewhere. To double over in, and wait for it to pass. And if he pukes, well, it won't be from beer this time.

Then the prince utters one word, and it proves not hurrying a mistake.


Duo freezes in mid-motion, hand not even reaching the doorknob yet; gut twisting with the sick feeling of knowing the words that are coming.

"Come here."

Oh god.


Please, please, god, no. Not this time. Not now.

Not this.

Not after everything - everything he had said, the soul dissection, the gut wrenching, the apology, the remorse, the admission of guilt...

It didn't matter at all.

And it is too cruel, even for Zechs.

Duo half-turns, ever so slowly, not looking at the figure on the bed.

"Zechs, I...I don't think-"

"Come. Here."

No quarter. He keeps forgetting surrender doesn't necessarily guarantee that from the enemy.

So it can only be like this, between them. Maybe Zechs hadn't been lying about his reasons after all.

Duo lets his head hang for a moment; then, with a sigh, turns back completely. Evidently, the words had not been enough.

And if this is what takes Zechs to forgive him...

Somehow he manages to get his feet moving in direction of the bed. Fully aware that he is likely losing the last shreds of respect Zechs had ever held for him. Careful not to slip from the tight concentration his movements still seem to require.

Careful not to slip a please past his lips.

Because begging is cheating, and Duo does not deserve the reprieve. A please might stop Zechs.

Or it might not, and then it would be infinitely worse.

It's going to be hard. Hard to do this when you don't want to, and for the first time, he completely, truly doesn't. Harder still, with his newfound - devastating - realization.

It's so odd that it should make a difference...

He is not even a little hard.

Well. One good thing about all this - the prince's commanding ways don't seem to have the usual alarming - alluring - effect of exciting him. It appears Duo's oh-so-wrong fascination with orders is not universal, thank God, not even only person-specific, but highly contingent: on the right time, right place, right mood.

Right frame of mind.

For playing games. Right. And the game is over. Now he is expected to pay the price for starting it.

And losing.

...What's it called in war? Ah, yes. 'Retributions.'

Or was it revenge?

Once at the side of the bed, he is left just standing there, eyes focused on a stray moonbeam, not really seeing, feeling strangely light-headed. Breakable, the way sitting in the cockpit about to press the self-destruct had not. The prince hadn't moved, seemingly enjoying his summoning powers, looking for all his worth the king he is not, and in no apparent hurry now that Duo has come to him. Funny, never before Duo has believed him cruel.

It suddenly occurs to him that this is the last time he can be this close to the prince. So it's alright. He'll have one more memory, wouldn't he. It's worth it.

Pushing the covers away, Zechs languidly rolls onto his knees on the bed, sleeping pants riding low on his hips, a strip of pale skin visible underneath the dark tee-shirt. Duo notes absently that the prince is still taller than him, even like this. No matter - except that now, instead of dark bedcovers, the moonbeam is caressing a milky collarbone - pooling into its hollow - and Duo's eyes inadvertently follow. As good place as any, thinks Duo, trying not betray the unexpected - irrational - panic that grips him with Zechs's abrupt closeness.

It doesn't make any sense.

At the same time he feels like leaning in and resting his forehead on the prince's shoulder. Just for a moment. Just once.

But it is not what they do.

There is a tennis ball lodged in Duo's throat, he suddenly discovers. He did play tennis today; he can easily identify them. Fuzzy and scratchy, and just about the right size. Makes it hard to swallow and near impossible to breathe. Makes his eyes kinda watery. He can't even lower his lashes for fear of disturbing the precarious balance that keeps the moisture from spilling.

Damn. There is something severely wrong with him these last few days. He'll have to put himself in order, soon, but... not right now. It takes too much, and he's bone-tired to fight it.

And it hurts physically, not crying does. He's always known, though currently it seems he hasn't been this close to giving in for god knows how long.

But it simply won't do. If pleading is underhanded, crying is doubly so.

It gets even worse when Zechs grips the bottom of his hoodie and - expecting compliance and finding it with Duo lifting his arms up, doll-like - pulls it over Duo's head, the braid clinging to the cloth for a second longer. It is clear that the prince is done with the orders, and will be doing the undressing himself.

It doesn't feel like the reverse of two nights ago.

Duo's pants follow, and are dealt with just as unceremoniously. He toes off his shoes and socks all on his own, still not looking anywhere but at the prince's elegantly defined collarbone. Or Zechs's expression might be such as to render not-crying truly impossible.

Just a couple of minutes.

Then Duo can bury his face in the mattress and pretend, again, it's from the physical.

Then it gets worse yet. Duo had subconsciously expected Zechs's hands at his waist next - to pull his tee-shirt up, underwear down. Instead, they snake over his shoulders and go straight for his braid.

For a moment, Duo stiffens in shock, and has to fight his own reflexes to allow this final insult to the forthcoming injury- please, isn't this enough as it is?... If the prince undoes the braid, he will undo him too-

But Zechs simply moves the braid over Duo's left shoulder, carefully - wha...? - and not giving him time to contemplate the odd proceedings, swiftly lies down again. Pulling Duo with him, and the covers over them.

Duo is momentarily disoriented. The unexpected move leaves them both curled on their right sides, the prince at Duo's back - spooning?? - if not for the fact that their bodies are hardly touching. The biggest exception being Zechs's left arm, somehow left over Duo's middle in the process...and not moving away. In fact, the prince has stilled completely...and Duo can only lie there, expecting. Rigid all over. With Zechs's arm feeling strange on his waist, like a foreign object.

Duo doesn't know how much time passes like this - surely not much - but it is enough for the excess moisture in his eyes to dry out, unspilled. Even the tennis ball had disappeared, leaving his throat only a bit sore. Confusion can be damn useful at times, it seems.

But this waiting is twisting his insides in a way that soon proves too intolerable.

"You''re not going to?..." he asks when he is finally sure he can speak. Though of little else.


Suddenly there is not enough air in his lungs. The breath hitches in his throat - he dares not breathe - for fear the world will come crashing down on him, and he will go down crashing with it. Overwhelming. It's not even relief - at least not only - more like loosening- and the possibility- the absurd, insane hope... And it's too much, too sudden - he feels like falling through the mattress and it takes forever... Duo's heart is beating so hard and fast now, it's almost more painful than before.

He has to swallow twice before attempting speech again.

"I don't want..." What I had with Heero. "I can't have ..." The way it was with Heero.

But he doesn't know how to say this without sounding weak, and is it even his place to put forward conditions? Maybe he should just be grateful for anything Zechs could spare...

"I know," the prince says, and the arm at Duo's middle suddenly doesn't feel so foreign anymore. After a slight, if atypical, hesitation - as if unsure of its welcome - it flexes infinitesimally; and somehow it's enough to bring Duo completely to the prince's chest, close; body to body, no holds barred. Close enough that when Zechs adds a soft "Sleep, Duo," Duo can feel the name on the prince's breath - his lips - moving the hairs on his nape. And he can feel a faint hardness at his backside but now it's somehow comforting.

Nothing short of wonder.

He closes his eyes again, and can't help a small smile in the darkness.

"Will you ever kiss me?"

Well, it hasn't happened before - that one time outside the ballroom the other day had been a hostile invasion, nothing more... And Duo wants - badly - to know he's reading this right.

There is a pause; it sends his heart sinking-

"I will," replies the prince, with the barest hint of amusement. But he also sounds very serious as he adds, "Tomorrow." And it's definite. A promise. Hope. Future. It's what takes for the tightness in Duo's chest to melt completely. "I will kiss you tomorrow, Duo."

The second time is as perfect as the first. Duo can finally relax and knows that Zechs can feel it too. A little unsure on his own part, Duo's left hand finds the prince's one that is holding him. The long fingers spread instantly, letting his lace through, and squeeze. Tight.

And it is enough.

Tomorrow, is Duo's last thought as he allows Zechs's warmth to lull him to sleep.

The End