See all warnings and disclaimers in the first chapter
See all warnings and disclaimers in the first chapter.
A/N: It's been a terrific ride. I'm already brainstorming ideas for a sequel. At the very least I will just plain start a new story. I have plenty of ideas, let me tell you! Hugs, kisses, glomps, and cookies to you all, you've been fantastic!
Though admittedly Quatre was glad to get it over with, he was disappointed that the coronation would take place two days after the bandages came off Duo's eyes. His pretty guest could not yet leave the safely-dim lighting of the house. His eyes were still too new. Indeed, even soft light in the house made Duo's eyes ache after a few hours.
"I'm sure someone will record this stuffy affair," he said, smiling at Duo as he dressed.
Heero and Trowa sat on Quatre's overly large bed, quite striking lying side-by-side. After all, canines and felines were bitter enemies, yet here lay a large wolf and even larger panther, quite content in each other. Trowa lay curled around Heero, his chin resting on the wolf's head.
Quatre, who knew quite a bit about Telmaran hierarchy, recognized this position. Trowa was claiming dominance over Heero—possibly due to his greater age and strength—and Heero was submitting. For some reason, that seemed symbolic. Smiling, he beckoned to Duo.
"Here, why don't you help me with these dang robes? They're all over the place."
Duo, who'd pretty much been smiling nonstop these last two days, rose from his chair and glided across the floor to him. The boy was all effortless grace, and Quatre still found him incredibly attractive though he loved Trowa.
"Well," Trowa purred into his mind, "he's just lovely. I'm attracted to him, too. I challenge anyone not to be."
Heero stirred, shifting on the bed. Trowa responded by licking his muzzle, and Heero gave a soft sigh that sounded content.
Duo didn't immediately turn to the task of helping Quatre dress. He slid his slender hands over the silk of the sleeves, his eyes tracking their progress. "Such a beautiful color," he murmured. His eyes rose to Quatre's face. "It matches your eyes perfectly." Now he gently brushed his finger beneath Quatre's eye. "I love being able to see your face, Quatre."
Quatre smiled. "Have you looked at your own? If my eyes are pretty, yours are stunning. You are stunning."
A lovely blush stained Duo's cheeks faint rose. His lashes lowered shyly; one of the things Quatre found most appealing about him. His modesty wasn't coy, it was genuine. It only made him more beautiful. He gave in to the temptation to caress one silken cheek, skin so smooth his robes had nothing on it.
"Would Heero be angry if I kissed him?" he asked Trowa. "Just a little one?"
Trowa laughed into his mind. "I'm sure he wouldn't. He's radiating ease and serenity right now."
So he gave in to the temptation to kiss the boy, as well. It was a light kiss, little more than a touch. When he pulled back, Duo gave him a sweet little smile.
"You haven't done that in a long time," he mused.
On the bed, Heero gave a soft huff of laughter.
"I'm sure the coronation will be broadcasted live on every net station," Duo changed the subject, beginning his task. "Heero and I will be watching."
"Good," Quatre said, turning so Duo could get to the belt. "I've sent for someone to come be here with you while I'm gone in case you need anything."
Duo's gaze flicked to his face, expression a bit startled. "You don't have to do that, you know. I'm fine now, and Heero is more than enough company."
"I know," Quatre said, "but it was your father's request since he has to be at the ceremony. Mine, too, really. I don't want anything to happen to you two. You've been through enough."
At this, Duo subsided with a faint smile.
"Heero told me he's grateful," Trowa told Quatre, sounding amused. "And he also said you're welcome to kiss Duo again, because it was 'lovely to watch.' His exact words."
Quatre bit his lips to keep from laughing out loud. Duo, however, shot his Bonded a Look, reminding the young emperor-to-be just how close their Bond was. While he was glad the two could share such intimacy, he wasn't sure he would be willing to try the same with Trowa. When his Bonded had explained it to him, he fully understood how close Heero had come to killing both Duo and himself.
"Trowa," Duo said somewhat archly, "feel free to bite Heero."
There was no mistaking the laughter in Trowa's eyes. Quatre grinned. "He said he would, except that would hurt you, too, and he doesn't want to do that."
Duo turned his back on his Bonded, who let out a pathetic little whine. Quatre snorted and let Duo continue.
"It really is too bad you can't come," he lamented. "I would love to fix your hair. I have some strings of sparkling beads from my sisters that would look so pretty against those cinnamon waves."
"When my eyes have finished adjusting," Duo said, "you can take me to Court with you. I have friends I haven't seen in much, much too long." His lips quirked. "Some of them, I've never actually seen. I can hardly wait."
"I'll throw a fantastic welcoming party for you," Quatre said, grinning. "I'll invite everyone in the Imperial Court. Everyone has missed you, you know. You're the darling of the court, the favorite of everyone, bar none."
"Except you," Duo said, smiling a bit shyly.
Quatre chuckled. "Okay, let's say we tie. Trowa, what about you? Will you consent to wearing that beautiful emerald and obsidian necklace I made you? I won't make you wear a leash."
Trowa audibly snorted. "All right, but only because this is an important day for you."
Duo looked at Trowa. "Emerald and obsidian? I'm sure that would look amazing on you."
Trowa's eyes twinkled.
"He said thank you," Quatre said, "and that yes, he does look amazing in it."
Duo giggled, making his wonderful eyes sparkle. "Where is it? Trowa, let me put it on you?"
Trowa nodded, so Quatre dug it out. "Here you go," he said. "This is the clasp."
Duo turned it over in his hands, the light catching it and making it sparkle wildly. "It's beautiful." Grinning, he went toward Trowa. "You're going to have to get off Heero."
Trowa huffed, rising to a sitting position.
"Thank you," Duo said. "You were making both of us hot." He grinned.
Trowa licked his cheek while Duo clasped the collar around his neck. "There," Duo praised. "That looks wonderful. You two will be perfect together." Then he frowned. "But you don't match."
Trowa burst into laughter in Quatre's mind. "Only seeing for two days and he already sounds like you."
Quatre raised an eyebrow at him. Then he turned to Duo. "But we still look good, right?"
Duo smiled. "Yes. I guess those three colors go together well."
"Good! I'm glad that's settled. Now help me pick out some jewelry, because we have to leave for Andaria in half-an-hour."
Twenty minutes later, the chime sounded downstairs, signaling a request to enter the manor. Duo looked at Quatre with a rueful smile. "My babysitter?" he hazarded.
Quatre gave him an unapologetic smile. "Yes. Come on, let's go greet them."
He did love seeing smiles. He'd forgotten how they lit up the eyes, made them shine from within. It was wonderful.
Heero hopped down off the bed and paced to his side, rubbing against his legs in a tight circle. Duo rested a hand on the back of his neck, letting Heero take the lead. He didn't need a guide anymore, really, but his eyesight still wasn't fully restored. Distances were a bit blurry, but Doctor Noin had insisted he shouldn't wear corrective lenses during this time. It would only slow the healing process.
Duo didn't mind. He was still floating about being able to see at all. It didn't matter that things were a little fuzzy farther away from him. Noin had promised his eyes would get better quickly when they adjusted to the light. He followed Heero down the stairs and pulled open the door.
To his surprise, Lucrezia Noin herself stood there. And behind her was someone Duo had never seen before, but that wasn't saying much. He was tall and incredibly handsome, with long platinum blonde hair. He wore a gentle smile. Lucrezia stepped inside and hugged him.
"You shouldn't be answering the door," she scolded gently. "Though it's still early, the light could hurt your eyes. Come on, inside with you." She nudged him back.
Grinning a bit, Duo obeyed. Once the door was safely shut, he turned to the other. He wasn't quite sure what to say when the man rescued him. He gave Duo a slight bow.
"I'm so glad to see you well, Lord Duo," he said softly.
Duo blinked. There was no mistaking that voice. "Zechs," he murmured, closing the distance between them and reaching up to trace the familiar contours of the man's face. "I wasn't sure I'd meet you again."
Zechs captured Duo's hand against his cheek, leaning slightly into the touch. "I thought I'd stay away," he admitted quietly, "for your sake. I thought you might not want to see me." He grinned ruefully.
Duo shook his head. "That could never be the case, Zechs. Heero and I are very grateful to you. Quatre told me it was you who found Doctor Noin for us."
Zechs smiled modestly. "I wanted you to be able to see again. I wanted to see what color your eyes were." He lightly caressed Duo's cheek. "Such lovely eyes."
"He still smells of desire around you," Heero said abruptly, "but it's not as pronounced now. I think he's coming to terms with his feelings for you, and I think he might have feelings for Noin."
Duo blinked. He hoped so. Because of Heero he knew Zechs felt a deep attraction to him. Feelings he could never return, because there was no one for him but Heero. His Bonded bumped his leg with his head.
Quatre chose that moment to come downstairs. "Ah, Lucrezia, Zechs. Perfect timing. It's time Trowa and I caught our flight to Andaria. Thank you so much for staying with Duo. I'd hate him to be alone if he needed anything."
Heero growled softly.
Quatre laughed. "Okay, mostly alone. Besides, if he was incapacitated, Heero, you would be, too."
Heero subsided, bumping Duo's leg again with his head. Smiling, Duo stroked his fingers across the wolf's velvety-soft muzzle, making his eyes droop in appreciation. Trowa padded into the room at that moment, looking impressive and striking in that decorative collar around his neck. He gave Heero a brief nuzzle and let Duo pet him a little before walking to Quatre's side.
"We'll be back tomorrow morning," Quatre said, smiling at the four of them. "Thanks again, Lucrezia. If you need anything, you can reach either Duo's father or me on my private frequency."
Lucrezia smiled. "Have fun, and don't worry about Duo. He's doing very well."
Nodding, waving over his shoulder, the soon-to-be-emperor hustled out the door.
Nearly every noble in the empire showed up at the coronation ceremony. When the herald announced Quatre after the three Prime Chancellors called for him, he entered with Trowa gliding at his side. The atmosphere in the room was tingling with anticipation. And Quatre, always very good at reading people, could feel the eagerness, the excitement.
Everyone here wanted this. There wasn't even an undercurrent of anything else. Trowa confirmed just moments later. His gait was slow and easy, no tension in his sleek frame.
Before the Prime Chancellors and the Imperial Court, Quatre knelt and took his vows as new emperor of the Andarian Empire. The Prime Chancellors made their vows to him, and Prime Chancellor Schezar placed the ornate crown on Quatre's head.
"From this day forth, let your every action reflect your benevolent intent toward the Andarian Empire and her people," the three Prime Chancellors intoned. "May long you rule in kindness and fairness, a strong and just champion for your people."
Head bowed, Quatre accepted the hand to rise. Then he turned to face the waiting Court. "My people," he began, smiling, "my friends. It has been a strange and long journey to reach this destination. Though I could wish the road had not been littered with so many difficult obstacles, it is my fondest wish that the rest will be smooth sailing as long as this crown rests on my head. You have my word I will certainly do my utmost to see to that end."
The Court cheered and applauded and everyone seemed quite emotional. Quatre hid his grin and threw a glance down at Trowa, who sat quietly at his side. "And the rest," he murmured, "as they say, is history."
Zechs and Lucrezia sandwiched Duo between them on the plush, luxurious couch when they settled down to watch the coronation on the enormous vidscreen. Zechs carefully monitored his own feelings being this close to the lovely boy, trying to analyze them.
It seemed his blossoming feelings for someone else were slowly replacing them. He was certainly still drawn to Duo. How could he not be? The boy was bright, sweet, and beautiful. But while the physical attraction was still there, the deep emotional cord was not. And he was glad, because he could tell beyond a shadow of a doubt that Duo was in love with his great wolf.
Heero never stayed out of contact with Duo for long. In fact, he draped himself over Zechs and Duo, a living blanket whose heat easily made up for the slight chill in the air. He was a bit possessive of Duo, that was apparent. But he didn't display an iota of jealousy.
Because of their Bond? From what Quatre had told him, Heero would probably be able to sense it if Duo's feelings for him were superficial. Part of Zechs wished he could have that level of closeness with his beloved. Glancing over Duo's head, his gaze met Lucrezia's.
She was his oldest friend. They'd gone to school together, and then for years they'd fallen out of contact—courtesy of Relena. When he'd learned of her successes as a doctor, he sought her out for Duo's benefit. It had wound up being a wise move on several parts. Being with her rekindled old feelings that had gone a long way toward helping him find closure with Duo.
Lucrezia smiled at him. A tender smile, full of easily-read emotions.
It was much later when Duo abruptly stirred; the sun was nearly set. "Heero wanted to know if he could take me outside to watch the sunset," he said, looking at Lucrezia. "My eyes don't hurt."
The woman shook her head. "No. I don't think they're ready for UV rays yet. Give it a few more days."
Apparently her words weren't what Heero wanted to hear, because he lifted his head and jumped to the floor. Moments later he shifted into his human form—which Zechs had never seen. He was beautiful, though Zechs could not ever recall seeing a Telmaran that was not. And he was quite naked, his skin a deep golden color that practically glowed.
"I will be able to tell if it gets to be too much," he said, voice somewhere between reasonable and demanding. "I won't let him come to any harm, Doctor Noin."
Lucrezia got a sort of . . . cornered expression on her face. "It may not be something you can help, Heero," she said. "Duo's eyes are at a critical re-growth stage right now. It wouldn't take much to make them deteriorate."
A hint of a growl rumbled in Heero's chest. "I'll be able to tell. We don't share a normal Bond anymore. It's much deeper."
Now Lucrezia looked lost between amused and annoyed. "You've obviously made up your mind, so I don't know why you're asking me. At least wait until the sun is mostly gone. An inch or two left."
Zechs rose and peered out the dark curtains. "It's already nearly gone, Lucrezia."
Heero grabbed Duo's hand and pulled him up. "Then we'll be back in awhile."
"Heero?" Lucrezia said, her lips twisting into a grin. "At least put on some pants."
Heero made Duo close his eyes until he found a nice little grassy hill on which to settle. A sliver of the sun remained, a thin remnant of the golden disk. Its dying rays cast orange, purple, smoky blue, and pink across the sky in random patterns, colors splashed haphazardly on a heavenly tapestry.
When he told Duo to open his eyes, his beloved stared in open wonder at the vivid display of light and color. Heero settled them down on the grass, himself on slightly higher ground so Duo could lean comfortably against him. He watched the delight play across Duo's face, enchanted by the moving emotion.
"I . . . I'd forgotten . . ." Duo breathed, barely even blinking.
The light danced on the surfaces of Duo's beautiful eyes, making them gleam. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" he whispered into Duo's ear.
It caused his love to shiver, unconsciously tilting his head to the side. He always did that when he wanted more from Heero, a cue he'd learned a very short time ago. He wasn't one to turn down such an invitation. Leaning down, he pressed light kisses to Duo's pale neck, one of his hands stroking through that beautiful hair cascading down Duo's back.
Moments later Duo shifted to bring their mouths into alignment, lips already parted and asking. Heero gave him the kiss he wanted, tongue delving inside the honeyed heat of Duo's mouth. Duo offered a faint moan that Heero readily swallowed.
It felt like a long, long time before Duo eventually broke the kiss, snuggling against Heero's chest to once more stare out across the horizon. Heero, unbelievably content, followed his gaze with a sigh. Even after the sun had set, Duo continued to watch the velvet night fall.
"Can we stay?" he murmured. "Just a little longer?"
"Of course," Heero replied, pressing a tender kiss to Duo's temple.
Darkness fell softly, coaxing the stars out. They studded the night with tiny, brilliant points of diamond white, winking down at the entwined pair. One flashed brighter for a split-second, then streaked across the endless black in a blazing trail of glittering light.
Heero automatically whispered, "Make a wish," in Duo's ear, but the words felt meaningless. He couldn't think of a single thing to wish for.
After all, he already had everything he'd ever wanted, right here in his arms.