Darkness. The first thing he was aware of was darkness. While his mind was trying to comprehend why it was so dark, in the distance he heard voices. Angry voices. But he couldn't make out what they were saying. He moved toward the voices so he could hear.
"...pay for what they've done!"
Quatre. That was Quatre's voice. He tried to call out to Quatre in the darkness but found his voice wasn't working.
"Reports have come in from the borders. The Seleigh army has assembled and is heading towards the northern fields."
He felt a strong hand cup his face. 'Treize? '
"I'll leave some soldiers here to safeguard you. The Seleigh dog has been locked in the empty storage building at the edge of the city."
"What will happen to him?"
"He will be killed."
"But Your Majesty... he brought Duo home."
Treize sighed. "I know. But it's out of my hands. Had we not received word of the approaching army, he'd have been executed already."
There was a long pause. Duo struggled to get out of the darkness. 'Heero...'
"I have to leave now, Quatre. Take care of him."
"I will, sire. May the Great Mother protect you."
"May She protect us all."
'Treize, no! Don't do this!' he tried to cry out, but the darkness was oppressive. He struggled to get out, struggled to break free of the blackness surrounding him. He had to get out, had to get to Heero, had to stop this stupid war.
A pinpoint of light drew his attention. He flew towards it as fast as he could. The light grew bigger as he approached until it was blinding. He moaned in protest... and opened his eyes.
A figure with Quatre's voice hovered over him. Duo blinked, trying to see through the light. Gradually Quatre's face came into focus, aqua blue eyes staring worriedly down at him.
"Quatre," his voice was horribly raspy. He tried to swallow but his mouth was so dry. Quatre must have noticed because the next thing he felt was a cup being placed against his lips.
"Drink this," his blonde friend said, tipping the vessel slightly so the cool, clear liquid slid into his mouth. Duo drank greedily. When water started to spill down his chin, Quatre took the cup away. Duo whimpered in protest.
"Not yet. Take it easy. You don't want to make yourself sick."
Duo nodded and looked around. His vision had finally cleared. He was in his room, lying half-propped up on a mound of pillows in his own bed. Sunlight was streaming through the windows. Since his room faced east, Duo assumed it was mid-morning. He struggled to sit up, hissing as his body protested the movement.
In a flash, Quatre's hands were on his shoulders, urging him to lie back down.
"Duo! You need to rest! You underwent a massive healing session with Gee yesterday. You need to rebuild your strength!"
Duo blinked. "How long have I been out?"
"A whole day. We found you at dawn yesterday. You were injured and unconscious. Gee healed your ribs and your shoulder. He did the best he could with your wing, but you know how difficult it is to heal wings with magic. You'll be sore for a long time, and you shouldn't attempt to fly for at least a month."
Duo looked down at his arms. Quatre had been right. The dark purple bruises he'd seen spreading over his body during his brief period of consciousness in the Seleigh cell were now turning yellow. Within a day, they would be gone altogether.
Duo looked up at Quatre as the blonde sidhe tried to get him to lie down. "What's happening?"
Quatre averted his eyes. "Nothing you should worry about right now, Duo."
Duo struggled against his friend, this time succeeding in sitting up all the way. "Don't lie to me Quatre. I know Treize was here. Where has he gone?"
Quatre looked down and started to chew on his bottom lip.
Duo's eyes opened wide in realization. "Blessed Danu. We're at war."
Quatre nodded. "We received word this morning. The Seleigh army is approaching. We started to assemble our own warriors when we found you yesterday."
"Why? Why are we going to war? I'm here. I'm safe. Heero brought me..."
At the mention of Heero's name, a flood of emotions washed through him - emotions that were not his own. For a moment it was as if he was two people - one was lying in his bed, sore but recovering; the other was in a cold, dark room, hunched in a corner, feeling weak and afraid. His shoulder started to hurt. Duo cried out and clutched at his own shoulder as if he could make the phantom pain go away.
"Duo? Are you all right?"
"Heero. Where's Heero?" he demanded, fighting back a wave of nausea and trying to get his own emotions under control.
Quatre didn't answer.
"Dammit Quatre! Don't make me order the information out of you!"
"I'm not going to tell you, Duo."
"Yes, you will." When Quatre still refused to say anything, Duo clutched the front of the blonde's tunic. "Quatre please! He's hurt. I can feel his pain. I need to go to him."
His friend blinked. "You can feel him?"
"I don't have time to explain it. I just need to know where he is."
"Why? They hurt you. Why would you want to help someone who hurt you?" Quatre asked, hugging his friend close.
"He didn't hurt me, Quatre. He rescued me. I was in a Seleigh cell. I got caught through my own stupid foolishness of not realizing I had a geas placed on me. Heero risked his life, betrayed his own people, just to get me out and bring me home. But that's not why I want to see him."
The blonde sidhe looked down at him with questioning eyes. "Why then?"
"Because I love him, Quatre. I love him more than I thought possible. I would give my life for him."
Quatre saw the conviction in the young prince's eyes. "Great Mother... you've Bonded," he breathed in wonderment.
"Never mind. You said you could feel him? Is he hurt?"
Duo nodded. "He's weak. I think he's been injured."
Quatre helped Duo stand. As quickly as they could manage, they got Duo into some clothes, mindful of Duo's injured wing. Quatre grabbed some spare bandages and other supplies off a nearby table where Gee had left them. Placing the items in a small, wooden box, he handed it to Duo.
"You carry that. I'll carry you."
"Don't argue! You need to let your wing heal. You could re-injure it and permanently lose the ability to fly."
Duo hesitated for a moment before nodding. "You're right. You're always right. Thank you for helping me, Quatre."
The blonde smiled. "You're my best friend, Duo. I'd do anything for you."
Duo could feel his eyes misting up. "Thank you."
Quatre moved behind Duo and put his arms around the prince's waist. "Ready?"
When Duo nodded, Quatre flapped his wings and lifted them both into the air. They hovered for a moment while Quatre caught his balance, then zipped through the balcony doors.
Duo clutched the box of medical supplies tightly to his chest as they flew.
'Hold on, Heero. I'm coming...'
Heero shivered, huddling in the corner of the dark, empty room. He'd passed out as soon as he had handed Duo over to the Unseleigh border guards. The next thing he knew, he'd been flung into this room and locked inside. That had been the last contact he'd had with Duo's people. He was surprised at that. He'd expected a mage to come in and put a truth spell on him to find out what had happened. But no one came. From the noises outside, Heero surmised that the Unseleigh were getting ready for something... getting ready to face his people on the battlefield.
Heero sighed and wrapped his arms around his knees, curling up into a tight ball. By his estimation, he'd been locked in the room for a whole day. He was cold, tired, thirsty, and sore. But most of all, he was worried.
Was Duo all right? Had the healers seen to him? Had they been able to take care of his wing? Was he no longer in pain? Logic told him Duo would have been taken care of as soon as he was taken to the palace. And he could still feel his love in the back of his mind. But he wanted to see Duo with his own eyes - he wanted to be absolutely sure he was all right.
A noise on the other side of door drew his attention. He looked up through his messy bangs, blinking as light streamed in through the opening door.
The Seleigh warrior's eyes opened wide. "Duo?"
Heero suddenly found his arms full of long limbs and chestnut silk as the Unseleigh prince flung himself at him. Heero hugged the trembling body tightly to him, running his hands over Duo's body to make sure he was all right.
"It's okay, Hee-chan. I'm fine," Duo whispered against Heero's chest.
"Thank the Mother. I was worried about you."
Duo drew back, searching Heero's eyes. "What about you?"
"I'm fine," Heero replied, ignoring the pain in his shoulder.
"Don't lie to me, Hee-chan. I can feel you. Your shoulder's hurt."
As soon as Duo mentioned their bond, Heero could feel Duo's concern for him in the back of his mind. He smiled as Duo began examining his shoulder.
"Guess I won't be able to hide anything from you ever again."
Duo smiled up at him, eyes locking as they both realized the meaning behind Heero's words "ever again". Neither one wanted to be apart from the other ever again. Heero had thought he could return Duo to his people, then accept whatever Fate had in store for him, whether it be death or Exile. But seeing Duo's beautiful eyes once more... he knew he could never let his prince go.
He reverently traced the fading bruise on Duo's face with his fingertips as he frowned. "Duo, I'm so sorry."
"I never should have left you alone. I heard a noise. I thought you'd be safe if I left you in that nest. I should have known better. I should have..."
Duo placed his fingers over Heero's mouth to silence him.
"No, Hee-chan. It wasn't your fault. I don't blame you. You were the one who rescued me." Sad eyes stared at him. "Why did you do that? Why did you risk your life for mine? I know what it means for you. You'll be Exiled. But why? Why did you give up your family, your home, for me?"
Heero cupped his cheek. "I had to, Duo. I love you."
Violet eyes filled with tears. "Heero, I love you, too. I can't believe you would do that for me. What will you do?"
"I don't know," Heero answered honestly. "I can't stay here, yet I can't go home again. I'll have to leave the Faerie lands, try to find a new home for myself."
Duo shook his head. "Find a new home for ourselves. You're not leaving without me."
"No! Don't try to argue with me, Heero. I love you. I know now I cannot live without you. Wherever you go, I will follow. I'll follow you to the ends of the world if need be. As long as we're together, I don't care where we are."
"Duo, love. Do you mean it?"
"Of course I do, Hee-chan. I love you."
Heero smiled, swooping down to claim his lips. His heart felt as though it would burst from happiness. He couldn't live without his violet-eyed prince, but now he wouldn't have to. Duo would go with him. They'd be together, forever and always.
A discrete cough from the doorway startled him, breaking their kiss. Heero looked up to see a blonde-haired sidhe standing in the door, holding an acorn bucket.
"Sorry to interrupt, your Highness, but I have the water you requested," the sidhe said as he came forward.
"Thank you, Quatre. Set it here, please," Duo said, patting the ground next to him. He grabbed a wooden box sitting nearby and opened it.
"Let me see to that shoulder, Hee-chan."
Heero shifted so Duo could have easy access to his shoulder. He turned his head as his lover and his friend worked on it, not particularly wanting to see what they were doing. For some strange reason, the sight of his own blood had always made him sick to his stomach. And although he didn't have anything in his stomach to lose, Heero still didn't want to see it.
As his wound was being cleaned and dressed by the two Unseleigh sidhe, Heero kept noticing the blonde one - Quatre - giving him strange looks. Not liking the feeling of being watched intently, he narrowed his eyes.
The little blonde jumped at the harsh question. "I... I'm sorry for being rude but... I was just curious."
"Well," Quatre shifted uncomfortably. "Is it true your people eat babies before going into battle?"
Heero raised an eyebrow.
"Quatre! I can't believe you'd actually think those old tales Nurse used to tell us were true!" Duo said, staring incredulously at his friend.
"I don't!" the blonde protested. "I just wanted to hear what he'd say."
"No, we don't eat babies," Heero replied, smirking. "We much prefer young men. Particularly blondes."
Quatre swallowed. Duo rolled his eyes. "If you two are quite through..."
"Quatre! Duo!" Hilde's voice interrupted their playful banter as the dark-haired girl came barreling through the door.
"Hilde!" Quatre exclaimed as he moved to his beloved. "What are you doing here? I thought you were helping with the palace children..."
Hilde clutched her soon-to-be husband, breathing heavily. "The army is approaching the northern fields. The Seleigh army is already in place." Her voice started to tremble. "As soon as our forces are in place... we'll be at war."
Heero could feel Duo stiffen in his arms.
"This is all my fault," the prince whispered hoarsely. "If I hadn't been so reckless, I'd never would have ventured out of Unseleigh territory."
Heero gave the boy a tight hug. "But then I would never have met you, koi."
Duo gave him a weak smile.
"Isn't there anything we can do?" Hilde asked plaintively.
Everyone was silent for a moment. Then Duo spoke up.
"Yes. There is. We can try to stop it."
"How?" Quatre asked.
"We'll have to fly to the battlefield. We have to try and convince both sides that this war is pointless."
"I don't know. But we have to try."
The four of them stared at one another for a long moment. Duo broke the silence by standing up.
"The longer we sit here, the more sidhe on both sides will die. I'm going to the northern fields. You don't have to go with me, but I have to try."
"But Duo! Your wing! You can't fly," Quatre protested.
"I will carry him," Heero said, wrapping an arm around the prince's waist.
"Heero? Are you sure?"
"I'll never leave you again. I'm going with you," Heero replied, kissing Duo on the forehead.
"You're both crazy," Quatre remarked. "But I'll go with you."
"I'm going too," Hilde said, clasping Quatre's hand tightly.
"Don't even think about telling me no, Quatre," the dark-haired girl admonished. "You know I can wipe the floor with you when we spar. I can take care of myself."
Duo smiled. "I have no doubts in you, Hilde. So... we're all going?"
Three heads nodded back at him.
"Good. Let's go then. We don't have much time."
The four sidhe left the building as quickly as possible. Duo clutched tightly to his lover as Heero carried them through the air. He was scared, but this had to be done. Many lives on both sides were hanging on the line. He only hoped they would make it in time.
Treize observed the Seleigh army gathered at the far side on the field. Their forces were numerous, but no more so than what Treize had expected. He glanced behind him at his own army. The Unseleigh army was just as impressive as the opposing army. But the Unseleigh king had every confidence in his people. They were fighting for something important - they were fighting for what had been done to their prince.
Treize's heart clutched at the thought of his little brother. He knew he didn't always show it, but he loved his brother dearly. As did their people. Ever since the younger prince had been born, he'd been the darling of the Unseleigh court. Duo loved life and always had a smile for everyone. Treize was proud of his younger brother. He'd make a fine ruler someday... should he not live though this day.
"What do you think?" a voice behind him asked.
Treize turned to see his most trusted advisor, Lady Une, standing behind him, regarding the Seleigh army intently.
"Do you want my honest opinion or blissful optimism?"
"Honest opinion. We'll save the blissful optimism for another day."
Treize sighed. "I don't think it will go well. As near as I can tell, we're evenly matched. Many sidhe will die this day."
Une nodded in agreement. "Why do we do this to ourselves?" she asked, indicating both armies.
"I don't know, Lady. I don't even remember why this conflict started. It seems to be our Fate for our two clans to fight each other."
As he spoke, a horn sounded on the Seleigh side. A wall of fairy soldiers started forward, marching steadily across the field.
"And so it begins," Treize muttered as he raised his arm. A young soldier saw the movement and raised a golden horn to his lips. He blew a short volley of notes. The Unseleigh army started forward. Treize took a deep breath as the two armies marched toward each other.
'May the Great Mother protect us all.'
Duo stiffened in Heero's arms as they flew towards the fields. "Oh no!" he cried out as he saw the two armies moving toward each other. "We're too late! They've already started!"
"Hold on, Duo," his lover said as they picked up speed.
"What are you doing?" Duo asked as he saw where they were heading.
"Something drastic," Heero replied as he aimed for the area between the two advancing forces.
Duo heard Quatre and Hilde calling his name behind them, but they didn't stop. They couldn't stop. They couldn't lose any more time.
Heero and Duo zipped up the narrowing corridor being formed between the two armies. They landed in the middle of the field, causing startled shouts to ring out on both sides.
Duo stepped out of Heero's embrace and faced his people. Heero turned to the Seleigh army. He held up his hands in front of him as if to hold back the approaching warriors.
Duo stepped towards his own people, making sure to swing his braid so they could recognize him. He waved his arms and yelled, "Stop!"
From further down the line of Unseleigh warriors, the king noticed the disruption on the battlefield. Stepping forward, he noticed a familiar chestnut braid swinging from the head of one of the figures. He stopped breathing as he realized that his brother was now in the path of the advancing armies. Quickly he signaled for the horn blower to call for a stop while he himself yelled, "Halt!"
Murmuring confusion spread through the ranks as the Unseleigh army ground to a halt.
On the other side of the field, King Merquise watched as the two figures landed in the middle of the battlefield. A moment later, the sound of a horn could be heard across the meadow. As he watched, the Unseleigh forces stopped their progression. Curious, the Seleigh king looked closer at the figures in the middle. His eyes widened as he recognized his cousin holding up his hands as if he could stop the wall of soldiers approaching him.
"Stop! Everyone, stand down!" he called out, waving his people back.
The order swept through the ranks. Slowly, both armies stopped their advance, casting confused looks at themselves and each other.
Duo breathed a sigh of relief as both sides came to a halt. Landing in the middle of the battlefield like that had been a crazy, stupid thing to do. But it had worked. He and Heero had gotten their attention. Now all they had to do was convince both their peoples that war was wrong and establish peace between two clans who had been each other's enemy for nearly a millennium. Peace of cake, really.
The Unseleigh prince saw his brother, two of his brother's advisors, and several members of the Royal Guard approach them, waving a white flag to signal temporary truce. Looking over his shoulder, he saw a very regal looking sidhe with long blonde hair approach them from the Seleigh side. He too had several people with him and was bearing a similar flag.
"Who's that?" Duo asked as he watched the two groups approach.
"King Merquise," Heero replied, noting silently that Trowa and Wufei were accompanying the king. His eyes flickered to the approaching Unseleigh delegation. "And that?"
"King Khushrenada, my brother," Duo said, his eyes widening as he realized the two monarchs of their clans were about to meet for the first time in over a millennium.
Treize and his entourage arrived first. He eyed the approaching Seleigh sidhe and kept his hand on the hilt of his sword. But to his credit, he did not draw it. He frowned at his younger brother who stood in front of him with a defiant look in his eyes.
"Duo, I am grateful to see you up and awake, but this is no place for you," the Unseleigh king said, reaching for his brother's arm.
Duo drew away from Treize's outstretched hand. "This is no place for you either, brother. Or for any of us."
"You know why we fight..."
"No, I don't know why we fight!" Duo cried. "No one knows! Do you know how this war between our people started?"
Treize hesitated for a moment before shaking his head. Duo turned to the Seleigh king who had arrived moments before.
"Do your people remember?" he demanded.
King Merquise blinked in surprise at being addressed in such a manner - and by a member of the Unseleigh clan. He glanced at Heero who was standing patiently by the Unseleigh boy's side, waiting for his answer.
"No, we do not," he replied, trying to take in what was happening.
"Then why are we fighting at all?" Duo continued, addressing both sides. "Our clans may be different, but we are the same people, the same race. Danu Herself created us all. Why must we destroy ourselves like this?"
"It's what we were taught," one of the older men on the Seleigh side said. "The Unseleigh clan is our enemy. They would stop at nothing to destroy us. They are soulless creatures whose ways are too different from our own."
Heero stepped forward before the Unseleigh could act. "I too have heard the stories about our Unseleigh brethren, Quinze. I grew up thinking that if I didn't behave, the Unseleigh demons would come and suck out my soul. I thought they were evil and would kill and torture without mercy. If circumstances had been different, I probably would have been the one leading this army. But that was before I met and fell in love with the enemy." He reached behind him and took one of Duo's hands in his own. A collective gasp went up on both sides.
"The Unseleigh mothers have similar stories about the Seleigh clan to scare their children into obedience," Duo continued. "Then I met Heero and discovered how wrong and arrogant we were in our assumptions. Yes, we have our differences, but we are still the same. We are still one race."
"We came here to stop our people from dying needlessly," Heero said, his eyes searching his king's. "The war between our clans has gone on long enough. It's time to end it."
Quinze snorted. "I don't even know why we're listening to you, Yuy. You've been Exiled from our clan for helping the Unseleigh boy escape. You are dead to us."
"He is not dead to me," a fiercely determined voice rang out as another sidhe came zipping through the Seleigh crowd to stand next to Heero.
"Relena, I thought I told you to stay at the palace," King Merquise said, glaring at his sister.
"I know you did, big brother, but I am not a little girl anymore. I lost that innocence two summers ago when I saw first hand what war could do to our clan. Both sides lost so many that day, and that was only one battle. This... this is a full-scale war. Think of how many will die this time."
"Your Majesties, it's obvious just from looking at both of you that neither one of you wants this war," a new voice said. Duo turned to see Quatre and Hilde walking up to join them. Quatre flashed Duo a smile before he continued. "I know there are plenty of reasons to fight... but there are also plenty of reasons not to fight. Each one of your soldiers is a reason not to fight. Don't throw their lives away."
"We all remember the last time our two clans met on the battlefield," Wufei added, stepping away from his king to stand next to Heero. Trowa followed. "We all lost someone we loved. I would not want to dishonor their memories by repeating our mistakes - mistakes that got them killed in the first place."
Treize shook his head. He wanted to listen, wanted to believe what these young people were saying. But then he remembered how Duo had looked when he had been brought back to the palace yesterday morning, battered and broken.
"If you didn't want this war, why did you capture and abuse my brother? Surely you knew the consequences of your actions."
King Merquise raised his head. "That was an unfortunate mistake. He was caught on our lands." Duo had the decency to blush. "You can understand why we captured him. The abuse - I can only apologize for that. It was inexcusable and the men responsible have already been punished."
Duo turned to address the Seleigh king. "Heero told me what you did, your Majesty - how you let him escape with me. I owe you my life. Thank you."
Quinze gasped in outrage while Jay simply smirked. Treize's eyes widened slightly at the revelation.
King Merquise offered the young prince a small smile. "It was wrong of me to order your death. The people were scared. They thought we were about to be attacked so they wanted to strike the first blow by having you and Heero executed. But I knew you were both innocent. I couldn't let you die."
"Then how can you let your soldiers die now, cousin?" Heero asked. "Haven't we all had enough? Aren't we tired of being scared? Isn't it time for a truce between our clans?"
King Merquise looked at Treize with a somewhat dazed expression on his face. "'And the children shall lead them,'" he quoted from some long forgotten source.
The Unseleigh king regarded the seven young sidhe standing defiantly between the two armies. And to think the young people uniting in front of him were from two different clans. He looked back up to meet King Merquise's eyes. Within those blue depths he saw thoughts and feelings that mirrored his own. They didn't want this war. They didn't want to anyone to die.
"Perhaps we should follow their example, your Majesty," Treize said, bowing his head slightly to the blonde monarch. "Perhaps we should stop fighting and start listening to reason."
King Merquise inclined his own head in return. "Perhaps we should start right now."
Beside him Quinze sputtered indignantly. "You can't be serious, Majesty! They can't be trusted!"
"Perhaps that's why we've been at each other's throats for so long," King Merquise said, signaling for Quinze to be silent. "We barely know each other. It's hard to trust someone you don't know."
"Then perhaps we should start getting to know each other," Treize said, smiling.
King Merquise also smiled. "Perhaps."
Not too far away, among the crush of the Seleigh soldiers, a figure peered out from the folds of a hooded cape. Eyes narrowed as he watched the group in the middle of the battlefield converse. Rage filled him as his eyes followed Heero Yuy. He had sneaked into the ranks of the Seleigh forces in hopes of finding the short-haired warrior he hated so much and taking care of him once and for all. But he'd quickly learned the former Captain had been declared an Exile. He'd been about to sneak away when Yuy had shown up. Perhaps he'd get his chance after all. Yuy was an Exile - by Law, he should be executed on sight.
But as the minutes passed and nothing happened, Mueller began to get angrier. Yuy was an Exile and yet the king was listening to him, and once again, the Princess was at his side. Mueller growled.
'Damn you, Yuy! Even in Exile you still hold the king's ear and the princess's attention. ' He moved closer, his face turning red with hatred towards his rival. 'No one ever noticed me while Yuy was around. And when I turn him in as a traitor to our people, *I'm* the one who gets banished! It's not fair! '
A killing rage spread through his entire being. Yuy had destroyed his life. It was time to make him pay. Yuy had taken everything from him. He wanted his rival to suffer - by taking away the thing he loved the most.
His attention focused on the long-haired Unseleigh prince who was standing hand in hand with the former captain.
'This time, Yuy, you will truly learn what it means to suffer.'
He called on his magic, took aim, and fired.
Duo held his breath as the two kings spoke. They were on the verge of something major - a truce between the clans. It was something he'd dreamed of even before he'd met Heero. No more fighting, no more wars... true peace at last. He could scarcely believe this was happening.
He had no idea why he glanced over at the Seleigh crowd. Maybe it was an errant movement, maybe he felt a surge of power. Whatever it was, he found he could not move as the levin bolt headed towards him. He didn't even have time to scream. All he could do was clench Heero's hand tightly and close his eyes.
The world exploded around him and spun away as he was flung to the ground. His ears rung with the force of the explosion. His breath left his lungs in a loud *whoosh* as something heavy landed on top of him. He lay there stunned for a moment as he tried to process what had happened.
He was alive - his body ached too much and his injured wing was protesting too loudly for him to be dead. He didn't understand why he was alive. He'd seen the levin bolt heading straight towards him. He knew he couldn't have survived the impact. Something had taken the brunt of the force intended for him. Something - or someone.
Duo cautiously opened his eyes as he realized that it was a body lying on top of him, having shielded him from the blast. He lay on his back, looking up at the sky. He didn't want to see who it was. But the fading presence in the back of his mind told him everything. With a choked sob, he sat up, cradling the broken body of his lover in his arms. All around him people were yelling, giving orders. He vaguely heard King Merquise ordering his men to hold someone named Mueller down. Treize was ordering his own panicked soldiers to stand down. He felt the comforting presence of his friends nearby. But all these things barely registered in his mind. His entire being was focused on the sidhe in his arms who was looking up at him with tired eyes.
"Baka," Duo sobbed, groping blindly for Heero's hand and twining their fingers together. "Why did you have to go and do a stupid thing like that?"
Heero gave him a small smile. "Had to. Love you," he choked out before dissolving into a fit of labored coughing.
"I love you, too," Duo said, squeezing Heero's hand. "Just hold on. A healer will be here any moment."
Heero just smiled at him sadly. "Too late... will always love you... Duo," he rasped as the light faded from his eyes.
Duo stopped breathing as Heero's head lolled lifelessly back at an unnatural angle. He felt something inside of him break as his lover's life slipped away. Tears began to stream down his face as he rocked Heero's body back and forth, holding him close.
"No. Heero. I won't let you die," he sobbed as he buried his face into the crook of his lover's neck. Around him, both clans stood in shocked silence at the scene before them. The Seleigh princess sobbed into her hands while the Unseleigh king's face turned ashen as he watched his brother rock his dead lover's body back and forth.
"I won't let you die, Heero. I won't let you go. I won't let you go." He spoke the words like a mantra as silver tears rained down his cheeks and onto Heero's lifeless face.
Treize stepped forward, intending to pull his brother from his lover's body. But as he leaned down to touch Duo's shoulder, his brother began to glow. He pulled back, eyes widening in surprise as a golden aura surrounded both Duo and Heero's body. As he watched, the glow grew brighter... brighter. Slowly the two boys were lifted into the air as the glow became even brighter still. Sparkles of colored light began to dance in the air around them. Gasps of fear and amazement went up around them. Finally, the glow became so bright he had to look away. A loud explosion was heard, blocking out all other sound for a moment. Treize nearly jumped out of his skin. Gradually the light began to fade. Sound returned. A feeling of peace, calmness, and love settled over him. Quickly he looked around for his brother. What he found was an amazing sight.
Heero sat on the ground, eyes blinking worriedly down at the limp figure in his arms. He raised his eyes and met Treize's. The Unseleigh king could see the tears forming in those cobalt orbs which looked up at him imploringly.
"Please," the Seleigh warrior whispered. "Please tell me he's not... he didn't..."
Treize knelt down beside the two young lovers. He swallowed nervously as he reached for his brother's neck to check for a pulse. A wave of relief washed over him as he felt it, beating strong and true.
"He'll be all right. He's just unconscious."
Heero hugged Duo to his chest, sobbing thanks as he rubbed Duo's back and wings gently.
Treize looked up to see the startled eyes of King Merquise staring down at the couple.
Princess Relena scrambled over the ground on her hands and knees, tears still streaming down her face. "Heero? How... why...?"
"I... I don't know," the dark-haired sidhe stammered, still holding his lover close. "I... I died... and then, I heard him calling to me. He..."
:: Heero? ::
Heero's eyes grew wide as he heard Duo's voice in his head.
:: Heero? Can you hear me? ::
"Yes. I can hear you, love."
:: But you're dead. Am I dead? ::
Heero chuckled. "No, you're not dead. But I need you to wake up now."
The boy in his arms stirred. Slowly, violet eyes opened. The prince raised his hand to touch Heero's face. "You're here. You're alive."
"I told you I would never leave you again," Heero said, kissing Duo's forehead.
Treize gazed down at the lovers in awe. "What just happened here?"
"Danu Herself has blessed their union," the Seleigh king answered as he watched the two comfort one another.
Treize looked at him sharply. "You mean..."
"They've soulbonded. They've become one. Heero gave up his life for him..."
"And Duo gave up half of his soul for Heero to live," Treize finished in amazement. "There hasn't been a true case of soulbonding in more than five hundred years. I've read about soulbonded couples being able to do that, but thought it was just a myth. What does this mean?"
The wizened old man standing next to King Merquise stepped forward. "It means Danu Herself has sent us a sign. A member of the Unseleigh royal family has Bonded to a Seleigh noble. The Great Mother wants this conflict between the two clans to end."
Treize and Zechs looked at one another. Treize spoke first. "Establishing peace between our clan won't be easy. We've had a millennium to hate each other."
"You're right. It won't be easy. But the wise men would say 'A journey begins with but a single step.'" He gestured at the Guards holding Mueller. "Here is my first step. His life was forfeit when he broke his banishment. He attacked your prince. I give his life to you."
Treize glared at the man. He wanted nothing more than to strangle the life out of him with his bear hands, but he wasn't the one Mueller had tried to kill. "His life is not mine to take." He looked down at his brother. "Duo, his life is yours."
The Unseleigh prince stood up shakily with Heero's help. He looked at Mueller in silent contemplation.
"Go ahead and kill me," the captive sidhe growled out. "Put me out of my misery."
"No. Death would be too easy," Duo said, holding onto Heero. "You will be stripped of your magic and Exiled."
"You can't do that! If you strip me of my magic, I won't be able to pass through the barriers of Faerie! I can never come back!"
"I believe that's the idea," King Merquise said. "I would have chosen death for you. But it seems Prince Duo wants to be lenient. You should be grateful you still have your life. The sentence will be carried out immediately. Take him away."
The Guards dragged Mueller away kicking and screaming. Duo looked away, holding onto Heero tightly. The Seleigh warrior wrapped his arms around his lover in comfort. He looked at his king.
"What happens now?"
"We go home. We let everyone cool down. Then we start building peace between our clans once more."
Duo clutched at Heero. "I don't want you to go."
"He won't. If my Unseleigh counterpart doesn't mind, I'd like you to stay here... as a Seleigh ambassador."
Duo turned hopeful eyes to his brother. "Treize?"
The Unseleigh king smiled. "I don't mind. We would be honored if you would stay with us, Heero." He looked back at King Merquise. "I'll send someone with you as well, to serve as our liaison."
King Merquise nodded his head. "Give us three weeks to prepare. Then I cordially invite you and your Court for a state visit." He extended his hand. "I hope we will be able to find some common ground between us."
Treize reached out and took the Seleigh king's hand. Both monarchs jumped as they felt a jolt pass through their bodies as they touched. Treize blinked, then smiled into Zech's deep blue eyes. "I hope so, too."
Duo turned in Heero's embrace and wrapped his arms around his lover's neck. "I have a good feeling about this, Heero. I think this may be a turning point for both our clans."
"It won't be easy, but I think you're right." He drew Duo's head closer. "No matter what happens, we'll be together."
Their mouths met as they lost themselves in each other. As Heero's tongue swept into Duo's mouth to drink in the taste of his lover, he could feel his lover's unconditional love and compassion through their bond. He sent a wave of his own to the boy in his arms. They were together. Nothing could ever tear them apart.
:: I love you, Heero. ::
:: I love you too, Duo. ::