This chapter is VERY long yall. And it FINALLY concerns a certain blonde and our favorite braided pilot! So enjoy, and PLEASE review! Fanfic authors only get paid in reviews, and it's the best and most appreciated currency we can get!

"Why do you look like a cat that ate the canary?"

Grinning at his suspicious smile, Rei fixed herself a cup of coffee and sat down across from her brother, grinning ear to ear. "I know you something you don't know," she sang teasingly.

Having played this game with her countless times growing up, Duo leaned back, balancing the chair on only the rear legs. "And that is?" He finally asked, when she was obviously waiting for him to take the bait.

Rei merely shook her head a little and continued to grin at him, her violet eyes sparkling with mischief. "You know better than that, my dearest, sweetest, brother. You have to guess." She drew out that last word, singing it a little, before giggling into her coffee cup.

"Alright," he chuckled, also sipping at his drink. "I'm game. The only thing that makes my wonderful baby sister grin like a maniac… especially this early in the morning… is luuurve. So, did Heero finally ask you to marry him?" Duo laughed when Rei turned bright red. "No, then?"

"Actually," she coughed, "he did. But I haven't given him an answer," she muttered quickly.

Duo nearly lost his balance in the half-tipped chair and it thunked back down hard enough to make his jaw click. "You what! I thought you two were madly in love?"

Rei waved her hands in front of her and shook her head. "I'm going to say yes, obviously." The grin spread across her face again as she remembered the real piece of information she was withholding. "Besides, that not what I know that you don't know."

Duo tipped back onto the rear legs of the chair again and rocked a little as he thought. "Hmm… ok, other matters of luuurve… you're not pregnant, are you?" He asked darkly, his mouth turning down in a deep grimace. "Because if you are, you'd better marry that asshole, and soon." That easy grin of his returned when Rei blushed again and furiously shook her head. "Good, I don't think I'm quite ready to be an uncle." He tilted his head a little and studied her. "Ok, I give up, baby sister. And I offer you a bit of information in return."

"Such as?" Duo had her full attention; he never offered her info in exchange unless it was damned good! "Does it concern…" Her eyes sparkled as she grinned. "Luuurve…?" Her grin got even wider and she laughed loudly when he nodded emphatically. "You first, then, big brother. I'm all ears."

Duo thunked his chair back down and leaned across the table to whisper conspiratorially. "Quatre and Makoto."

Rei's eyes went wide and she nearly spit her coffee out in amazement. "NO. You lie!"

Her older brother only laughed and shook his head. "Seriously," he continued in a hushed tone, "I gave Quatre this pep talk a couple mornings ago, and he went out to the workout room and seduced the fuck out of her!"

"Waitwaitwait! You stood there and watched! You pervert!" Rei smacked at his arm when he laughed.

"No, I only went out there for a couple of minutes to eavesdrop, you know? See if the pupil had managed to glean any knowledge from the uber-master of seduction." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively before leaning in a little further. "And when I went out there, I heard Makoto moaning."

Both of them just stared at each other for a moment, and if a third party had been there, they would have seen Duo and Rei's uncanny twin-like behavior. Their mouths twitched up simultaneously, they snickered in sync with each other, then proceeded to laugh like a couple of maniacs, their heads thrown back at the same angle.

"God, and here I thought you hadn't picked up any of the baka's more annoying qualities." Wufei rolled his eyes as he strode through the kitchen to the counter, and proceeded to fix a tray of food.

The twins smirked at him identically and Wufei merely huffed a little. "I have to admit, that's creepy, cousin. You're sure that you two aren't actually siblings?"

"Do you want us to be, Wufei? That would make Duo your cousin, too." She laughed when he made a face and let out a noise of disgust.

"Doesn't matter, baby sister. The Wu-man and I are blood brothers, remember? He's got a pint of grade A Duo-juice running through his veins."

"I don't think I'm hungry anymore," the Altron pilot muttered. However, he continued to pile on the food; most of it consisted of pastries and fruit.

Rei held up a hand when Duo opened his mouth to further annoy Wufei, and he obeyed the silent command when her eyebrows lifted as she studied the tray. "Cousin… that's an awful lot of food for just one person… despite how much I know you can eat."

Duo gaped. Did the Wu-man just… blush? Holy Mother of God, he did! He was blushing! He cleared his throat for a moment, a fresh grin spreading across his face of its own accord. "It's awfully early to be waking Ami up for breakfast, don't you think?"

"Yeah, cousin, I thought she was up half the night doing research. You're really going to wake her up this early?" Rei schooled her features to keep from grinning at the man.

"She hasn't slept yet," Wufei replied smoothly, impressed for a moment at his ability to recover his cool and collected demeanor. It wasn't exactly a lie; Ami hadn't been to sleep yet… and neither had he. But the only research they'd really been doing was on each other. Yes, lots of research. Naked research. His mouth curved upwards in a smirk as he poured them both some coffee, completing his early-morning—or was it simply late-night for them?—offering to his little blue-haired goddess. "I'm going to try and make her get some sleep after she's eaten something."

Rei shot him a genuine smile. She wasn't buying it for a minute, but if Wufei wanted to keep the relationship a secret for a little while, she understood. "That's sweet of you, Wufei." Violet eyes fluttered half-shut for a moment as she laid a hand on his arm for a second and used their bond as Martians to speak with him silently. She wouldn't give away his secret to Duo. You tell me if you two want to share a room later on, and I'll make the arrangements. "Make sure you get some sleep, too."

Her hand was gone just as quickly as he'd felt it; she only needed one moment to convey that message. Giving her a barely perceptible nod to show her that he'd heard her, he picked up the tray, quickly stalking out of the kitchen towards the basement.

Duo waggled his finger in front of him and tsked at her chidingly. "Don't think I haven't forgotten, sister-mine. You owe me information," he sang gleefully.

Snapped back to the previous conversation, Rei beamed brightly. "I nearly forgot! So… how badly do you want this info?" She teased. She giggled when he pouted, and they both rocked back on the rear legs of their chairs. "It concerns a certain… blonde."

The chair he was sitting in froze, still balanced, but no longer rocking. His eyes went wide and he gaped at her. "NO. You lie! What is it! Tell me, Rei!" Any details on Usagi were vital to him. He wanted to know everything about her, anything that could possibly aid in his pursuit of her.

Rei smiled for real. Poor Duo, he was so in love with Usagi that it seemed the only one that didn't know it was the object of his affections. "Well, I was talking to Minako, trying to get some info for you, and it turns out that your moonrabbit likes footrubs and backrubs. Hang on, that's not it, you know I'm better at getting intel than that. Her favorite flower is a rose, she loves sushi rolls… and… she likes you. Like likes you." She nodded when Duo's jaw dropped. "She admitted it to the princesses a few days ago."

"Then why does she act like I'm the bane of her existence?" He moaned, tilting his chair forward to bury his face in his arms.

Rei shrugged. "Dunno. But whatever you're doing, it's working. I suggest you try and just be genuine with her, rather than being your goofy self. She said something about that, too."

"She did?" He asked, hope shining in his eyes as he peeked up through his arms.

"Yeah. Usagi commented on how you acted during and right after the battle, and she admitted that she thought you were…" Rei leaned forward a little, her eyes twinkling. "…sexy." She chuckled when Duo looked so overjoyed that she thought he might explode. "She's also exhausted with all of the dishes she has to do lately, and wishes she had some more free time."

Duo immediately focused on the sink behind his sister, already filling up. And it was only five in the morning. "Gotcha, baby sister." He immediately rose, removed his jacket, and grabbed a dish towel. His moonrabbit was going to have a few chore-free days, damn it. Anything to get some time alone with her.

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"Still no sign of them?"

"No, sir, we've deployed soldiers all over North America, though. Our intel shows that the Gundams landed somewhere in the Midwest, but we don't know for sure their exact location."

Hyler carefully sat up, mindful of his injuries. "Bring me Relena. Tell her that I'm ready to consider her offer in exchange for some information."

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Duo tugged at the Kevlar under his t-shirt and fought against the sudden urge to strip it off and throw it on the bed. "Only for you, baby sister," he grumbled, and shrugged on his blue jeans. He loved Rei deeply, but he had to admit that he was only wearing any type of protection because she'd actually cried when he'd refused to do it. Apparently she'd had a few of those psycho moments while he'd been dead, and Heero and Usagi had privately cautioned him to listen to anything Rei told him to do, especially if she said she'd seen it in a dream. He'd even seen a flicker of concern in the Perfect Soldier's eyes when Duo told him exactly what Rei had begged him to do.

So, here he was, wearing a stupid bulletproof vest, for no other reason than his sister's dreams had told her he was going to get shot. He looked in the full-length mirror on the wall and sighed. At least it was lightweight enough to be easily concealed by his shirt. If it had been easily noticeable, he wouldn't have worn it. The last thing he wanted was for everyone to take one look at his attire and judge him for a pussy.

Hell, even in battle, it would have been one thing. But on the farm! This was the safest fucking place in the world for them. It was large, there were plenty of places for them to hide, they knew the lay of the land, and totally had the advantage over any intruder. Not to mention that it was being occupied by seven pilots that were crack shots with any weapon that landed in their hands.

Only one thing could make him feel better about his situation at the moment, and that was finding a certain moonrabbit and antagonizing her. He left the basement and went around the front to grab a cup of coffee. As an afterthought, he poured one for Usagi, too, and stuck a muffin on a plate for her. He'd waited an hour to bother her, but he couldn't wait any longer. At best, she was a bitch this early in the morning, but if he came bearing gifts she was more likely to tolerate his presence.

"Wakey wakey, babe."

Crystal blue eyes cracked open at the sensation of something tickling her nose, and she stared into the violet-blue eyes of a grinning man. "Pervert!" She screamed, and smacked him with the first thing she could grab.

Duo held his nose and stared up at her in surprise from the floor. "God, Usa! You got a brick in there or something?"

Usagi blinked, and looked down at the knapsack in her hand. "It's filled with comic books," she replied tartly and immediately laid back down in the bed, jerking the covers over her head. "It's not even daylight," she groaned. "Piss off."

"I brought food." Duo rubbed his nose one more time just to make sure it wasn't broken, and scooted to her bedside. He lifted the edge of the covers, and saw a single blue eye staring daggers at him. "You're so cute when you're pissed off. Come on, Usa, get up. I'll do anything you want, I swear it."

"Like what?"

He suppressed a triumphant smile when the ire in that single eye shifted to interest. "The possibilities are endless, babe. We could go for a walk, or horseback riding, or take a shower together, or I could rub your feet, or your back, or other things…" He stopped when she groaned, rolled that one eye, and shifted to lay on her other side.

"I'm not spending the day with a pervert, Duo. I have better things to do. Like sleep." She jerked the edge of the covers back down when he lifted them to look at her again.

"I was just trying to make you laugh." He tried hard not to pout, but found himself doing so anyway. Maybe he should try being genuine, like Rei suggested. "I didn't mean the last part… well; I would rub your feet or your back if you asked me to."

And if I asked you, you'd do the rest of it, too, she added in her mind with a snort. She closed her eyes and tried her best to go back to sleep, but she couldn't while he was still sitting right next to her, his mind humming with that boundless energy that always screamed "Duo!" whenever he entered a room.

Usagi brushed her mind against his so lightly that he couldn't feel her presence, and listened to his surface thoughts. She cringed at first, the last time she'd done this, she'd picked up on some very carnal thoughts about her. She could barely admit to herself that while she'd been initially disgusted with him, it had awoken a hint of curiosity within her.

She'd never wanted a man before, but lately she found herself wondering what it would be like to kiss him, to let him touch her like he had in those little fantasies that had been running around in his mind. And in all of those sexual imaginings, Duo had pictured her in complete rapture, clutching at him desperately for more. Would being with him really feel that good…? Ugh, I should not be thinking these things!

The moon princess found none of those thoughts when she listened in on him. She felt a little guilty for eavesdropping on his private conversation with himself, but was intrigued to find him moping.

I just wanted to spend some time with her. Duo sighed out loud. She's never going to really like you, just give it up already.

Usagi blinked when an image flashed in his mind of Quatre and Makoto. Or rather, an image of the outside of the barn they used as a training room, and a memory of the sounds of passion coming from within, while Duo tried not to feel envious of their union. She felt a longing so strong run through him that it brought tears to her eyes. Poor Duo. I didn't know he liked me that much. She rolled over on her back, sighed heavily, and instantly felt his thoughts returning to that steady thrum of energy. She jerked up the covers over her legs and wiggled her toes. "Fine," she grumbled, and was suddenly very glad she hadn't slept naked, as was her custom at home.

"I knew you'd succumb to my wiles." Duo grinned, and took a tiny perfect foot in his hands. His fingers moved expertly and he felt a surge of triumph when she gurgled with pleasure. "What would you like to do today?"

"Sleep," she answered dryly. "But this isn't too bad. I suppose I can forgive you for waking me, since you brought food and a foot rub."

"I can add a backrub to that, too, if you'd like," he said seriously.

Usa gasped when she read nothing but sincerity in his thoughts. She loved backrubs, but…"I'm not wearing any pants, so no." When she felt his disappointment, she inwardly groaned. Why did she have to be so nice to him this early in the fucking morning? When he finished the other foot and rose from the bed, she rolled back onto her stomach, and pulled the covers down to her waist. She turned her head to see his utter surprise at her offer. "Shirt stays on," she said firmly, "and the covers stay up."

Duo approached the bed cautiously, waiting for her to balk. When she just continued to study him with those gorgeous blue eyes, he nodded his agreement, and climbed onto the bed. He straddled her waist, but jerked back when she turned a little to glare at him. "What?" He asked, holding his hands up in a placating gesture. "No funny business, I swear. It's just easier to give you a massage like this."

"Ok," Usagi said slowly, and lay back on her stomach. She tried not to jump when she felt him settle his weight on her bottom, and wondered again why exactly she was letting him do this. She guessed she liked him… just a little. He was sexy, she'd even admitted it to the girls, but he was always so coarse and crude in his humor. The other girls found him hilarious, but Usagi guessed she was just a bit too much like her mother for her own good.

Her thoughts were interrupted when his hands brushed against her shoulders, and she gasped in pleasure. That hesitant brush was followed by a more confident touch. God, I hope he didn't take that noise the wrong way. Apparently he hadn't; she only sensed that he was pleased to finally be able to touch her. She hid a smile when she heard him thinking of how badly he'd wanted just to touch that soft skin of hers, and how that was his reasoning for starting with her shoulders.

Usagi slid into a trance as he slowly worked his way down her back, and brushed away the knowledge that he had slid his hands up the back of her shirt to touch her bare skin as he massaged her aching muscles. She'd worked hard the day before, and she was still a little sore from helping Rei pen that stupid bull. Apparently it'd given Ami and Wufei a run for their money, and they'd been trapped in a tack room for three hours. Usagi wondered what had caused Ami to blush so deeply when they'd rescued the pair from the raging animal. You don't suppose… Usagi chuckled in delight at the sudden thought.

Duo stopped what he was doing instantly. "What? I didn't mean to tickle."

"No, I just realized something."

Now she had his curiosity. "What? That I'm not as awful as you thought?"

"No, my mind was wandering," she admitted, "and I was thinking how sore I was from the bull, and how Ami had been blushing really badly when we rescued her and Wufei from the barn. You don't think something happened in there, do you? I mean, they were trapped for three hours."

Duo grinned, and slid his hands back under her shirt to delicately stroke her creamy skin. "You know, the Wu-man was acting awfully strange this morning. I wouldn't be surprised."

"Really? Ami-chan's been spending a lot of time holed up with him, doing research… I wonder what they've been researching?" She giggled.

Duo's eyebrows lifted when she turned her head and shot him a sly smile. "And you tell me that I've got a dirty mind." His hands suddenly stopped moving. "Wait, you haven't done that to me, have you?" He asked defensively. "Read my mind?"

Usagi immediately read his embarrassment, but wouldn't lie to him. At any rate, she was an awful liar. "A few times," she admitted, suddenly shy.

Duo noted her blush and was suddenly not as angry with her as he thought he would be. He was annoyed, sure, but he was a little pleased that some of his thoughts could bring on such a cute virginal reaction. He was overcome with the overwhelming urge to kiss those perfect pink lips, to roll her onto her back and make her squirm. But she probably didn't want him to, so he settled for sliding his rough hands over her lower back and kneading her tight muscles. God… he was her slave, and he knew it. If she ordered him to stand on his head until he was blue in the face, he'd do it. He glanced back up at her, intently watching him. "You're doing it now, aren't you?" He huffed.

Usagi inclined her head, and her mouth twitched a little. "Sorry, it's hard not to when you're touching me. Physical contact…" Her face colored when she realized his hands had been under the cloth of her halter top for quite some time.

"It's still on," he pointed out, as if reading her thoughts, making her jump. Really, he was just reading her facial expressions, paying attention to where her eyes were focused. Two could play that game, and Usagi had a very hard time hiding what she thought. She had a tendency to make faces whenever she was thinking.

"It is," she allowed, "but you're pushing it," she warned.

Duo surged forward with incredible speed, and kissed her before she could react to his movement. He kept it sweet, and light, but his lips lingered against hers a little too long to consider it chaste, and his fingers slowly trailed down her spine to make her shiver. "No," he corrected. "That was pushing it," he whispered; his voice had suddenly taken on a husky tone that he had never heard come out of his own mouth.

"Anata wa baka!" She yelled, and bucked her hips so hard that he flew to the floor. She grabbed her pillow and flew out of the bed, whacking him senseless over the head.

She was rambling on in Japanese at such a fast clip that Duo couldn't make out two words in ten, but it was obvious that she was livid. "Sorry! Sorry! Sorry! Gomen ne!" He yelled back, in time with the blows to his face. When doom finally stopped raining down on him, he looked up at his furious little princess, and couldn't help himself when his eyes flickered up and down her long, bare legs. "Sorry," he said quickly, and cringed when she shifted the pillow to her other hand. "Why do you hate me so much?"

Usagi growled at him in frustration, and quickly scooped up her skirt from the end of the bed. She stepped into it and zipped it up. "I don't hate you," she snarled. "You just annoy me."

Duo managed a small smile, and hid the hurt he felt inside. "I don't mean to." He stood, brushed himself off, and handed her the coffee he'd brought. "It's still warm."

Usagi sighed when his fingers brushed against hers. She hadn't meant to hurt his feelings, but he was such a forward, incorrigible little prick sometimes. She completely ignored the fact that she'd responded to his kiss, if only for a fraction of a second. There had been heat and longing in it, but there had also been the sense that he was holding back to keep from rushing things. She appreciated that, but she was as interested in a relationship with anyone as she was in getting her teeth pulled. God, she was always so happy and upbeat, but lately all Duo did was bring out the nasty side in her. Ugh… maybe she did like him.

"I won't do that again, I promise." He masked his feelings when she nodded in agreement.

"That would be for the best. Thank you for the coffee, though." She took a bite of the muffin, chewed, and swallowed. "The food, too."

"Well, I won't do it again unless you want me to," he amended. He chuckled when she rolled her eyes.

He followed her downstairs like a puppy just itching for some attention, and noted her surprise at the empty sink. Score one point for Duo, he thought smugly, and simply winked at her when she turned to look at him. "See, a chore-free day, babe."

"Thank you," she managed. Damn it, now she owed him! She hated doing dishes, but it had been the only real compromise for being allowed to sleep so late. This was a big farm, and it would only be rude not to help out in some way when Rei obviously busted her ass to do the majority of the work.

"You wanna go for a ride? I could saddle a couple horses."

"I… I hate riding," she admitted hesitantly. "I got thrown once as a child. Sorry."

"Oh, come on," he pressed. "I'll put you on the mare, she's like a big dog she's so docile." Duo grabbed her hand and tugged her out to the barn, ignoring her protests. He noted that she was trembling a little at the sight of the mare. Sure, she was a big horse, but she kept her head down and did whatever she was asked to do. She was the very definition of sound. Duo's hand flew to the back of his head, and he huffed in frustration. "Alright, riding's out. I won't make you do something you're afraid of."

He squeezed her shoulder in comfort and led her back outside, where the sun was finally making an appearance. "Howabout a walk?"

Usagi's interest perked a little. "Actually, I would like to check something out, if you don't mind."

"Say the word, beautiful," Duo said, with a little bow.

Usagi led him a long way out from the house, in the direction of the corral. She ate her muffin along the way, and felt her spirits lifting from the coffee she'd brought with her. She was definitely feeling more like her normal self. She giggled when they reached the barn.

"Why are we here?" Duo asked. He laughed when she pointed at the room where Ami and Wufei had been trapped. "Oh. Let's go see what we can find." He let a snickering Usagi lead him into the tack room, and basked in the companionable mischief-making. He had finally found something that interested his little moonrabbit; nosing around in other people's business. "It's too dark in here," he grumbled. He flicked the light on, but it wasn't working.

"Hang on," Usagi said brightly, and closed her eyes. The light from the crescent moon on her forehead shone brightly, and she used it like a headlamp to dig around.

"Wait, stop moving," Duo said quickly. "Right here." He pointed at the floor, and studied the footprints in the dust. They were very close in one spot, but closer to the wall, there was only one set of larger footprints, spread wide for balance, as if Wufei had been supporting more than his own weight. They were facing the wall, and there was no sign of Ami's. Duo sat down and threw his head back in an evil laugh. "Wu-man got it on!" He cackled.

"How can you tell?" Usagi asked with interest. She sat down and laughed just as hard when he explained it to her. She caught a glimpse of something blue hanging from a saddlehorn and stopped. "What's this?" She reached out and gingerly lifted the cloth into the beam of light. "Oh. My. God."

"What?" Duo crawled over to see what she'd found, and they both roared with delight.

"Ami's panties!" They yelled together, and found themselves holding each other up to keep from rolling around on the dusty floor. After much backslapping and falling into several fits of giggles, they managed to make their way back out into the sunshine.

"I would have never thought Ami would truly fall for a man!" Usagi exclaimed. She had to admit, she was delighted for her friend, even if the discovery was unexpected.

"And Wufei hates women!" Duo said with just as much surprise. "Wow! That man has bigger balls than I thought. Good for him," Duo said seriously, amazed at how genuinely happy he was for the Wu-man. There was a touch of envy there, too, but that was quickly brushed aside. "Usa…"

"Huh?"

"Why don't you have a boyfriend?" He blurted out. Duo made soothing motions with his hands when she glared daggers at him. "I didn't mean it to sound like that. It's just that you're so beautiful, I would have expected suitors to be beating down your door."

Usagi gave him a sad smile. "I did have suitors, at one point. But Mother declared that I was too young for suitors, and issued a royal decree that I couldn't be courted until I turned twenty-one." She smiled indulgently at him when she heard him wondering how much longer that would be. "A few more months," she allowed. "My birthday is June thirtieth." She walked a little ahead of him so he couldn't see the sadness on her face. "I imagine the suitors will swamp the palace that day. Happy birthday to me," she said bitterly.

"Fucking bastards," Duo muttered. "I'd at least wait until July first." He gave a little shrug when she turned her head and raised a brow. "Well, at least I wouldn't wreck your birthday. I wreck all the other days, I might as well spare you one." He smiled happily when she laughed at his joke. At least, on that day, he would have an edge against the other suitors. He would know Usagi by then; hopefully he would have even captured her heart. None of them would know her like he knew her. They wouldn't know how to make her laugh, how she took her coffee, how she delighted in matchmaking for her friends. "Well, it's not like you have to date any of them. You can just tell them all to fuck off!" He said brightly, and threw a companionable arm around her shoulder. He grinned when she didn't throw it off.

"Duo, it's not that simple. I take over when Mother decides I'm of age. Right now, that's looking sooner than we expected. Mother isn't exactly young, you know, and I worry about her. For me to take over, I have to marry." She shook her head when she heard the question in his mind. "Mother's a widow. She'd already borne a child, so she wasn't required by law to take a husband, so long as she'd produced an heir. And I'm not sad, damn it! Stop feeling sorry for me!" She shouted at him.

Duo crossed his arms over his chest when she shrugged off his arm. "Then stop reading my thoughts, Usa. And for the record, I don't feel sorry for you. I'm mad that your Mother would place such a burden on her daughter at such a young age. It sucks, Usagi, so don't you dare give me that look."

"My Mother has dealt with more than you'll ever know!" Her voice climbed quickly into the screaming range as her fury grew. "You have no right to speak of her that way, and don't you dare do it again!"

"Usagi, she keeps you locked in a fucking palace, doesn't allow you to have any boyfriends, and your only friends are royalty! She shelters you like a child!" He yelled right back at her. "Grow a fucking spine and stand up to her! Do what you want to do for once, go get drunk, go make out with someone you don't even know, blow some shit up, get arrested, something other than being the perfect little princess!" He regretted the words the moment they left his mouth, and reached out to hold her when huge tears started welling up in her eyes. "Usa, I shouldn't have said that—"

"I hate you," she whispered. She wouldn't let him see her cry, oh hell no. She straightened her back and turned it to him as she marched across the field and away from him.

Smooth, Duo. He turned to look at the rising sun in the east, just as a muffled explosion went off and something took him off his feet.

Usagi whipped around and wiped at the tears that had blurred her vision. "Duo?" She took off sprinting for him when she saw him lying on the ground spread-eagle. "DUO!" She screamed, and instinctively ducked when another shot went off. She felt something burn against her lower back and bite all the way to her thigh. It hadn't hit anything vital, so she ignored it.

She let out a relieved sob when he began climbing to his feet, only to jerk back to his left as another shot rang out. She tackled him to the dirt, and without thinking, grabbed his gun out of the back of his jeans. She aimed it at the man stalking towards them from a small stand of trees, and pulled the trigger.

"God, Usa, you hit harder than the first bullet," Duo wheezed. He shoved her behind him when the man on the ground suddenly moved, snatched the gun from her, and cursed when he dropped it. He couldn't control his left hand. Another bullet whizzed by him, right where Usagi had been sitting. Duo saw red, scooped up the gun with his right hand, and stalked towards the man that had shot him. He noted the OZ insignia on the uniform. "Hyler sent you?" He asked.

The man spat on Duo's shoes, and kept his mouth shut.

"Those were my favorite shoes." Duo aimed the barrel of his gun at the man's forehead. "I would have given you a quick death," he snarled, "until you tried to kill her." He found satisfaction in the fear on his enemy's face, and aimed his gun at the man's kneecap. He was left-handed, but at such close proximity he wouldn't miss with his right. He pulled the trigger, and when the man screamed, he aimed at the hand that was reaching for the gun only a few inches away. He shot that, too. Then the other kneecap. He was slow, methodical, waiting for the pain to ebb just enough before the next bullet brought on a fresh onslaught of agony. Duo leaned down close to him, and put the hot barrel against his forehead once his screams had turned to muffled sobs. "She is the world, my friend," he growled. The bloodlust was fully upon him now, and he wanted this man to suffer. "And you tried to kill her."

"Enough, Duo!" Usagi yelled, just as she felt his powers of destruction rising up. God, he was actually going to use them to... Usagi quickly stopped reading his mind; it was terrifying seeing him in that red haze of fury. "Please, Duo, just kill him! No more!"

He growled as he eyed the terrified man. "Remember, when you're in Hell, that she spared you more pain." He pulled the trigger one last time, and only because Usagi had asked him to do it. He would have filled the assassin with the dark light that pulsed inside of him, aching to be free. He would have relished watching that man scream in utter agony while he bled out on the ground.

He turned back to Usagi, and looked her over. "Are you hurt?"

Usagi shook her head a little as she stared him. This was a completely different Duo than the one she knew. He was cold, ruthless, and cruel. There was a glint to his eyes that spoke of the battlefield, and while she knew he'd fought in the colony wars, she'd never really acknowledged him as a warrior. He was just too goofy for that. She had caught a glimpse of this during the battle on Okinawa, but it had been nothing like this. Maybe she should have taken him more seriously. "You're shot," she managed, and rushed to his side.

"Get back and stay put," he ordered. "There may be more."

"They'd be shooting at us by now," she sputtered, and grabbed his arm so she could take a better look at it. "Can you move your fingers?"

Duo fought the wave of crazy that went through him when she wouldn't follow orders. "I'm fine," he snapped. "Now go sit down," he growled. "I swear, if you get hurt because you won't listen, I'll slap the shit out of you."

Usagi meekly backed away and sat down in the dirt where he'd fallen. She focused on the way he quietly moved into the trees; he barely made a sound, even among the weeds, branches and leaves that littered the ground. When he came back out, he still had that stony glare, but his shoulders weren't quite as tight. She immediately yanked him down and began inspecting his arm once he was within reach. "I can heal this," she sighed with relief. "Take off your shirt."

She expected a reply of something along the lines of "Finally!" or "I thought you'd never ask!" But he simply grunted his response and removed it one-handed. He tried to take off the vest that had saved his life, but he couldn't do it on his own.

"Hold still," she said gently, and carefully undid the straps that held the vest in place. She gave his chiseled chest and arms an appreciative glance—she simply couldn't help but admire a good-looking man—and then went to work on his limp arm.

The bullet had gone straight through his bicep, but she could rebuild the muscle as she healed him. It would take a little more power than usual, like when she'd healed Wufei, but he would have immediate use of the limb. She covered the bleeding hole with her hand, closed her eyes, and let her powers go to work.

Duo looked over when that light flashed from her forehead like before, and felt a gentle warmth spread through his body. It began to wash away the coldness he always felt right after a kill—no, killing the man hadn't made him go cold. The fact that the man had nearly killed Usagi was what had made him lose his head. If he had actually hurt Usagi, Duo couldn't imagine what he would have done to the assassin. "I should have been paying better attention," he ground through his teeth. "That asshole could have fucking killed you."

"I'm fine, Duo," Usagi replied absently, her attention focused solely on healing him. Once she was sure she'd done all she could do for his arm, she looked at the huge bruise blooming over his heart. There was only the briefest hesitation in her movement when she gently placed her hand on his chest. "Broken ribs," she muttered.

"Better than being dead again," he muttered. When she leaned forward a little to rest some of her weight on him, he realized she was doing it to favor her right leg. "You're hurt," he growled, and quickly grabbed her and turned her. He felt that cold rage running through him again at the sight of Usagi's blood staining her skirt.

"It's just a scratch," she insisted, rolling her eyes for good measure. The gesture didn't sway him; if anything it only made him angrier.

He scooped her up and carried her to the grass, ignoring her protests and the weak punch she hit him with. He was going to have to teach her how to fight when this was over; she hit like a girl. "Lay down on your stomach," he said shortly, and rolled her over when she didn't immediately comply. Duo jerked up her skirt, and shoved the cloth to her hips.

Usagi turned crimson, and buried her face in the grass while Duo quickly retrieved his discarded shirt and used it to wipe away most of the blood. She couldn't ignore the gentle way he cleaned her thigh; but yelped in protest when he jerked down her panties. "Hey!" She yelled, when his right arm firmly pressed down on the small of her back.

"Hold still," he ordered. "It grazed you from your back to your thigh. It's not too deep, but it's about seven inches long. You can't heal yourself, can you?"

Usagi shook her head. "No, sorry." Her breath caught in her throat when his fingers brushed a line from the start of the wound to the end of it. "Duo?"

"Yeah." He started ripping up his shirt; he wasn't sure how he was going to dress the wound without any tape, but he could at least put some pressure on it to slow the bleeding. And he didn't quite trust himself to use his own powers to heal her, not when he was still fighting the urge to destroy something. Hotaru had warned him about the precarious line that Saturns walked as healers and fighters… now he understood it.

"I don't hate you," she said softly. "I'm sorry I said it."

"And I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have yelled at you like that. But you should do what makes you happy," he continued. He put pressure on the wound where it was deepest, right at the very top of her thigh, towards the inside. "Sorry," he muttered, when he realized just how close to Xanadu his hand was.

"It's alright." Usagi felt the heat rise in her face again, but noted how much of a gentleman he was trying to be. "Duo, we should probably get back to the house. I know there's no way to bind that without something more than your shirt."

He nodded. "Alright." He pulled her underwear back up, and her skirt back down, sighing inwardly at the realization that this was probably the only time he was going to see her naked from the waist down. Well, mostly naked. He really hadn't paid attention in all honesty.

Duo helped her sit up, stand, and when she put all of her weight on her left leg, he shook his head. "You can't walk that far." He scooped her up in his arms and started walking.

"I can walk."

"No, you can't, Usagi." His voice was hard again, his tone impossible to argue with. He shifted her in his arms so she could comfortably rest her head against him, and he couldn't ignore how good it felt to finally hold her, even if it was under the worst of circumstances. "That was a good shot, by the way."

Usagi's eyes widened when she realized she'd shot a man.

Duo noted how she was suddenly trembling, and kissed her forehead. "You didn't kill him, Usa," he said gently. "You'd shot him in the shoulder. He would have lived if I hadn't shot him in the head." He wasn't about to tell her that she'd actually hit him in the lung, and since they were so far from a hospital, he likely would have died. He mentally slapped himself when she shook even harder. "God, I should know better than to lie to you," he muttered. He set her down in the grass and hugged her close. "Usa, by shooting him, you saved my life."

"But I'm a healer," she sobbed, "I took an oath not to hurt anyone directly. I'm only supposed to heal wounds, not inflict them!"

"Would you rather have me dead and him alive?" He asked softly. When she looked up at him and shook her head just slightly, he kissed her.

Usagi couldn't help herself; she kissed him back, grateful that she could kiss him, that they weren't both dead. She murmured with pleasure when his tongue slipped into her mouth, and she let her hands wander over the marvelously hard chest that was pressing against her, lowering her to the ground… she thought about stopping him, but let him continue to kiss her. She'd never felt such heat before, such hunger… she never imagined that Duo was capable of such depth of emotion. She gasped when his mouth moved to her throat, and lit a trail of fire all the way to her ear. Her hips arched against his in response, and she suddenly grunted in pain from the motion.

Duo broke away sharply, and rested his forehead against her chest as he tried to regain control. "Sorry, Usa."

"No, it's ok." Her fingertips stroked his back in soothing little circles. "Duo… you're right. I should do what makes me happy. I'll… I'll speak with my mother." The thought terrified her, but she couldn't ignore the way her body was responding to him. The pleasure in his mind more than made up for what she was going to have to go through. She smiled softly when he gazed at her with pride.

"Now that's my moonrabbit." He kissed her with heat once more, and while it was intense and full of longing, he kept it short. It was muted in comparison to their first kiss. "I could kiss you all day, moonrabbit. But we need to get you patched up." He easily scooped her up again and cradled her protectively against his chest. There was a spring to his step as he thought about the confrontation they were going to have with her mother. He'd been dying to ask Usagi's mother for permission to date her, but hadn't bothered because of her lack of interest in him. Now, it was a whole different story.

Usagi rested her head against his neck, and ran her hand over what was left of the bruise on his chest. She closed her eyes and continued the healing. "It won't weaken me," she said in that distracted voice she always got when she was using her powers. She had noticed the stutter in his stride when the warmth had flooded him.

"Ok," he agreed, and he simply enjoyed having Usagi's light flooding him while he carried her back to the house. The ache in his ribs faded quickly, and he thanked her. He kissed her once, chastely, pleased when she shyly hid her face against him. "So, what are we going to tell your mother?"

"We?" Usagi realized that the old Duo was making an appearance when he waggled his eyebrows mischievously. Well, at least he wasn't cold and scary anymore. That Duo had scared the living shit out of her. "You are such a douche."

"I'm half-serious here, Usa. I'm not going to make you face her alone." He sighed. "Nevermind, we'll talk about it later."

###########

Duo had carried her into his room, and had shifted quickly back to the cold, hard Duo the moment any of the other pilots approached and tried to take her from him. He couldn't truly blame them, he knew how bad he must have looked. He was healed, but his arm and his hands were covered in blood, as were Usagi's. It didn't matter, though, no one was touching her.

"It's ok," Usagi had assured them all. At her word, they had let him carry the princess into the basement and shut the door soundly with his foot. She noted wryly that she was lying in his bed when he set her down. "Duo, the others were just trying to help. They were concerned."

"I know," he said quickly. He dug through his trunk and started pulling out gauze, tape, and finally, a bottle of vodka. He threw a clean towel down next to her, and shoved her skirt all the way to her hips. He simply grabbed a pair of medical scissors and cut away her panties, throwing them carelessly on the floor. "No other man is going to even touch this wound," he explained. "If it had been your arm or something, fine. But not where it is. They don't know anything more about doctoring this than I do; I can take care of it."

Usagi nearly laughed at his reasoning, but she was flattered by his jealousy. She hissed with pain when he poured the vodka on her lower back. "Keep it away from my—" she blushed crimson. "down there," she hissed.

Duo grinned stupidly. "You sure it doesn't need disinfecting?" He poured a little liquor unto the towel, and dabbed it carefully along her inner thigh. "Sorry, babe." He knew it stung like a bitch.

"Nande kuso?" Usagi yelped.

Duo studied the wound and shook his head. "Babe, I'm sorry, but you need a few stitches. Here." He offered her the vodka when she turned her head. "It's going to hurt. Take a good swallow of this for me."

"I've kinda um… never had a drink before," she admitted with embarrassment.

"Well, you've never been shot before, either," he said with a hint of annoyance. "Drink."

Usagi couldn't ignore the commanding tone of his voice, and took a healthy swallow. She spat and coughed and shoved the bottle back in his hand. "That's awful!" She looked at him in awe when he took a couple good gulps of it without making a noise or a face. God, he could have been drinking water.

"Yeah, it is," he agreed. Duo dug in his trunk again, and came up with a curved needle used for stitches, and some stitching thread. He disinfected them with a healthy amount of vodka, then looked up intently at Usagi. "Hold still. It's going to hurt, but if you don't move, it won't take me long."

The princess nodded bravely, and when the needle bit into her skin, she winced, but didn't move her leg. She reached back for the bottle of vodka and took another healthy dose, but only gave a token gasp when she swallowed. "Still awful."

Duo was fast, as he'd promised, and when he'd cut the last stitch, he patted her on the leg. "You did well," he said firmly. "You only needed four." He began to dress the wound, and couldn't help but linger over the soft skin of her inner thigh for just a moment. He pulled his fingers away when she made a little noise, and moved to her back. At least that was safer territory. "Sorry," he said sincerely.

Usagi nodded a little, and passed him the bottle after taking one more little sip. This stuff got better as you drank more, and it was hard not to guzzle it at that point. Her leg throbbed, she was exhausted from healing him, and now she was in the bed of a man who was the biggest pervert she'd ever met, with her panties off and her skirt hiked to her hips. She had tried not to gurgle with pleasure when his calloused fingers brushed against the inside of her upper thigh, but thankfully he'd mistaken the noise for a protest and not an invitation.

Both of them looked up at the knock at the door, and Duo placed himself possessively between the door and his princess.

"It's Rei."

"Come in," Duo grunted, and went back to work on patching her up.

Rei quietly shut the door behind her, and immediately sat next to Duo and surveyed the damage. "A girl should be doing this, Duo," she said carefully. Her first instinct had been to yell at him, but she had noticed the domineering glint in his eyes. She had only seen that look in his eyes when it came to herself, and now that she thought about it, that look reminded her an awful lot of the way Heero sometimes looked at her.

"I'm not doing anything wrong," he said flatly. "I'm treating a bullet wound, which I've done for you several times."

"He's been the perfect gentleman," Usagi added firmly.

Rei noticed the little slur in her words, and groaned. "You're drunk!"

"I gave her a little of that," he nodded towards the bottle, "for the pain. She needed four stitches. Tell the guys to post guards all around the farm," he ordered. "An assassin was hiding out near the corral, in that little stand of trees, and he nearly killed me." He looked at Usagi warmly. "She saved my life."

Rei studied the new scar on his left arm. She knew all of Duo's scars, and this one hadn't escaped her notice. She grabbed the bottle and took a good drink before touching the puckered flesh. "Wow, how did you kill him if you couldn't shoot?" She asked knowingly.

"I shot him," Usagi whispered. The tears started welling up in her eyes again, and she buried her face in Duo's pillow.

"Moonrabbit, we've been through this. You didn't kill him, I did," Duo said shortly. If Rei hadn't been in the room, he would have kissed away her tears, so he settled for a soft caress of the unmarred skin on her back. He looked to his sister, daring her to say a word, and was satisfied when she gave a neutral shrug.

"Send out Mako-chan," Usagi sniffled. "Have her shield the farm. No one gets through her barriers, and she's strong enough to hold them even when she sleeps."

"Make sure she takes Quatre with her," Duo added. They hadn't come out as a couple, but knowing what he knew, he was sure Quatre would bring out the crazy if anyone tried to harm the Princess of Jupiter.

Rei didn't question her brother, she only nodded. "Contact your mother when you're sober," she advised Usagi, and left the room quickly.

Duo ran his hand along Usagi's thigh once before pulling her skirt back down. "There's blood on your clothes, moonrabbit." He pulled a shirt and a pair of shorts out of his trunk, and handed them to her. "Here, I'll turn my back. Promise." He turned around, and fought the urge to turn and see her nude when her skirt and tank top floated to the floor next to his feet. No, he'd be a good boy, at least for now. He'd earned her trust, and he didn't want to lose it so quickly by slipping into his usual antics.

"Done." Usagi blushed when he gazed at her with naked desire.

"Lay back down," he said roughly, unable to take his eyes off of her. She was dressed in one of his oversized button-up black shirts, and it was so long that it came to her knees, covering the shorts. It wasn't hard to imagine that she wasn't wearing anything underneath, and he was finding it very difficult to control his libido. He distracted himself by cleaning up the mess they'd made before sliding into the bed right beside her. He pulled the covers up to their shoulders, and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her tightly, protectively, against him. "Nothing's gonna happen," he assured her. "You need to rest, and Rei won't let anyone bother you down here." He pointed to the door. "Lock it if you're not too tired."

Usagi waved her hand at the doorknob, and her forehead glowed a little as the lock turned. She turned to face him, and bolstered by the alcohol, she summed up enough courage to brush her lips against his. "Thank you," she whispered.

Did Duo detect a hint of desire from her also? His arm still around her, he pulled her against his bare chest and kissed her in return, his tongue dancing with hers and his hands coaxing a moan from her throat. When his hand slipped up her shirt to caress her breasts, and she didn't protest, he gave her one long, toe-curling kiss before pulling away. She looked dazed and confused by their sudden parting, and he wanted nothing more than to roll on top of her and show her how much he truly wanted her. "Go to sleep." He nuzzled her neck, nipped it once, and laid his head down on the pillow.

"But…" Usagi protested, and stroked her fingers down his chest, trailing past his abs and to the hem of his pants.

"Don't start something you can't finish, moonrabbit," Duo groaned. He physically rolled her back over so that she was facing the door, and snuggled up against her.

Usagi breathed in sharply when she felt something hard against her backside, pushing up against the wound on her thigh. "Oh." She tried not to laugh, she should have known that lying in his bed half-naked and kissing him would have brought on such a response. "I'm sorry," she said with a smile.

"It's alright," Duo grumbled. "I wouldn't want to break your mother's rules, so go to sleep." Besides, he wasn't going to take advantage of her while she was a little drunk, even though it was mighty tempting to do so.

###############

"A failure!"

The captain cringed when Hyler flung a tray of medical instruments across the room, yelling wordlessly in frustration. "Yes, sir," he finally confirmed. "The assassination was a total failure, and the tracker was destroyed. However, we got a lock on Brown's location before the link was severed.

Hyler took a few deep breaths, attempting to calm the rage rising up inside of him. "That's something, at least. Where was he before he was killed?"

"In the former state of Iowa, a hundred miles north of the old capitol of Des Moines. Would you like me to send some mobile suits to attack?"

He shook his head vigorously. "No, not yet. We need to do some reconnaissance on their base, first. Figure out what kind of defense systems we're up against. One does not attack seven Gundam pilots without a clear plan laid out."

WOO! That was LONG! I'm mighty tempted to keep going, but we're already at 10k words for this chapter! Topaz and JP, thank yall so much for such long and wonderful reviews! I have to admit, I'm disappointed that yall were the only two to give me reviews! What the hell?

Now, time for a shameless plug! I have a DBZ/SM fic, rated M, called The Golden Stranger, and it's getting very awesome! Go read it, or I'll tell Vegeta and have him slap you like a bitch! :D