Third Battle
by Cinderzol

Additionally, huge thanks to Chihaya for the beautiful fanart - it's what got me going this time.

Milk, cold and white. How befitting.

It's morning, and what a wonderful morning it is. Day, actually, as it's almost noon already. It's bright, with light streaming through the open French windows and warm breeze ruffling the floor-length curtains. The sun is shining - birds are chirping! - and everyone's mood seems appropriately elevated. What a wonderful morning indeed. Duo only wishes he was less sleepy, somehow managing to cover another yawn.

But that's what you get when you catch only a few hours of sleep. It's surprising that this - the yawning - is the only indication of a night umm... not well spent. He had expected a lot more unpleasantness, but instead it's like waking up from a bad dream. Which you don't, and don't want to, remember.

The whole thing last night had been totally unreal. It seems even more so now, in the light and brightness of the day. When Duo's thoughts stray to the night's happenings, it's only cold-dark-despair he remembers - just like the sensations left by a fading nightmare. It's not what happened that's somewhat vivid in your mind, it's how it felt. Hm.

Not that he's pretending it never happened, no. Zechs fucked him. Simple as that. Nothing overly dramatic. He must have felt shitty to begin with, to let something like that get to him. The way it did. Well, that was last night. All in the past now. Not happening again. No, really.

And that's one of his private reasons to feel happy right now - it's over.

And indeed, looking at the prince calmly buttering a toast across the table, it is difficult to believe something like that ever happened. Much less to imagine a repeat.

That 'everybody in good mood' thing? Only a guess in the blond bastard's case.

Eyes only on the task at hand, Zechs is in a world of his own. Face blank and expressionless, he's focusing on his food. Silent, ignoring the excited banter around him. Not that anyone appears to be noticing.

Maybe it has always been like that, muses Duo. Ignored and ignoring. He can't say. He had never paid any attention either.

It's next to impossible to connect this man with the one from the night. MPD? Hell, it's less funny and more chilling than it ought to be.

Right now they are having brunch - that's what you have when you wake up late and your first meal of the day is way past breakfast time. Hn. If it's a three-meals-a-day deal...Duo is used to eating breakfast no matter the time he would wake, but hey, it's all relative. And when in Rome... So brunch it is.

They are really only the more essential people left, for this one last day. Saved specifically for them. To spend together, without the official crowd. Duo is avidly looking forward to it. So far, they haven't had the time to just kick back and relax, informally, just their little group, so spending some time with his friends is something well worth looking forward to. Duo has big expectations for the day. Fully intends to enjoy it.

Besides, it's good bye, tuxes and other funny clothes and hello, jeans and tees, kind of day. Amen to that.

Une has left early in the morning, he'd heard, to take care of some business regarding Mariemaia or other. Where Dorothy is it's unclear as of now. Still sleeping, most likely - but this is quite nice too, so no need to be jealous.

Sally is sitting at the head of the table - in what Relena calls 'the small dining room' (it sits at least sixteen) - and is currently engaged in a loud and apparently quite amusing discussion of something that has happened last evening. She and Noin and Relena, on her right and across from Duo, are talking over each other in their excitement - girls! - while Wufei and Quatre on Sally's left are somehow managing to keep up with them, to the effect of general hilarity reigning over the table. Even Heero is smiling openly next to the princess, and Duo is probably the only one who can hear Trowa snickering into his coffee as he's sitting right by. Yes, snickering.

This of course leaves His Highness, the wallflower apparent, who would probably look disapproving, if only he had an expression. He must have joined the party right before Duo did - Duo himself had been the last to come down - as he and the prince make the ends of the group at the table. Duo had had no choice - it was only natural to take the seat next to Trowa - there were less people sitting on his side of the table; but why had Zechs chosen to sit next to Heero? Now Duo has to look at both of them, peacefully sharing breakfast - ugh, brunch and... it doesn't look unnatural... And who would- who could have thought, a year or so back?

It's so... amazing, Duo can't sustain even a smidgeon of grumpiness.

Besides, there's the milk.

As far as Duo can see, everyone is drinking coffee - judging by the thimbles that pass for coffee cups around these parts of the world. Everyone except Duo that is, whose drink of choice is freshly squeezed orange juice - he figured coffee is an acquired taste, and he has yet to acquire his. The stuff is bitter dammit, and putting extravagant amounts of sugar in it only makes the bitterness nauseatingly, toothachingly sweet--

But he's not the only exception, as Zechs is drinking milk - yes, milk! - for crying out loud.

The prince is drinking it from a large mug, with perfectly straight sides, so every time he takes a sip, a small drop of white liquid gathers at the place which his lips have barely left and, undrunk, starts sliding down.

And every time, the prince would distractedly pick up the mug again, bring it to his mouth, and brush his lower lip to the porcelain just so - a mere touch - to catch the errant droplet immediately after its conception.


Zechs appears unconscious of the whole process, and Duo is just about unconscious of watching it. Repeat again and again.

Not that he's watching it watching it, no - but it''s right in front of his eyes; it would be difficult not to watch. Really.

And it's not like that's all he's doing - he's also keeping a lazy ear on the conversation for one. Well, if not on the substance (he's too sleepy to actually follow), at least on the flow and intonation of the - frequently simultaneous - speakers. And he has to make sure all the strawberry jam stays on his waffle ('that's a Danish version of a Belgian waffle a la Sanq, Duo, a local specialty') and that it doesn't migrate to his palm and fingers...

Oh, the worries he has these days... But even his internal voice sounds more pleased than cynical this morning, and he knows he's smiling.

"Oh, by the way, where were you last night, Duo? Heero was looking for you; he wanted to watch the fireworks together..."

Apparently Duo is very good at multitasking even when half-asleep, since he catches Relena's question right away and manages not to choke on orange juice at the same time. Then calmly proceeds to leave the dangerous objects - waffle, glass - on the table, before turning to the princess.

"Huh?" Innocence full on. Panic mode on stand-by.

Relena kindly repeats herself while the table has gone quiet - and that's what you get for being complacent enough to think that if nobody asked this at first appearance, they never will. Blame it on the lack of sleep-

...Wait, wait. Heero had wanted to watch the fireworks with him?...

...And it's the princess who's telling him this?

Her face is open and earnest, and once again he can see why she is the leader of the known world.

She must know. What Heero and Duo had been to each other. Done together. If he knows his man - and for things like these, he does - Heero must have told her, she must know, yet there's nothing but sincerity in her. No doubts, no second thoughts.

No jealousy.

No wonder Heero chose her. Duo is vaguely surprised to find himself more understanding than bitter at the thought.

"Yes, Duo, where were you? You disappeared the night before too," Quatre adds almost instantly, leaning forward on the table, trying to look at Duo over Trowa, who obligingly leans back in his chair.

Thank you, buddy. Yeah, thanks for bringing that up.

"I went to bed early."

Well, he did. To a canopied one.

"Two nights in a row? You?" Wufei's voice is raised in disbelief, as he too leans forward. Just disbelief though, not suspicion. They all know he tells the truth. Curse the habit.

"No. Last night I was outside, watching the fireworks."

"We were all outside, Maxwell, that's how one enjoys fireworks."

Ass, thinks Duo good-naturedly, while some part of him is wondering just how much truth-telling it will take to get them to 'I fucked Zechs Merquise on a park bench'.

Ugh... More or less.

"I meant I was outside in the park, rather away from the palace and you guys."

"You went wondering in the park? Alone? Oh, Duo..." There's something... too akin to pity in the princess's eyes now and it does wonders for Duo's goodwill towards her. Of the evaporating kind.

...Ah shit. We're there already.

Duo takes a deep breath, preparing for the penultimate confession that no, in fact he had not been alone.

Though he'd rather be somewhere else when they reach the ultimate one.

"I wasn't--"

"He was with me."

Cool, cultured, unhurried.

Duo forgets to breathe.

The world halts.

This did not just happen. Zechs did not just... But judging by how everyone's attention has shifted instantaneously from Duo to the prince, apparently he did. While the bastard is actually calmly peeling an orange. Seemingly unaware of the sudden - expectant - silence around him.

Oh, shit, shit, shit. Do they have to hear it from him? Isn't there a way Duo could just... slide down under the table or something, anything - not to see Heero's face when Merquise reveals the whole extent of Duo's wretchedness for them all to see?

But why? Is this what the prince had been after these past few days? Duo's abject humiliation in front of his friends?

"You weren't... fighting, were you?" asks Sally, voice stern with disapproval. Noin and Relena look justifiably worried. Though had Dorothy been here, the question would have sounded differently. Heh. It looks like Duo's thought processes have derailed completely, if such thoughts come to mind.

The prince seems surprised - enough, to stop his work on the orange and look up.

"No. Why would we?" Ah, but would that have been preferable. Pity. "I was showing him the labyrinth."

...Huh? Fuck! If you're going to lie, at least do it properly!

"In the dark?" Trowa raises an eyebrow. As far as Duo can see, Trowa's skepticism is reflected all around. Well, this is so lame, he can hardly blame them.

Zechs's eyes are clear and steady however.

"Yes. There was enough light to see." The essentials, adds Duo's inner voice gleefully, while the prince looks around vaguely puzzled. Oh, please.

"...What reason do we have to fight? We are all friends now. The war is over. Right?"

The unwavering ice-blue eyes are on Duo now, and there might or might not be amusement in them. The bastard, seethes Duo, but feels compelled to nod. "Right."

That is, the war is over.

But Heero is taking too much interest, watching them both in turn with an odd expression, so, panicking, Duo blurts the first thing that comes to mind.

"You wanted to watch the fireworks together, Heero? If I knew you were looking for me I would have stayed with you."

...Umm, it ain't a lie when you're not sure about it yourself, right?

He can feel Zechs staring but doesn't spare a glance. Heero is important.

"I was worried," admits Heero simply. "And I knew you would like them. Plus, since everyone is leaving tomorrow..." He shrugs the rest off and suddenly, right out of the blue, Duo wants to kiss him. No, not like that - odd - but just for the... sheer warmth and relief that fills him at these words.

Heero cares.

Still friends.

"Then, let's do something fun together today!... Maybe we can shoot some hoops? What else? Princess?..."

He's smiling as he looks at Relena but makes the question all-inclusive, so this thankfully shifts the conversation to the topic of what they can all do together in their last day here. There is a fully equipped sports complex on the palace grounds and they've all been waiting for a chance to sample the facilities. When they start discussing the numerous - and quite enticing - options, Duo can finally relax.


A close shave, that.

Not that it's anyone's - not even Heero's - business who he decides to sleep with. Still, he would prefer to keep the exact nature of his...involvement with Zechs Merquise private.

Or better yet, to forget about it. Entirely.

After all, there's no obligation to announce his momentary lack of common sense to the whole world. Especially when it's over.

And he will most definitely enjoy this day. Relena has already taken the matter in her hands - she's the host after all - and is currently attempting to bring some order to the various suggestions.

"...and the pool for later. But what about tennis? I love tennis, and Miss Noin does too, so--"

"You have a tennis court?" interrupts Sally eagerly. "How come I never noticed?"

"Must be because you never bothered to check the park grounds, unlike some of us." Wufei, of course, voice smug. "It's right next to the rose garden."

"And where might that be?" Sally asks obligingly, smiling sweetly at him, but it's Relena who answers.

"Oh, it is located at the north-west end of the grounds - it is rather away from the main building but they assured me the ground there was most suitable for the roses. I'm building it from scratch, so it wasn't ready for the celebrations - it is still closed for the public but it's turning fabulous... Actually, I know - if someone is interested..." She pauses and her excited gaze finds Duo. "Duo, since Brother has been showing you around the park..." - huh? how did she figure that? - "...maybe he can show it to you later? Brother, you've been to the rose garden, right?" She doesn't wait for an answer but continues, "The roses come from all over the world and most are in full bloom now and..."

Two things happen at that moment. First, Duo can see Noin shaking her head no at Relena, who doesn't take notice, busy extolling her roses and--

A loud intake of breath interrupts her and all eyes turn instantly to the prince, again - to find him with a mostly empty carafe of milk in one hand and its previous contents over the other. There is milk dripping from his fingers, and milk seeping quickly into the fabric of his dark grey t-shirt, turning the part of his sleeve closest to his wrist first white, then dark, and darker.

Zechs puts the carafe down and pushing his chair back, stands up, as calm as ever.

"Excuse me."

Then, without another word and not looking at anyone, leaves the room.

What was that about?

Well, food accidents do happen. Apparently everyone decides so too - along with a somewhat confused Relena - because with a shrug, they're back to discussing what to do first. After all, that's not an atypical behavior for the brooding prince, from what Duo has seen. Even if Noin looks somewhat unsettled.

The girls easily win - Relena is a formidable opponent by herself; put Sally next to her, and whatever cause you're defending is lost - so tennis it is. Basketball will have to wait. It's okay though. Duo has never even seen a racket up close, much less held one, so it should prove quite interesting.

Relena assures them everything they would need is provided for, so deciding they've wasted enough time, the group leaves right through the French windows. Though why would one call a window an opening that's used to get in and out of a room and that reaches the floor he'll never know.

Outside it's even better. It's nice and hot without being too hot, and the air smells in the most un-L2 kind of smell one can possibly imagine. Yup, that good.

Life is good on Earth.

If only they could see him now...

Relena takes the lead but less then three hundred feet form the main building Duo suddenly needs to go back. Uh. Too much orange juice it seems...

"Guys, I'll be right back. No, don't wait for me, I'll find you once I change the water of the fishies."

And with a wink at Relena's confusion he sprints back to the palace, Trowa's unflustered voice carrying after him "Duo has to pee, Relena" along with her uncertain "...But why fish?"

For exigency purposes, Duo traces his way back - right through the glass doors, out through the regular door, in the corridor. Yes, there, a short distance to the right, there's a restroom Duo has used sometime before. It's the closest one to the dining room, so Duo dives right in. And promptly forgets all about fishies.

His day has just taken an abrupt turn for the worse.

The restroom is a small affair - two stalls, two sinks... Elegant pale blue marble and gold all around.

And a tall figure, slightly leaning forward, partly supported on hands on both sides of the left sink. Head bent, blond strands slipping over back and shoulders, reaching the marble.

Of all the seemingly infinite number of toilets in the palace. And he had to choose this one. Oh, the irony.

The door closes behind Duo with a click and the finality of... well, any closing door really. Though it's ridiculous, considering there is nothing preventing him from turning around and leaving.


It's also very, very weird. Although this being a trap seems like a logical impossibility.

The prince doesn't move or look up. As if he hadn't noticed Duo's intrusion at all. An illusion, that. The perfect straight hair is a curtain around him, cutting the rest of the world off. It isn't a sight of dejection entirely... though not entirely not either.

So, some instinctual jitters aside, Duo's first thought is "Are you alright?"

Which, in retrospect, does not seem the smartest reaction.

Because, considering his history with the man, a) Duo should have been more worried about himself; b) even if something is wrong, it likely is Zechs's fault anyway; and c) he probably deserves it too.

A moment passes, and the prince looks up. Now Duo can see his face - meet his eyes - in the mirror, and what he sees there makes his mind go in a fracture of a second from surprise, past disbelief, straight to Are you fuckin' kidding me?... But he's a Gundam pilot. He will most assuredly not take a step back. Nor turn tail. Despite the single-minded intensity with which the prince is regarding - devouring - him through the mirror.

And some part of Duo is already calculating the probability of being fucked right here, right now. In the men's restroom.

It is sufficiently high.

Approaching inevitability, by the look of things.

Duo can suddenly feel his heart in his throat.

Why am I still here?


And why is he always angry when he wants me?

Not that the prince wants him him, what he wants is just--

But Duo's hesitation takes a heartbeat too long as it takes Zechs less that that to turn swiftly and bear into him, pinning him - hands to shoulders - against the door behind. It's a hard shove - Duo's head bangs against the heavy wood and he's seeing white spots.

When his vision clears in a bit, Duo decides that turning tail would have been a Good Idea. Very.

Too late now.

But his reaction is instinctual - hands lifting, pushing up those holding him pinned - he succeeds in dislodging them but the prince had been ready too, as he easily reverses the hold and shoves Duo's now-captured wrists against the door, on both sides of his head, and slightly up, and Duo receives a cold glare for his efforts. This time the bastard is gripping so hard, Duo can feel his own pulse beating frantically under Zechs's fingers.

But this is not going anywhere - or rather going fast in a direction dangerous on too many levels to contemplate, so Duo, stilling, decides to appeal to reason. What? It works for Relena.

More or less.

He foregoes There are people right outside! and It's the middle of the day! and Someone might come in! and Are you on drugs? in favor of an even "They're expecting me back... and you too for the matter," and is pleased to see that the situation paused as is. "What are you going to tell them this time, that you were showing me the lavatories?"

Zechs smirks at that, and it's as superior and infuriating as ever.

"Why, I can always tell them the truth for a change."

The smug look in the cold blue eyes leaves no doubts what sort of 'truth' the asshole is referring to. So it's decided, eh?

"And why would I care?"

"Yes, why do you?"

Is this blackmail? Screw fighting fairly. It has never brought him any good anyway.

"Or maybe instead you could really show me the rose garden?" he counters sweetly. He's shooting in the dark but, hey, he's got a good feeling abut this. "Surely there's a bench or two there too? And since the roses are in full bloom..." He forgets the rest as Zechs's eyes widen for a moment, darkening - then they are narrowed - danger! - Duo has crossed some line - and Zechs is bending over him, shadowing the light, long bangs falling over his face - and Duo's face... and for a second Duo thinks he will be kissed, brutally, as punishment; closes his eyes--

...but Zechs's mouth just hovers - almost there but not quite... a breath away over his... then continues past... and lower...

But for one terrible, horrible moment of self-betrayal, Duo had wanted that mouth on his. Wanted that.

So. Bad.

...Oh god.

He starts shaking.

Then Zechs's breath is on his neck, on his throat, and Duo is shaking for whole another reason. When teeth graze his skin he has to swallow convulsively; head falling back, body sagging against the door... and when lips - that lip - follow, Duo's mouth goes completely dry, having fallen open in the process. He's breathing shallowly through it - rapidly but noiselessly; heart beating hard and fast and loud in his ears.

He cannot decide whether he should run, or wait it out.

It, being more than clear ever since he entered the room and failed to promptly run away. Especially after last night. Because let's face it, the only thing left uncertain by this point is whether it's gonna be braced against one of the sinks, bent over a toilet seat, or pushed up against the wall.

But the solid warmth of the body so close, almost against his is distracting, scattering, confusing him... And the choice is not his, is it, so he better stay...

Then Zechs's tongue swirls over his ear and Duo's eyes roll back in his head and his knees buckle and he's dazed and dizzy and drowning but there are words - no, no words is better - except that the prince is relentless, and says them anyways - "On. Your. Knees."

And they cut - right through the fuzziness. The voice is soft and rich with malice, and cold enough that Duo's world abruptly stops spinning and rights itself up.

What it does to his arousal is not so unambiguous.

And it's not possible to call it a request.

So it's going to be that, thinks Duo bitterly, already sliding down the wall, helped along by Merquise's hands on his shoulders.

Right. It's good that the prince never fails to remind him there's no affection lost between them. Lest he forgets. Perish the thought.

And to think he had felt a moment's worry for the son of a bitch, seeing him like that, crying over spilt milk. Literally.

He kneels ungracefully and has to let go the support of the polished wood at his back in favor of balance. He can't even sit down on his heels, not with Merquise's legs that long. After all, he's not there for the bastard's kneecaps. Heh.

He doesn't know whether he hates Zechs or himself more for doing this. He can't quite wrap his head around what he's doing at all.

Then he's up close and personal with Zechs's denim-covered crotch. Watching in fascination the elegant fingers unzip and pull out the offering. Duo snorts, even as his eyes widen at the sight.

Well. That explains the lingering soreness.

Because he has seen it, yes, but not in such detail, and what a sight it is. Long, and thick, and heavy, and almost too dark against the paleness of the surrounding hairs. Hard.

As are the tiles under his knees. Why does it always have to be marble?

Duo does not lick his lips. Nor does he open his mouth. Tilting his head up, and up... and up - not easy, considering the door at his back and the cock not entirely in his face - he meets Merquise's level gaze with a mutinous one of his own.

It's easy to anticipate the next command. Let the bastard say it.

But far be it that his Royal Highness utters something crude and unrefined. Somehow managing to look neither annoyed nor impatient despite the glaring - weeping - evidence to the contrary less than an inch from Duo's lips - oh, how he longs to wipe off that expression!

And all Zechs does is lift an eyebrow.

Hah. Duo could keep this up. Easily. Looking childish be damned.


Oh well.

After all, there's only one thing to do the way he is. And maybe he can do it fast enough that no one will notice that he is - damn! - they are - missing, again.

It's not like they don't suspect something already anyway.

Duo takes a deep breath - and the scent he takes with it makes his groin tighten with instant heat, coiling deep in his belly, then spreading all over his skin, arms and legs and body, like sickness. And he opens his mouth, his lips barely managing to cover his teeth and Merquise is already nearly plunging inside, hips carrying enough force to shove Duo's head back to the wall with a - hopefully - quiet thud. Impatient much?

And it's too much, even for his mouth, and he has to grab at Zechs's thighs in a vain attempt to gain some control of the situation. Because whoever said that when it comes to blowjobs, it's the giver who calls the shots apparently hasn't been talking from the perspective of one sandwiched between hard wood and an equally hard-muscled body. It would have been easier if it was Zechs leaning on the door, but hell, has any part of this whole... whatever been easy? Like this, things can go ugly with barely an effort from the prince; he can do anything - and Duo can do nothing - even to please - as his cooperation is apparently not required, much less his efforts...

He shouldn't have worried though since Merquise eases back almost instantly, curiously disinclined to gag or choke him or force... the issue... as it were, further than Duo is comfortable with. As it is, the prince appears content to keep to short - and rather shallow - thrusts, apparently seeking his pleasure from Duo's lips and not his throat. It irks Duo that he has to feel grateful for something like that.

It irks him even more that now he is hard too. Undeniably. Aching.

And he needs friction, pressure, something to grind against - but he refuses to touch himself - never in a million years, not like this - and he'll have to bear with it. At least he can allow his hands to find some purchase at the wood behind, to relieve the weight from his neck and shoulders. One good thing about this admittedly uncomfortable position - the bathroom door opens inwards, so no one can barge in on them. Hopefully the wood is thick enough to be soundproof too. His level of near-indifference at the thought however is downright scary.

He can't spare attention for trivialities anyway since there are more pressing matters. The pace is quickening, as are Merquise breaths, strangely audible in the silence of the small room. Duo wishes he could see him - his face - but it proves impossible, what with the awkward positioning and mouth presently occupied. He's vaguely aware that somewhere above him the prince's upper body is curved forward, forehead touching the wood, palms braced against it - and good for him, or the bastard would be nursing broken fingers now, had he tried to even touch Duo's hair, much less take a hold of it... The rhythmic movement makes Duo aware of his braid - still damp from when he took a shower earlier; he can feel its coolness at his nape where it's pressed to the door, and lower between his shoulder blades...

...and just like that, and that fast, it's over.

A moment of pulsing, and a surge that brings him flush with the door again and makes him gag a little, and then hot liquid fills Duo's mouth as he scrambles to grab Zechs's shaking hips again - to prevent him from pulling out too soon this time - because, well, the bastard can hate him all he likes, but Duo will not put up with come on his face and that's that.

When it's really over, the prince finally stills - although Duo can still feel madly quivering muscles under his fingers - and a shaky sigh leaves his lips.

It must have been a sigh because the small strangled sound cannot possibly have been anything else.

Least of all a sob. Because that's unthinkable and that's that too.

Then the prince steps back and Duo can finally relax his jaw, move his tongue and swallow completely, saliva, bitterness and all, whatever's left. No incriminating evidence this way.

He can also sit down at last and stretch his legs on the floor, suddenly tired and unwilling to move more than that. Though they must join the others, while it's still not too late to pretend he and the prince never saw each other outside of the dining room.

Much less in a restroom.

Hn. The stiffness between Duo's legs is still there. He's not sure whether he wants something done about it. Not at all. Not with the way the prince is regarding him under the half-lowered fringe of his lashes. Duo can't decipher that look but the expression is haughty and one Duo knows well. It would have riled him up - last night it still did - but now he just can't bring himself to care anymore. No, he's not embarrassed. Neither by his current position at Merquise's feet, nor by his swollen and probably quite red lips. Admiring your handiwork, Your Highness? Enjoying your petty victory?

So when Zechs simply turns around and proceeds to wash his hands, Duo is not surprised - he had, in fact, expected it.

What he hadn't expected is finding the whole thing so damn funny.

But... think about it.

Born on L2 and survived, despite all odds. Lived through hunger, pestilence, fire, and war. Left the wretched hellhole of a colony to fight, piloted a Gundam. Became one of the five people to save a planet and billions of lives, all by the age of sixteen. Currently sucking cock at a men's restroom.

Oh, what an illustrious career. It's fitting, truly. As they say, you can't abandon your roots, not really. Although he could have ended doing that with a lot less effort, had he stayed where he belonged.

Though admittedly, there is still a difference. The restroom is not just any restroom, but a palace one, and the cock is not just anyone's but that of a fuckin' prince. It is a vast advancement from what it could have been, come to think of it. Probably not worth the bother, but an advancement still...

He can't keep it inside at this point, laughter just bubbles out, and when he catches Zechs turning - frowning - finally got your attention? - he laughs even harder. Surprised, Highness? Never seen a hysterical person before?

"What is the matter with you?"

But Duo, finding a confused Zechs even funnier, just laughs and laughs. The prince is facing him completely now, scowling. Sweet.

"This..." Duo manages at length, waving a wrist around. It succinctly indicates the bathroom, them, the situation. "How can you do this?"

"Do what?"

Duo shuts up in utter disbelief. Is the bastard for real?

"You just had your cock in my mouth!"

"...Last night you had yours in mine; what is your point?"

The innocence - the insolence! - of the question renders Duo momentarily speechless. Not for long.

"You-- You're impossible! ...What normal person treats people like that?"

Seeing no understanding in the prince's eyes makes him shake his head in exasperation, more incredulous than angry.


"Just... what am I to you? You simply... come and go and do what you feel like, is that what you're used to? ...Is it because I'm from L2, so you don't think you need to bother? Or do you just hate me on a general principle?"

"What are you talking about?"

Zechs is still looking at him in incomprehension, and it's way past the point of having an amusement factor. How utterly infuriating.

"You, dammit! You're used to treating people like shit and I'm from a slum so let's face it, what am I to you? ...A convenience? A toy? ...Someone to fuck whenever you please without even a thank you? Your--"

But he doesn't want to say it. Not really. Doesn't want to have that word out between them. No, no illusions. But it's a small miracle the prince hasn't really offered to pay him. So he just adds softly, "Is it just me, or is anyone as good to walk over, Your Highness?"

Zechs gives him a freezing look.

It quickly transmutes into something else.

Now comes the understanding, but it's different from the kind Duo expects. Zechs spends few heartbeats in silent contemplation, finally muttering: "I see... I should have known..."

And Duo is pretty sure he won't like whatever Zechs is talking about, so he gets up from the floor in an angry huff and straightens.

It appears there will be a fight after all.

At least next time Sally asks he can tell the truth.


The prince glances at him, and shifts to half-sit half-lean on the sinks counter.

"This is all my fault. I should have known you wouldn't be able to deal with this--"

"Excuse me?"

"...but given your level of fighting abilities, your training, and skill... overall experience and maturity... You're old enough to kill, so I thought you are old enough to know what you are doing and what you want... Well, you are an emancipated minor but... I should have expected you were-- are not mature enough to handle this. After all, you are only, what, seventeen?"

"The fuck! Don't call me a kid after what you just did! And stop talking down to me, you arrogant prick! I'm not one of your servants!"

"My morality is beyond redemption." Zechs counters evenly. "And not of your concern. But since I can see that my title is bothering you, I will tell you this. My title - like my real name - has no meaning for me. The circumstances of my birth are accidental - just like yours, and whatever meaning they might have had, it was lost years ago." He pauses for a moment, but before Duo can react Merquise continues on. "I have never thought of anyone - subordinate, servant, enemy - as being less than me simply because of the supposed status of my birth. That status does not matter to me. I have never, ever considered myself better than you - any of you, in any respect. If anything, you five and Noin are probably the only people in the earth sphere and the colonies that I consider my betters - in all that counts."

The prince's jaw is clenched - bitter? - but his eye meet Duo's unflinchingly, and the unexpected seriousness reflected there throws Duo completely off.



"...You like it that way."



"You find commands sexually appealing," the prince explains coolly as if what he's saying should be obvious, calmly crossing arms over his chest. "You get aroused when I order you around and take control--"

"Bullshit! That's not--" but Zechs tilts his head and just looks at him, and Duo can barely finish.


Is it?

He's not into that, is he? The thought makes him decidedly queasy. Sick to his stomach. Oh, god. It can't be!...can it?

If he had been dumbfounded before, he doesn't know what he is now. Though mortified would be a safe bet.

"You truly didn't know?"

As if Duo's expression isn't an answer enough. But it had never been like that with Heero, never!

"Well, don't overthink it. It is very mild. And it does not reflect on your strength of character, if that's what has you worried. Chances are it excites you precisely because normally you find submitting to orders - and authority - abhorrent."

But Merquise's patient, superior air - I think of you as my better, my ass! - is just too much to bear right now, so Duo shuts him out. That's not the point. The small humiliating bit of self-knowledge - and its possible relation to the truth - will have to be investigated and dealt with later.

Or maybe he'll consider a memory-wipe and hope to never see Zechs Merquise ever again.

"That doesn't matter. It still doesn't give you the right to treat me - anyone - like that. It's not how, it's what you do! Not just the ordering around - but last night - and just now...How can you be so-- so callous?" - it's not an accusation, really, just genuine incomprehension - "You simply take... use me however you like--"

"If you were so much against it, why didn't you stop me then?"

Duo blinks, pausing his rant at mid-sentence. "You didn't give me a chance--" but a derisive snort interrupts him again.

"I thought you didn't lie. You are a Gundam pilot. I am quite certain you can kill me in at least half a dozen ways right now, as you are. Are you saying you could not stop me if I did something you didn't want? ...Did you even try? Did you ever say no?"

Oh, surely he must have. Absolutely.


"I didn't think it was an option."


And what if you realize it's not true only after you've said it?

For more reasons than simple untruth, he knows he should not have said that, as Zechs's suddenly stricken expression makes Duo's stomach twist instantly in unexpected regret.

But how could he have anticipated Zechs to care about something like that?

And already the prince is taking a deep breath, an unnamable look darkening his eyes. Duo is pretty sure this must be what unadulterated hatred looks like.

Or something.

"...So," Zechs says slowly. "I use you. And what do you do?"

That throws Duo a bit off.

Simply laughable. Yes.

"What? Are you implying that I use you?"

"Are you implying that you don't?" the prince easily counters. "Because, if that is the case you are either a hypocrite or a liar."

He ignores Duo's gasp of outrage. "Why did you approach me the other night, 02?..." Has it only been two nights? "You wanted to get back at Heero... and Relena. You wanted someone to take it out on, someone who didn't matter... someone that you didn't have to care about, think about - unlike your friends, because you didn't want to jeopardize your relationship with them... Am I not correct?"

But Duo can only stare, suddenly frozen, as the prince presses on relentlessly.

"You wanted someone you could do whatever you liked to - an enemy... safe to hate... with no messy consequences, no? ...And you wanted a diversion... You wanted to forget all about Heero, you wanted something to take your mind off him... How is that not using? You ask me what you are to me. And what am I to you, 02? Have you ever spared me a thought, like a person? About who I am, what I do, why I do it? ...I at least asked you - but did you ever asked yourself why? ...No - because all you ever think about is--"

Zechs pauses abruptly and there's something Duo should know, something, but he's too dumb to understand right now, because it can't be what it almost sounds like, and Zechs continues, unnaturally calmer.

"You don't care about me - you don't have to - and you don't want to... even know me... You simply let me fuck you... We are not that different. I thought it was understood - I use you and you use me... And now you blame it all on me - guess I am useful for that too - relieves you from any responsibility, doesn't it? ...Even if that's what you wanted. You said - if memory serves - and it does - no moonlit walks and roses..."

And the implied I gave you what you asked for is so strong, Duo suddenly wonders - what if he had asked for something else?

But the prince is not finished.

"And what now? Maybe in truth you wanted me to seduce you? ...To romance you?" And the way Zechs says it, it sounds ugly. His sneer is ugly too. "...Break your heart? ...No. Because this way is safer... Wasn't that what you thought?"

And Duo is missing something again... but that last bit successfully shatters the shock keeping him frozen. Oh, how considerate. The arrogant son of a bitch seems to think that had he been nicer, Duo would have fallen for him - inevitably. Hah!

"Are you saying you did it all for me?" blurts Duo, voice rising, incredulous - the idea is more than outrageous; he would be laughing had he been a little less shaken. For whatever reason that is.

Zechs's features are far from expressionless, discovers Duo all of a sudden. Too many emotions pass over the prince's face - a storm in his eyes, a storm in Antarctica - and Duo can barely begin to identify them, much less to follow.

Then they are left staring at each other.

What, is he for real?

The silence last just enough for Duo to - ridiculously, absurdly, impossibly - start expecting a yes.

And long enough to start, somehow, believing.


The prince straightens - for a final blow - and his voice could not be colder, full of malice increasing with every word.

"I like your body. I like fucking it. It's nice to know I fucked one of you." There's no question who he means. "And I hope to god to see Heero's face when he learns I fucked you the way I did."

Duo hits him then.

The punch catches the prince in the middle, below the ribs, solar plexus most likely - in a move similar to the one Heero used on Duo himself on X18999 six months ago. But Duo is not Heero and Zechs is not him - instead of knocking the prince out, the punch merely blocks his lungs; a forced step back, hitting the marble counter - then he's suddenly doubling over and slowly folding to his knees, clutching at his chest, gasping for air.

It's been a long time coming.

Duo is towering over him for once, menacing, hands balled into fists, murder in his eyes and well within his capabilities. The hurt and outrage are consuming, burning him inside out - but...

It should have felt more satisfying.

Duo has no idea how much time passes like that, and doesn't care. For once, this seems the most important thing right now, this fight, this... something he has with the prince, currently struggling for breath on the floor.

His mind goes blank as the rage recedes - there's nothing except the belated realization that Zechs has no intention of fighting him back, not even when his breaths turn from sharp gasps to painfully-sounding coughs to quiet wheezing.

And the peculiar sense of something slipping out of his reach.


There's nothing to regret.



Eventually the prince calms his breathing enough to look up - eyes a trifle pained but clear, then slowly stands up, straightening his shoulders, still holding his middle, looking suddenly weary and...

What does he have to be sorry about?

"Yes," he says, inclining his head as if agreeing to an argument.

Yes, what? Yes, I'm sorry, yes, I was wrong, yes, I understand?

"You got what you wanted," he finally rasps and Duo is certain this is a completely different line of thought already, "You wanted a bad guy, and I am that. I take full responsibility for what happened these last few days - it is all my fault. You can keep your belief you have been taken advantage of, it's easier. I honestly never thought you unwilling, but since it is your perceptions of the situation that are relevant and not mine, and you truly believe I have forced you..." the prince bites his lip. "I never intended that. Please accept my sincerest apologies. I know it is not enough, and I am fully prepared to offer you any and all compensation should you require it, be it legal or otherwise, and to take any steps necessary to redress the wrong I have caused you."

The prince bows slightly at this.

Compensation? Duo's mind is so confused... somehow not thinking money... but a duel... no matter how outlandish that notion seems.

"I thought I would not care what people think about me anymore..." and despite the rueful words, Duo can feel coldness gathering around the prince like a shield, voice steeling. "...Apparently I was wrong. Being accused of rape is not something I have ever prepared myself for; and it is too unsettling - although I guess it is a part of the deal."

Deal, what deal? Zechs's words have robbed Duo of speech once again however, and probably of his ability to understand at all, the way his mind seems only capable of focusing on one word at a time.

"...I accept that. You may rest assured you are safe from me in the future. Have a good life, Duo Maxwell. You have my word I will never approach you again."

Three steps - past the frozen Duo - and the bathroom's door is closing behind the prince.

This time, the soft click sounds truly final.

Duo can't move, can't think.

Can't breathe.

Sex. They've had sex three times, in various circumstances and at various places.

And all he remembers at the moment is a dark corridor and the comfort of two arms around him - with the sinking realization that he will never have that, again.

The rest of the day passes in a blur. Duo rejoins his friends, and ignores their pointed looks. Something in his expression must preclude questioning however, as his - rather lengthy for a bathroom break - delay is never discussed. Nor do they ask him about Zechs.

The prince never appears. Relena keeps glancing in the direction of the palace and at some point Noin disappears for a while, but returns alone.

They have fun. Duo has a knack for that, even when on autopilot, and suddenly with too many things to think about - from an entirely new perspective. After all, he is good at multitasking.

Ultimately, it all proves useless. The next time they see the prince, it really is the end.

At dinner Zechs announces that he is leaving for Mars.

To Be Continued