Bane of Darkness

 

South Gate: 1

 

Duo stood near the top of the hill, arms crossed over his chest, waiting for the rest of us to join him. "Sure taking your sweet time there, aren’t you guys?" he asked, grinning widely. "Or maybe you’re just getting lazy."

"Your silence would be appreciated." Wufei frowned, joining him at the top.

"How much is it worth to you?" the braided boy replied, raising an eyebrow.

The eastern warrior scowled.

"It only encourages him when you acknowledge his presense," Heero noted blandly. "I’d suggest that you ignore him whenever he opens his mouth."

Duo gave him a wicked smile. "I’m just so lovable nobody can resist talking to me."

Quatre smothered a laugh with his hand and sank down to a sitting position just at the top of the hill. "Just how far are we from the Sanc Kingdom?"

"We’re in the Sanc Kingdom already," I answered him, sitting down as well to pull him onto my lap. He let out a contented sigh and leaned back against my chest, grabbing my wrists to pull them around his waist.

"Well, if that’s not the cutest thing I’ve ever seen…" Duo grinned. "Then I’m sure they’ll do something even cuter in another few minutes."

Wufei frowned at him. "Maxwell, do you really think their relationship is any of your business?"

"Nope." Duo shrugged. "But, Quatre is my best friend. It’s practically in my job description to try and drive him insane."

"And driving him insane includes driving the rest of us insane as well, is that it?" Heero actually halfway smiled at Duo, cold eyes relaxing ever so slightly.

Duo blinked, obviously a little startled by what had been the biggest show of emotion I’d seen Heero give anyone in a very long time. "Well," he began, recovering, "if you’re interested in a private demonstration of my extensive talents…" He raised an eyebrow suggestively.

"I might just take you up on that," Heero replied, with an absolutely straight face. Duo’s smile widened even further.

Interesting method of flirting, that.

"You know, I think Duo’s going to be too busy to tease us much anymore," Quatre said softly, smiling. I kissed his ear and held him closer, feeling him relax into my arms. "And I like it when you’re this affectionate," he whispered.

"Looks like they’re at it again." Duo turned away from us innocently and faced forward again. "Don’t think I’m going to be getting much out of those two for a while, so how about if one of you guys tells me what city that is, and whether or not we can stay there overnight."

I looked. "That’s the capital city of the Sanc Kingdom."

Heero eyed it moodily. "Home," he added, face unreadable as he studied the neat cluster of buildings. "If I have a home."

~~~~~~

"This place is huge!" Duo gazed around the royal audience chamber of the palace in awe. "It’s even bigger than Dorothy’s mansion back home! Who lives in this castle, anyway?"

"The royal family." Heero was watching the archway leading into the rest of the palace. "This was built centuries ago, and the rulers of the Sanc Kingdom traditionally reside here."

"Great!" The braided boy turned back toward him. "So, are we going to meet one of these rulers? I gather you’ve got a certain importance here – or else we wouldn’t be in this place at all, would we?"

"Why don’t you keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, Maxwell," Wufei suggested. "That way you might actually learn something."

"Yeah?" Duo crossed his arms. "Like what?"

"Heero?"

We all looked up at that. In the doorway stood a slender girl of average height, dressed in the royal robes that marked her as having the highest rank possible. Her golden-brown hair was tied back in a simple style and a small gold crown rested delicately on the top of her head. There was a small but brilliant smile on her face as she held out her hands toward us.

Heero had already started moving across the room. When he reached the girl, he took both of her hands in his and kissed the backs of them. "My Queen," he said, dropping to one knee, head bowed.

She took his face in her hands and kissed his forehead. "So you’ve returned to us at last, my champion. We have felt your absense most keenly." Her words, formal as they sounded, were warm.

Heero stood. "I can’t stay, Relena," he stated flatly. "Our task is only half finished."

"I know that, Heero." There was just the faintest hint of sorrow in her expression, but the smile she gave was genuine. "You and your companions may stay here for as long as you need to. My palace and all of its facilities are at your disposal. Now will you introduce me to them?"

Her champion promptly turned and did just that.

There was nothing different about Heero’s face or his voice that was immediately apparent when he introduced Duo to his queen. All the same, I saw a tiny smile start to form on her face just at that moment. That more than anything, I felt, confirmed my speculations.

"Duo Maxwell and Quatre Winner." Relenad inclined her head toward them. "So you are from that other world?" The question was innocent enough.

Duo grinned at her. He didn’t seem at all bothered by Heero’s show of devotion toward the girl – a point in his favor, considering the postion of the Queen’s Champion. "Hey, where I come from, this place would be the ‘other world’."

Relena laughed out loud, and I knew then that things would work out fine.

"I need to make my report," Heero said to his queen. "Can you arrange for rooms for the others? I can join them later on."

"Of course." Relena moved to pull a silken cord, and a servant entered the room. "Please show our guests to the rooms I’ve had prepared," she instructed him.

"Yes, your Majesty." The man bowed, then turned to leave the room. "Right this way, please."

When I glanced back, Heero had moved toward the queen and was talking to her in quiet but firm tones. I turned my eyes forward again.

It’s always duty with him. The thought made me, unconsciously perhaps, tighten my hold on Quatre’s hand. He puts aside what he might want to do in favor of what’s best for his country and his queen. The one who shares his heart would have to understand and accept that. My gaze wandered to where Duo was happily irritating Wufei with a steady stream of cheerful chattering. I smiled. I think that one will do perfectly.

 

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