Protecting the Fox

Pairing: 1x2 (nothings better), 3+4 (nothing explicit), and another favorite 13x6x5 (ah, poor Wufei) but much later, more 6x5 though (I've come too really like that pairing and the angst and drama it brings).

Warning: hopefully I will bring myself to get past a (+ to an X) but I don't know yet. There's action/adventure, romance, drama, angst, humor (I hope), and a past rape that's hinted here and there, don't worry though, I'm not so cruel as to draw it out into one long thing and torture Duo until he cracks (not into that much angst). Set in the Renaissance…sort of.

Disclaimer: In a nutshell don't own, wish I did, have no money, so don't sue.

A/N: I wanted to try a story where a relationship between these two progressed at a much slower rate. That way, it seems more real. So have patients with me and enjoy the other couples until the 1x2 reveals itself. Knowing me it won't be long. Oh and one more thing, I'm an extremely hard core 1x2 fan not a 2x1. So don't be expecting anything there. They will be equal in everything else but that. I just can't bring myself to enjoy a submissive Heero taken it. Just doesn't work for me.

Chap. 1 Meeting the Protector

"Sir Maxwell…."

"What do you want Roberts?" I really hated it when people called me that. It's not my name, it sounds like I've become my father and that's so far from what I want to be true in life right now.

"Sir, your father notified me of a switch in your security since the last guard…urm…resigned. He will be here soon and I want you to remember what will happen after you 'destroy' your seventh guard." There was an amused tone in his voice, god I hate that. I've been hating a lot of things lately, only because my wonderful life has become a wonderful gilded cage of rules and niceties.

"That's just fine Roberts…I hope you let him know what he's getting into." You want to know why I hate being followed ten paces away by some stuffy 'I am married to my work you little brat so stop toying with me and let me protect you from the evil nonexistent men' old farts with bad attitudes? Well I'll tell you why. It's simple really, I like my space and I just like to toy with them and see how long it takes before my fathers henchmen crack under the tension. So far my count is up to six this year alone. I think I'm getting a little rusty in my old age of twenty years. Oh well, can't slow down Mother Nature. Yet, old father dearest told me if I went through more then seven guards I'd be sent away to a neighboring kingdom to pick my bride. That's enough to send me reeling sick, so I had to taper it down a little. I guess this next guy will be mine till the end of the season, which thankfully is only a couple months away.

"Sir, please don't give your father a hard time. He has a lot on his mind with the up coming ball and the treaty. He really doesn't need any more pressure. He's not as young as he was, to deal with all this." Oh, boy, lay on the guilt factor. Roberts was good at that. He'd been doing it since I was a little tiny brat prince. Yep, old guy's can do that to ya. The weathered wrinkles overlapping sad, knowledgeable, yet soft eyes. Roberts was my father's head of security. He'd been in our family's protection unit for god only knew how long and each and every member was as sacred as the crown adorning their heads.

"Yeah, yeah…a promise was a promise. I told ya guys that I wouldn't misbehave…as much…with number seven. I just hope he's virile." I liked to play hooky every now and then and number three was a bit on the, shall we say, grandpa side after running after me for six miles. Ah the good ol' days.

"Not to worry about that. Your father says that you needed company closer to your age and someone a little stricter too. I picked out your guard personally; he should suite your needs of a challenge without letting go too easily." Really…now that's more like it. I know I had whined at my father the whole year for someone like old Wufei again (he was one of my first guards slash friends, but he had been promoted to a higher position and I told him to take it, seeing as I needed a new challenge an all) but alas I was given second hand pickings. I sort of regretted letting Wufei go…before I say how happy he was being in the kings personal guard.

Yep that's what surviving prince Duo Maxwell gets you. I sort of felt honored myself.

"So, tell me a little about your boy."

"Well, sir, he's about three years your senior. His credentials are as good as…mine." I turned around and stared straight towards the door. I hadn't moved from my perch at the windowsill since Roberts had entered the room but now I relaxed, arm once draped casually over my knee dropping to lie on my stomach as my leg lowered slightly.

"Really? As good as the master Roberts? If he's so good, why'd he agree to baby sit the king's son?" I couldn't help it, but a bit of venom entered my voice. No one would waste such talent as that on scrawny old me. No one that good deserved to be held down by me.

"Really… And before you go thinking, what you always do, through that pretty little head of yours, he agreed to the conditions of the job without comment or complaint. I know Heero, and he seemed pleased…honor at the thought of serving you." Roberts walked over to me, putting a fatherly hand on my shoulder, smiling down at me with that annoying, 'I know what's good for you' face. "Your worth it Duo…you know that. You just don't give anyone a chance to figure it out themselves."

"Sweet Roberts. That gives you two more points in my book." I looked out the window, unconsciously tugging at my pendent about my neck. The one my mother had given me for my tenth birthday. She said it was hers once, and that her mother had told her to give it to her child in return. She also said it wasn't something for luck, as most trinkets are, it was for love. A simple silver circle with an engraved violet cross centered in the middle, and a black coating on the outer portions. It was simple…and beautiful, just like she was.

"Duo, I would like you to meet Lieutenant Heero Yuy, your new personal guard." I looked up, startled that someone had entered my rooms so silently and without my notice. My new 'guard' was nothing I'd ever seen before. I like to pride myself in the way I don't care, which gender causes my heart to skip a beat. Be it female or male…what can I say, I'm a free range lover. "Heero, this is Prince Duo Maxwell. I'll leave you to become acquainted." Roberts squeezed my shoulder comfortingly before heading for the door, but before he fully stepped from my chambers he turned to face me a smile plastered to his face. "Oh and Duo, Heero has fully examined your schedule so don't try pulling anything of that nature. And don't forget to come to tonight's dinner with the ambassadors from the Peacecraft nation for your father would be sorely displeased if you…forgot again." I looked back to my window as a deep chuckle passed through the doors and down the hall. Sometimes I just don't like him.

You're probably wondering what my view looks like to attract my attention so much. Well, I love water, and trees, so that's basically what we have here. A very large lake to the left and a deep forest to my right. Both places I visit regularly I might add.

Oh, that's probably not what your wondering about more at the moment is it? No, guess not…back to Lieutenant Silence. Well, when I say he makes my heartbeat like a herd of horses I'm not kidding. He's about 5'9, which is very tall in my book since I haven't left the statures of 5'7 in two years, meaning I won't be growing any more. Sucks huh. My mother was 5'7 while my father is 6 feet, you can imagine why I wanted that particular gene from my loveable father then just his hair color.

Anyway, back to our conversation…or lack there of. To go along with his length he had what looked like rough unmanageable outdoorsy russet colored hair. You know the kind when you're either riding a horse non stop, or fighting down in the barracks for hours on end. Trust me; I know what that kind of hair looks like… Anyway…did I forget to tell you, I have a short attention span…can't be helped sadly. I see something shiny or stunningly attractive and I just loose my marbles.

But besides those two features and the compact muscles on a rather remarkably lean figure there were two reasons to avert my hot eyes to my window again. Two twin peaks of glaciers peered out from underneath that fringe of hair, to stare at me…and I could still feel its heat. Talk about a wake up call. I've never seen eyes like those before. Their color is nonexistent for sure, and I could only imagine what his subordinates thought. 'Be careful men, his stare can ignite your flesh in five seconds at the most.' Oh yeah, forgot to tell you that I also have a rather over active imagination. I just don't want to grow up sometimes.

But back to that hot stare…god was I over heating, even though it was approaching fall and the window was open letting in a wonderful lake breeze. I should ask Roberts what's up with his eyes.

Sighing I turned around, planting both feet on the oriental carpet that was brought by a traveler some years before. And I must say it's very comfortable. Sometimes I just sleep on the floor. He was still staring at me, you know, and it was kind of irksome. "Would you stop that?"

He looked startled for about a millisecond before continuing his conquest of burning my body alive. Maybe Roberts was lying when he said that he came willingly…and now he's secretly going to kill me and blame it on an intruder.

Groaning, I jumped off my ledge and made my way towards my bedroom, not expecting him to follow. What can I say, none of the other guards did. So it came as a shock when I turned around to find a hard chest rather too close to my liking. Tilting my head up I noticed for once his eyes were above my head, looking the room over. Probably seeing if there were any escape routes…and there were, but I wasn't going to tell him about them.

"You know, as much as you're my guard and stuff, I never want them this close… So if you could…?" I left the order in the air, hoping the other would head. It's not princely for me to back off, the other must. That's what I was told.

He glanced briefly at me before he took a small step back before his eyes returned to his search. Ok, what was he looking at; I turned around and found my bed like always in the center of the room facing the door, its black hangings and bed sheets rumpled only slightly. I told father I didn't want any maids coming in and fixing my bed when they had more important things to do with their time. Plus, all you do is go back to sleep and screw them all up again. There's no point in it. Then there was my desk, which was situated under another window. Tapestries hung here and there; the old stuffy kinds with stories of long past battles of long past glories, rugs flung here and there and a deep cherry wood wardrobe against the right wall. For some reason I really enjoyed saying…cherry wood so much that I needed to have this wardrobe instead of the one my mother had picked out for me. Her choice was bigger and more imposing…who did she think I was…a girl? I don't need all that room for clothing.

It was the usual décor of any royalty, plus behind door number two was more of my personal affects, but it was locked so I expected Mr. Silent Guard Heero Yuy to respect that and if not… "To let you know ahead of time. This door stays close to you. Some of the other guards didn't heed that rule and they were…punished." So they weren't punished, punished…not by my father that is. But they were punished by me in the most horrible ways imaginable.

I had walked over to my desk, knowing for certain that the man had known which door I spoke off, without having to point it out. I'm sure he's smart…Roberts is.

I sat down and pivoted myself around to face him ready to hear the usual 'I am in charge speech'. Waiting is sure a bore, and fiddling with my braid can only be so much fun. After a while I let my eyes wander to the window and thought how much I just wanted to go riding through the forest and splash about in the water. I looked back around and started when I saw those eyes back on me, but more importantly on my braid, which I then pushed behind my shoulder.

"If you don't start talking I'll think you a mute and tell everyone the mangy cooks cat got your tongue." I was trying to bait him with light and witty banter. Nothing too over the top yet. That was reserved for much later. Yet nothing… "Fine. Don't speak. Don't you go telling Roberts we had a meaningful conversation on life when he said we should get acquainted, because I don't like liars." It's true I despise them and try to make their existence even more painful. Number five was like that. I took a deep and unseeded pleasure in clamping my jaws around him.

Thinking I was getting no where I turned around again, trying to ignore his presence like I did with all the others. He was just a guard. That was all. His job was to watch over me and keep me safe…and also make my life a living hell. But I won't get into that just yet.

"What do you want to know…?" I snapped my head around, staring in shock at the other man. His voice was deep and sounded like he hadn't used it in ages. I could see that…I really could.

"What do I want to know? Ok, I'll bite. Lets see, how long have you worked here?"

"All my life." Short answers, that's ok.

"Liar. I've been here all my life and I certainly would have remembered you." He looks shocked…good.

"I was born here." He stopped, eyes narrowing at me. "I left to pursue my own training." Stopped again. I waited to see if that was all, but after a minute I kind of figured I'd have to pick things up again. For a man who said to ask questions he didn't give much away in answers.

"When did you get back?"

"Five days ago."

"Oh…had fun?" It was a stupid question but I needed the other guy to lighten up a bit. I hate when people are stiff as boards. They create unwanted tension.

"Yes."

"Kay…how 'bout…" oh and yes, I do happen to pick up a commoners drawl every know and then, only because I tend to spend more time with them then with pompous and arrogant fools like the idiots of my fathers court. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-three."

"Why did you want this position?"

Silence… Ha, Ha! I knew I would get him there.

"I was asked and I agreed." And deflated… That's all, what a crock.

"Have any siblings?"

"No."

"Favorite color?"

He paused again, probably not used to such a strange question. I'm sure none of his officials asked him that one.

"I…don't know." Knew that one was coming, I thought as I looked again into his eyes. Yep, I could definitely agree to bed this chap…if only he wasn't my guard.

"Hm…well, what is your favorite weapon?" His eyes lit up just slightly. Ah, found the on switch, did I?

"Sword, dagger, rapier, hunting bow, and lance." Good, he's progressed to seven words without stopping…

"That all?"

"Yes."

"Well, that's all I have for today, Mr. Yuy. I must get dressed for the…what…dinner of parading fat idiots, so if you'll excuse me…" I got up surprised that the other was just standing there. "Well…"

"Captain Roberts said to get aquatinted." I looked shocked. I must have, with my mouth open slightly and my eyes wider then usual showing off their violet depths. None of the other guards said that to me. Usually I used this to my advantage of learning first hand about them while they floundered to learn about me. Tricky bastard.

"I'm sure you know more then enough about me as is. Why I need to tell you more is quite greedy."

"I know rumors from the guards and statistics from Captain Roberts."

"That's all you need to know." I narrowed my eyes and walked past him, angry that he was getting the upper hand. I liked my privacy and I should since everyone in their right mind wanted to pry into it everyday in order to squeeze whatever nectar they can get.

"You're angry."

"Well, good for you. Glad that you can figure that out, now go." I opened my wardrobe unsure what to wear for the evenings who's more charming then whose banquet. It all made me sick.

"Your favorite color isn't black." That got my attention. I turned around staring like a fish would most likely.

"What?"

"You asked my favorite color."

"Yeah so. And what do mean my favorite color isn't black. Hello, look around you." Ok, he hit a tender button and he knew it.

"That may be so…but it isn't your first." Wow, he made it passed seven. I kind of felt honored.

"Whatever man."

"It's purple." My hand had been reaching for my favorite outfit, which so happened to be…violet, when I stopped and turned about slowly. Purple…purple?

"Purple is not my favorite color. Purple is for fat old geezers that like others to think them richer then they actually are. Fat bastards ruined a perfectly good color. So your wrong, I don't like purple I like violet, which is darker like wine. Happy now? Leave."

Then he had the nerve of smiling just slightly before he exited the room. Bastard. I don't think I liked his bedside manner at all. Hm…wonder what his real bedside manner is?

No I didn't care. He could rot for all I care, for trying to intrude on my life. Of course the fact that I did the same to him didn't register very well, but I was still pissed.

I resumed dressing, vaguely unsure if I should pick what I was about to, but I wasn't going to let that pompous jerk ruin what I had left of the evening. I took out the finest black shirt made of the most petable, as I call it, material in existence. I tucked my pendant under my shirt as I put on the necessary jewelry that father had specifically told me to wear at every function. Once I showed up wearing nothing but my pendant, and clothes of course you gutter brains, and he sort of went nuttier then the jester he invites every now and then to amuse the simpler minds among his court.

I redid my braid, letting it swing behind me as I grabbed for the once again necessary long cloak of a deep rich black. I slipped my arms through and fingered the violet designs on the edge lovingly. Mother had given me this, and I always tried to wear it as much as I could. Even though sometimes the color's clashed I didn't care.

I looked in the mirror once, deeming myself fit, and went to the doors. I paused for a second, knowing full well that Yuy was on the other side ready to take me down to dinner. What would he say? Wait, why do I care? Growling I flung open one of the doors with my head held high and marched to the exit of my chambers. I knew he was following me, but I didn't care to look.

It only took ten minutes for me to navigate my way through endless hallways and stairs before I reached the last grand staircase leading to the ballroom where everyone was waiting for the last arrivals…including me. Ok, just breathe, they'll look at you and judge you but you don't give a damn. No you don't care what they say behind your back and what others say to your face under false perceptions. You are strong and beautiful…I hope my conscience isn't just biased.

A grunt behind me startled me from my thoughts and I glanced behind me at Yuy. "What?"

"Are you afraid?" His deep voice held such blatant amusement there was just nothing in the world except holding onto my honor in front of the entire assembly below me that kept me from jumping him and pounding him to death.

"Afraid? Afraid of people that I must parade in front of like an overly dressed poodle every other day, from the time I learned to walk to the days when I have to be carried to meet them? Yes I'm afraid…" I turned around, already my evening was shot. It was a good thing the man was hot or I'd find nothing decent in this arrangement at all.

The stone floor of the massive hall was highly polished for the evening's festivities. The big open space was three levels high and ringed with balconies that rose all the way up to a glass skylight illuminated by the moon. Each tier was decorated with ivy and our kingdoms national flower, the Aluim. It was rare and only bloomed in the moon light. Its blue petals glistened with silver sparkles and the retina's were the deepest of yellows and reds, sprouting crazily from the center.

The man didn't say anything more for the rest of the evening. He was just a silent shadow as I conversed pleasantly with the many lords and barons of my father's land. They covertly smiled, as they let their eyes rove over me. Sometimes I can't even tell if their judging me to see if I'm fit to rule in my father's place or just to look at me…a wiry young man, with pale skin like a female, long chestnut hair that changes from a deep brown with bronzed highlights to red, or my violet eyes sparkling with constant mischief. It's quite weird when they do that.

Trust me I know. I was once locked in my chambers for a whole day because when I switched my bodyguard's trousers with a pair from one of the chamber boys. The man was so busy trying to get his pants on that he didn't even realize I was gone. Then to top it all off…I sort of hid the rest of his clothes. I'll leave the rest of the details out. But anyway, all I did during my 'grounding' was stare into a mirror and marvel at them twinkling merrily.

Anyway, those are the only two reasons I that I know of when they look at me. Even women have no shame. Their always so giggly and touching my hair. Quite disdainful. Once I met a girl who actually appeared to be promising enough for a future queen until she opened her mouth. All she talked about was how soft my hair looked and how good it smelt.

But there was one man that I knew I had to keep my distance from. Wufei had told me long ago of the man's intentions and one to many times I witnessed it for myself the man's passion for me. He was the lord of a town just a few miles away, Pars. It was one of the three that brought my father the largest incomes in trade and agriculture so he put up with the vile man. Shindra, who had just recently ascended to his title after his father had passed away seven years ago, was at least six years older then myself. The sad part was that when we were children, I know for a fact that he and I were close. It just scares me now to think about his obsession and where it had led him.

At the moment he was across the hall talking to Roberts. What they were talking about was beyond me but I hated not knowing and for the fact that he was close to one of my friends. What can I say; I'm jealous when people that I don't like get close to those I do. He was dressed stunningly, I can't say no to that and the man wasn't all that bad looking, which made it even worse. He was dect out in red silks and maroons, shimmering in the many candles about the hall. His blonde hair was pulled back into a pony tail, almost as an afterthought. His complexion was dark, as if he had been out a lot more recently, which was astonishing in its self. Shindra was a man that let others do his outside work for him while he dwelt in the comforts of his home.

"So sire, how have your searches for a fiancé been?" I looked back at Lord Demavont, the lord of Rucitanians, a small town on the outskirts of Pars.

"Fiancé? Um, well there isn't one at the moment. I have told father that I need my space and a woman hanging onto my arm won't give me a moment's peace."

"Oh, being young. You know in my day, we didn't have a choice. My wife was selected for me before I was even born. But I still love her immensely."

Dear lord, how long must I suffer this…?

"My king, prince, lords, barons and ladies, dinner is served." A man dressed in a rather gaudy outfit pounded his staff on the floor, voice bellowing out over everyone in the hall. I had a very deep respect for this man. You want to know why? Well I'll tell you, he doesn't care that he interrupts the conversations of royalty every day. He even interrupts the king, without punishment. There's the life.

The hall's occupants conversations started up once again as they moved as one herd towards the twin set of doors to the massive reception hall, where the usual mouth watering aromas were wafting from. If we took away a half of what was presented to us every night at dinner time and gave it to our people, we'd still have enough to feed our servants well. A total waste. When I become king that will be the first thing that will stop. I know for a fact that I must maintain the party's in order to keep my lords and barons happy with me but the food will definitely become smaller in proportions.

Plus the ladies hardly ever eat and the lords and barons eat way too much. Me…I never eat in front of these people. I play with my food and then have it sent up to me so I can eat in private. That way, I feel more comfortable about eating without others staring. If you don't know, I love food, and if I was forced to eat my dinner right here with everyone else then I would, but I'm allowed to have my way with this. Since it was harming no one, who could say no.

Soon Heero was beside me a frown marring his stone set face. "What's your problem?"

"That man…does he always stare at you such?" He was walking straight ahead along with me, eyes not even straying to the 'he' he was referring to but I knew…oh yes did I know.

"What do you mean?" Time to play. See what this guy's made of.

"Don't tell me you don't know…because you do." We were now in the dinning room, the place shimmering with silver finery and crystal glasses as far as the eye could see. Father had switched from wooden plates to silver…mentioning something along the lines of 'wooden plates retaining the flavors of the past meals making the food taste rancid after swallowing.' It was never that bad. My father did like his dramatics sometimes.

"Oh, you mean Lord Shindra? I didn't notice…maybe he just wants to come over and talk with me about the new shipments my father has ordered." It was a logical reason. Father had been doing business with the man most frequently it seemed. Nothing for me to worry about anyway. It wasn't my job…not yet anyway.

"He has yet to make a move to come and speak with you and it has been thirty minutes since we have arrived. It is improper stare at your host." I looked over at the other man as I took my seat and he walked back towards the wall, eyes surveying the crowd gathered about the table. Heero was catching on fast. Soon, I'd have to pry the idea out of his head to hunt the man down after…

"Everyone please…a toast, to future success for our kingdoms. Alliances that will grow only stronger with the years to come as well as our children, who will do right by us, succeed us and make us proud." Yep, father was always one to get right down to it. 'Make us proud.' Please.

"Enjoy this feast, for it is a celebration of all your brilliant achievements these past months on the new trade alliance with Zahak." At this, I watched as father lifted his head and glass to a man situated just to the left a few seats down from him. He was who this celebration was really for. Not the success of the kingdom or its children. No, my father had made an alliance with a neighboring and once hostile kingdom to ship spices from the south to us. Zahak agreed with the alliance and only asked for 35 of the shares as well as the use of our own country's specialty, corn and iron.

"Now, let's eat this delicious fare before it gets cold." There was then the sudden clattering and chinking of dishes and glasses all throughout the room. It was almost too loud. I ducked my head slightly and stared at what I had been given. A roast pheasant with a cranberry sauce, boiled red potatoes in a thick honey tartar and a side of special mixed corn with black pepper spices. All being washed down by a glass of red Rosita wine from the western province. It was good, don't get me wrong, I knew the chief since I was only a small boy and dreamed of his cooking at night, but it wasn't my favorite. I was tired of the specialty dish of mixed corn and pepper. But since we were in celebration of a highly profitable sale we had to show how to cook the vegetable to its maximum perfection.

I ate sparingly, rather liking the idea of watching the interactions of others and occasionally catching up on a few odd things here and there with a chancellor to my left or a duke to my right. Just to stifle my curiosity I glanced to my left and a little behind me to find Mr. I'm so studly guard Yuy only to find him staring right back at me. His blue eyes unnerving me more then I would like to admit. I quickly whipped back around and grabbed for my glass, drinking most of the contents before breathing deeply. What had come over me? I never have acted this way with the other guards. Oh course about 95 of them were older then the sands of time and more of a father figure then hot and handsome, brooding young men.

But, it wasn't like I cared…no. He was just another annoyance to deal with until the time came to get rid of him. Plus he was too noisy for his own good. None of the other guards besides Wufei dared ask me questions like that or stare at me like I'm the one below their station.

The thought of Wufei brought me up abruptly. I missed my friend. No more were we able to splash about in the pond during his days off or sword practice at the soldier's hall to perfect my technique. Now I was ensconced in my room or practically leashed when I went outside. My gilded cage was becoming smaller and smaller with every passing year. Was it because I was getting older and that I would soon take over my fathers place or that I was deemed too weak to care for myself properly? I'll let you know though that I could slaughter Wufei in both archery and hand to hand combat. My sword technique is still rusty but give me a dagger and I'm all business.

I looked up, startled at the call to adjourn to the ballroom for dancing, drinking, and quiet discussions. I glanced at the boy who came for my plate and nodded my order to him. They knew what I wanted and would send up my half eaten food to my room for me to consume properly later.

Getting up and walking towards the ballroom, I noticed Heero once again nearby. His body almost hidden in the shadows of the wall he was walking by. Did he naturally exude that mysterious aura or did the shadows actually obey him?

Obey him? I'm loosen it…I swear it. I need to stop drinking so much wine.

Our group arrived in the ballroom, most of the females giggling against their fans as their husbands, consorts and potential consorts took them onto the dance floor, twirling them about in an exotic mimic of a flock of swans on water. Rolling my eyes dramatically I quickly darted to the farthest balcony, hoping for a little peace and quiet along with some cool fresh night air. The gossamer fabric parted easily for me and I walked out onto the marble balcony hands running fervently along the banister. Its cool continence chilling my bare hands. The night was crisp, fall definitely just around the corner. The water of Shivea Lake glittering like many miniature jewels floating on its rippled surface, a slight fog settling over its dark waters.

I loved that lake. Mother used to take me down there when I was young and play with me in its embracing water. It's aquiline surface clear enough to see as far down as to the pebbled beach. The quiet sound of the waterfall turning the water gently…it was peaceful…my own little place.

"Is there a reason why you hide from your guests little Duo?" I froze, straightening to my full height of 5'7. Yes I'm not that tall, so what.

I knew that voice…of course I did. It was in my nightmares as well as in my good memories of the past. Shindra was leaning against the wall just inside the balcony the billowy fabric wrapping about him as if it wanted to swallow him whole. Oh, please do so, I thought viciously as he straightened and headed over to the banister next to me, close enough to cause me sufficient discomfort.

"What do you want Shindra?" I internally winced at the harsh tone. I had told him what had happened was all in the past but I knew nothing would be the same again.

"Nothing. I just came out to get some fresh air and stumbled upon a prince." I glared hotly before turning back around, ready to forget the awful presence nearby.

"I'm sure there are other…emptier…balconies you can use then." It was a dismissal, curt and to the point, but I didn't care. Let him think me rude. He deserves whatever I dish out to him for life.

"Yes, but they are otherwise occupied by other…couples." The smirk in his voice was so evident I couldn't help but shiver. The night air was seeping into my thick clothing too easily for my liking. I think it was time to head back inside.

But before I could so much as turn I frowned at the hand that settled on mine, holding me fast. It wasn't that I was afraid of the other man; it was more like I was wary of him. Like an animal would be if it were being hunted by a bigger and nastier predator then itself. And yes I believe myself a predator. I'm not some weak, nilly footed princess. But in this situation I knew I place…and it was no longer the hunter.

"Don't touch me…" I tried yanking my hand away but he held fast, body moving closer to mine, but before he could so much as take a breath he stopped, gasping quickly.

I looked up hesitantly and saw the gleam of a dagger pressing dangerously close to Shindra's vocal cords. I wasn't sure if I was thankful for the intervention or angry at the man for not letting me defend myself. Every where I turned no one trusted me to act like the man I was or could be.

"He said to let go." The voice was gravely, causing a shiver to run down my spine unknowingly. Shindra slowly released my hand allowing me to take a step back to a more safe distance. I could barely see the outline of my body guard in from the lights inside, but I knew he was practically plastered to the other man. Effectively keeping Shindra immobile.

"Heero…let him go." I didn't want him dead. No, I couldn't wish death upon anyone, even though I so desired to dish it out to deserving and diseased souls. But it wasn't my job.

The dagger stayed put, almost as if he were debating with himself over the odds the other man would strike me dead with a room full of people at our backs and a blade held precariously close to a vital human function. But he slowly released the man, dagger moving sluggishly away from his neck. Shindra put a hand around his throat, a smile back on his face as he stared down at me.

"My thanks little prince. I'm sorry I was so…forward." I almost grinned at the uneasiness in the others voice as he tried to glance at the guard behind him. "Excuse me…I think I'll take my leave." With that Shindra straightened his robes and swaggered back into the ballroom.

I watched as he made his way towards my father, a smile now displayed on his face as he no doubt buttered up to him. I couldn't help but grimace at the thought of them being that chummy but quickly shook it off as I turned to glare at the other man still on the balcony with me. His eyes had yet to leave my face and I was soon growing tired with the endless scrutiny.

"Alright. That's it. I know you are my guard and I known that you know that I can't get rid of you for a while but one thing you need to know is that I'm not weak and that I can take care of myself despite what my father might say. I don't need you to hover and protect me from such simple things as unwanted overtures. You got it?" I breathed deeply, ready to start up my rant again if the other didn't get it.

He narrowed his eyes, the blue glittering much like the water of the lake I was watching before I was so rudely interrupted. He then put his dagger away in his belt, eyes still gazing into mine. The silence was getting to me you see so I quickly turned back around to the balcony, folding my arms about myself. I couldn't help but feel useless…again. I couldn't do anything to protect myself…nothing at all. I spoke tough but in the long run I was a weak little woman.

I heard a vague shuffling before Heero stepped up to the rail, hands grasping it lightly. He didn't say anything, real big shocker there, just stood there and stared out at the scenery. His silent companionship was…easy to deal with. My other guards would have scolded me until they were blue in the face about not waking up from my childish fancies and becoming a real man that could protect himself from unwanted advances. I hated those. I should have hired some gorgeous hand maiden to flirt with them 24-7, always on the job and try to lure them away from their positions with false promises and quick heated kisses. That would have been the ultimate trick, if I do say so myself. To bad I couldn't pull it now.

Just as I was getting comfortable I heard the unmistakable sound of girlish laughter, so light as to be an intense sigh gone to far. There was only one person with who I knew could do something as stupid as withhold a laugh. Laughter is to be shared…plus it's like exercise for the face…

I turned around, hoping beyond hope that it wasn't who I thought it was and that they would stay far away from me. But no sooner then that my mortal enemy passed through the gauze curtains, light footfalls making only the tiny sound of heel on stone. Relena Peacecraft.

"Oh, Duo, there you are. I've been looking all over for you. Do you know that sometimes you just cannot trust your coach to get you to an event on time to save your life? I don't know what to do with him. Should I fire him? It's the second time now." Only she could whine about something as small as a coach not making it to a party on time. Plus her chauffeur had been with her since before she was born, so I must say he has a brilliant track record if he only made her late for two occasions. Maybe I should hire him for my services?

I looked her over, as always she was in a white dress one could only describe as a ball of fluff that all the ladies at court wore. How could they walk in so many yards of useless fabric? If I took that dress apart I'm sure I could make at least six shirts and four pairs of trousers.

"Duo are you listening to me? I said who is your friend?" I looked back at Heero, forgetting momentarily that he was still there. The man was good. He could be as quiet as a mouse…even quieter. Like the dead, kind of creepy to think about.

"Um, Relena meet Sir Heero Yuy. He is my new bodyguard." I didn't want to do it, but I had no choice. Relena had made it her personal mission in life ever since we were children to flirt with my guards, even the real nasty looking ones. Like she didn't want someone to protect me. I'm with her on that point if that's the case but it still annoyed me to no end.

"Oh…um, please to meet you sir." Her voice had dramatically altered to one less shrill and coyer. I could be sick if it wasn't dignified. Here we go again. Let's see how Heero deals with situation number two. Pushing away unwanted advances from 'I'm going to be queen of the world', not, Relena. It should be an interesting match. It will definitely tell me where the man stands.

"Please to meet you." his answer was cold and when he reached for her hand to press his lips quickly against them it was even more indifferent. Oh, he passed with flying colors. After that he dropped her hand and took a step back, eyes dancing among the figures inside.

I promptly turned back to Relena to find her holding her hand as if it were made of gold and staring wistfully at the occupied Heero. The girl could make me sick sometimes.

"So, Relena, was there anything I could help you with?" I needed to get down to business so she could leave me alone. What can I say, I don't really hate her, but I'm far from liking her.

"Um, oh, well, I came to tell you that…um…" oh yeah, real refined this is for a lady. If I could guess I'm sure her mother would have a hysterical fit at seeing her daughter throw away years worth of dialect decorum in a matter of seconds over an overly mute sentinel. "Um, I just thought that I should tell you that there's going to be a fair coming up and I wanted you to accompany me. You'll come won't you?" She had hardly glanced in my direction throughout the entire conversation. That was extremely in bad manners, especially for a nilly footed princess such as Relena. Meaning she wasn't paying attention to anything...not one bit.

"What if I told you I was blue footed grew horns on my toes, which are now too big to walk on and need a cane so I don't stumble over my brand new potbelly that drags on the ground?" Farfetched yes, but I wanted to see if it would work. I could feel Heero's gaze at the back of my neck, as if he was confused…now that's funny.

"Oh, so yes then." Hah, caught her. I waited a full three minutes before she finally looked back at me, eyes narrowing at my delay.

"You know it's rude to not answer someone." Oh, she could kill me. I couldn't help it, I laughed so hard I had to bend over and lean on my knee. You know those kinds of laughs…inappropriate but great for the soul? Yeah, well, she didn't take it to kindly. "What are you laughing about Duo Maxwell? Stop it this instant! People will stare!" Me laughing would get people staring, but her and her shrill commands wouldn't? Now there's a wacky universe. "Stop now!"

Finally I did, face red with lack of oxygen, so I walked backwards and leaned on the railing, staring down at her…well, staring levelly at her. "Relena, did you hear anything I said to 'you'?"

"What are you talking about? Just answer yes or no?" It was utterly hopeless, but at least I got a good laugh out of it.

"Yes…I suppose."

"Oh, great. I'll set the arraignments up and get them to you right away. We'll have so much fun…and, you'll bring Sir Heero along with you?" Knew that was coming.

"Duh…can't leave the house without it." Or my bedroom, the library, any type of hall, sparring barracks, and bathroom. I hope he's not keen on the last one so much, but if he wanted…no complaining here.

She glared at me, hands rising high on her hips. Oh, here it comes. "Duo Maxwell, can't you treat your staff with better judgment? Their not 'its'." I couldn't help it when my eye did one of those massive twitches where the entire face just literally jerks. She was one to talk. All her servants, even her friends and family were considered 'its' to her. I knew she would turn that back on me so it could bite me in the ass.

"Ok Relena. I really am very tired. Maybe I'll see you later?"

"Oh, no, you can't leave yet. I just got here and you haven't danced with me yet." Her eyes unconsciously strayed to Heero who was now looking back toward the ballroom. I couldn't wait to hear what he had to say later about this evening. If he remembered how to speak that is.

So, all she really wanted was to keep me there, which would, in due course, keep Heero there. I wouldn't give her the pleasure.

"I'm sorry Relena but I really have had a long day. With training this morning, princely duties and getting a new guard that I have to refrain from torturing has literally drained me." With that I bowed, or really just nodded my head with the fancy arm flourish all royalty learns after they take their first step, and walked by her. I heard a grunt and looked over my shoulder in a shock. Relena had stepped in front of 'my' guard, laying on the charm like it was honey in tea.

"You don't have to leave too, do you? We haven't even gotten to know each other yet. I'm sure your line of work is fascinating." She leaned forward, touching his arm and plainly placing her full bosom in his line of sight. I sighed and crossed my arms over my chest before continuing on my way. If he wanted to stay and chat with 'it' then he could. I was going up stairs so I could finally eat something and change into a set of clothing more comfortable.

I made a quick detour around anyone who could see me and get a hold of me and silently made my way up the grand staircase, traveling lightly down the hallway. About seven minutes later I safely closed my doors and leaned against them. I closed my eyes and sighed, briefly smelling my dinner, which had been waiting for me. Pushing off the door I walked over to my chambers opening the heavy oak, closing them and strolling casually towards my wardrobe.

I stretched, reaching as far as I could towards the ceiling, groaning in pleasure at the many joints that popped back into place, before shrugging off the robe. It fell disgracefully onto the floor briefly followed by both my tunic and trousers. Standing naked as a jay bird I examined the selection before me, picking out an old and ratty shirt I used when I went riding down to the lake, which fell down to mid thigh. I couldn't help but smile at the thought of what Heero would think of the 'outfit'. Certainly not preferable for a prince to wear.

There was a creak behind me, startling me enough to gasp and fall back onto the wardrobe behind me. But there was nothing there, except my door, which was now open. I walked back to the door, peering out into the semi lit room and shrugged. So I was losing it? Who knew that would happen sooner or later?

I quickly crossed over to the little table situated by the fire and my special window and plopped down into it. The fire to my left and the window to right, giving me an ample view of the door. Before I could so much as bring the potato I had stabbed with my fork to my mouth the door banged open, effectively starling me enough to drop the utensil and almost shedding my skin. There in the door way was one pissed off guard. Ok, so I can't push this ones buttons even a little. That seems most unfair, especially since I haven't even done anything to him intentionally yet.

He slammed the door and marched towards me. To say I was kind of scared would be admitting that I was scared and I couldn't do that…nope. It was a good thing that there was a window near me, at least I could jump to a miserable death then be strangled by a scary fire eyed guard.

He stared at me then, as if he knew he couldn't lay a hand on me. I would have felt triumphant but he then moved forward eyes intent and full of purpose. Oh, I'm dead. He walked past the window, planting his right hand on the table and the left on the back of the chair, face only inches from mine. "Don't walk away like that ever again." He spoke as if he were talking to a child. That alone would have pissed me off if it were under different circumstances. Under these though, I just nodded my head numbly. He then moved back minutely eyes still intense. "And why was that man…Shindra near your rooms?"

I looked at him in confusion, not sure exactly how to answer that one. He saw it and moved back even further, interrogation held off for the moment until his facts were straightened. I had my work cut out for me with this guard.

"What? I don't understand."

"That man that took his liberty with you was near your chambers. Did you let him in or did he let himself in?" Again, confusion.

"Look, I haven't seen him since you pulled him off me. And to let you know I don't like being hassled by my guards. I came up here to eat my meal in peace and let you have some fun with her royal painness." I stared back down at my plate, my hunger effectively soured by the intrusion. And what did he mean when he said that Shindra was near my chambers?

"You should know that a guard must stay by his charges side at all time. If said charge were to end up missing or hurt the blame would fall on the guards head. Do you understand?"

"What is there 'village idiot' signed across my forehead? You sound like your reading from a book. Look, it's not my fault you caught Relena's eye. I left, and you were meant to follow. If you couldn't keep up it's not my problem." I got up throwing my napkin down and grabbed my glass; passing before the fire. Life was so much simpler when I could just torture them without repercussions. I dipped my head back and downed the entire glass. Wincing momentarily at the burn that scorched the back of my throat, I turned back around, ready to set the glass down and announce that I was heading to bed, when I noticed Heero wasn't looking at my head, but a little further down south. I looked down and noticed my bare legs from mid thigh to bare foot. So he was uncomfortable with the flesh was he? Good.

"See something you like?" It was a valid question and cheeky enough to gain his attention. His gaze snapped up fast enough to give anyone else one major headache and stared straight back into my eyes. I could tell he could win a staring contest easily so I backed down and looked him over. Tit for tat.

"You are not like what the others had told me…" I snapped my eyes back up to his smoldering blue ice caps.

"Glad to be of service for you gentlemen. I'll be going off to bed now." I could feel his eyes all the way to my bedroom and before I could turn the knob he spoke up again. He was getting good at the whole talking aspect of life it seemed.

"Was he in your room?" That was confusing. I turned my head back towards him, eyes narrowed. He? Oh, Shindra. I was about to say no, of course not. Why the hell would I invite a tick like that into my rooms when something clicked. Like a mechanism just turned on inside my rather enormous brain. Yeah, I'm smart with mechanical things, which was the new age mind you. I felt hot suddenly, I could feel color draining from the rest of my body and surging towards my checks. He was in my room when I was changing.

He waited, eyes trained on me, most likely noticing the stain on my face. "I didn't invite him in here…but it never stopped him before." I didn't say anymore, just opened my door and walked in. Carefully locking the bolt in place. Let him think on that for the night. I know I was going to. I can't believe how stupid I can be sometimes.