Dark Cloud Rising
Because Heero had the advantage of being slightly taller, Duo sat in front of him, both astride his dragon’s neck and wrapped in the cloak the older boy had worn earlier as Wu Fei flew them southward. Despite everything that had happened that morning, Duo was filled with a deeper feeling of contentment than he’d ever known. It felt wonderful being held in Heero’s strong arms and knowing that he was free of the northern riders. For the first time in a long while, since he’d been taken from his bed in the halls, that he’d truly felt this safe and secure.
Wu Fei informed his rider of his pleasure at being mated to Relena, and several times that morning he’d sought assurance from Duo that he was equally content. The long-haired rider assured his dragon that he was happier than he’d ever been before. Those first few hours in flight were spent with the newly-mated riders becoming reacquainted, each telling the other of all that had transpired during their separation.
When they had achieved a good distance from Cordith, Duo began to truly believe that he was finally beyond the reach of the northern riders and their schemes. He felt all tension ease from his shoulders and found himself smiling with contentment while he luxuriated in the warmth that came from Heero, pressed close against his back while they flew over the greening plains of Grannal. No other morning had never felt so wonderful, he decided. The rising sun brought a welcomed warmth to the Spring morning, and though sky was liberally dotted with small white clouds that cast gray shadows on the valley below and the wind was a bit too chill for comfort, nothing could dampen his happiness. He hadn’t enjoyed this type of freedom in so long that he’d almost forgotten what it felt like to be free, to breathe deeply and experience the thrill of wind rushing against his face as he flew on the back of his dragon.
With Howard and Garron riding on Rayer’s back and remaining at a discrete distance in front of them, Duo leaned back into Heero’s chest, enjoying his mate’s arms encircling him. He squirmed a bit when Heero’s chilled hands moved under his shirt and roamed upward, exploring his chest and touching any part of him that they could manage to reach.
"You’re wearing the shirt I bought you for the winter celebration," Heero said with his lips against Duo’s ear. "I’m glad."
The braided rider was distracted by the lips now nibbling on his earlobe. Tilting his head back just slightly to give Heero better access, he explained, "The rider who took me must have brought it with him. I didn’t know they had it until this morning."
The hands under his shirt reached higher, mapping his upper chest and shoulders. "Your body has changed. You’re taller and your shoulders are more broad." Heero sounded pleased with what he was learning from those wonderful hands that continued to tease his flesh.
"I... I spent each morning chopping wood for their... fire." Heero’s touch was arousing and made thinking and speaking quite difficult.
"You definitely feel strong."
Heero’s voice lowered as he said, "I can’t wait to see all of you."
Duo realized that although he’d seen Heero naked, if only briefly, he’d barely undressed during their mating. He recalled that only his britches had been lowered in order for them to join together. The hands on his skin paused just before Heero said into his ear, "Did they hurt you? The northerners have a reputation for being cruel."
"Not all of them are as cruel as we believed," Duo answered honestly. "But I was beaten twice. Once for disrespect and another time for trying to escape."
Heero’s arms tightened around him upon hearing Duo’s answer and his lips pressed fervently against his cheek. "I give you my pledge that I’ll do all I can to ease the memory of what happened to you this past winter."
Duo had no doubt that Heero would accomplish that very goal, for he was already forgetting all that had passed before when one of Heero’s hands moved slowly downward, past the waistband of his pants and began to rub the bulge growing beneath the cloth, his mate humming his pleasure as the mound stiffened under his touch.
Duo twisted his shoulders and head around to look into Heero’s face, sounding uncertain as he asked, "Heero, what if someone should see?"
Heero smiled reassuringly, kissed the tip of his mate’s nose and continued his gentle ministrations. Duo’s eyes closed as pleasure shot up from his groin to cloud his senses and quiet his reservations. "Our dragons don’t care," Heero told him, his lips moving against Duo’s forehead. "And Howard and Garron are far enough away not to see anything if my cloak should come loose. Besides, I want to touch you now that the dragons’ lust has passed. I’ve thought of little else since we kissed on the night you were taken from me."
Though his movements were restricted by the straps binding his leg to Wu Fei, Duo twisted himself as much as he could manage to give Heero a deep, needy and grateful kiss. He didn’t think he would ever tire of kissing his mate or become indifferent to those hands that were touching his body so intimatelyl. The memory of the brief kiss they shared on that night long ago had fueled all the dreams he’d had during the long insufferable nights at Cordith, but those dreams had all fallen short when compared to the lips now kissing him back. As he worked his mouth over Heero’s, teaching him from memory all the things he’d learned practicing with Quatre so many months ago, his mate’s hand worked at getting into his pants by loosening the laces. He was already stiff before the cool hand grasped hold of him and began to stroke, tease and explore every inch of his member.
Once again Duo was filled with an overwhelming need and desire for Heero, but this time the feelings were his own, not influenced by the powerful and blinding sensations that had come from Wu Fei’s strong need to mate. His position in front of Heero proved frustrating, however. The essential straps on his legs made it physically impossible for him to return Heero’s arousing touch, and he desperately wanted to give Heero the same pleasure he was receiving. Never in all his dreams had he envisioned something like this, being intimately touched while flying high in the sky on the back of his dragon. It excited him further to think that there might be even more ways of finding pleasure with his mate. He closed his eyes and lost himself in pleasurable turmoil Heero’s touch brought to his mind and body.
A short while later he learned that impromptu intimacy was messy, especially when it occurred on the back of a dragon and high above the ground. He was presented with the problem of what do with his spilt seed that was now splattered on his stomach, shirt, cloak and Heero’s hand. Since his shirt was already damp, he took Heero’s hand and wiped it against the fabric covering his stomach, then did his best to clean himself up.
"Sorry," Heero apologized with a deep chuckle, though his tone of voice was more amused than apologetic and his lips tickled Duo’s ear in a most pleasant manner.
Duo tilted his head back and sighed happily into a smile. "That’s all right. I guess it’ll dry by the time we get back."
"That’s what I’m hoping," Heero replied. "Your seed has been leaking out of me and onto my pants since I first stood up from the mating blanket."
Duo couldn’t help but see the humor of their situation. "I suppose if anyone needs proof that we were mated, they’ll be able to see and smell it."
"Ah," Heero grinned back. "But no one will. It will be late by the time we arrive back at the Halls and everyone there will be tired from the long day." Heero paused and then hummed his contentment, his arm tightening around his mate’s slender waist. "I’m looking forward to the five days we’ll have to ourselves. It’s tradition to allow this time for the newly mated to become better acquainted with each other. There’s no training or lessons during those five days for those who have taken a mate today."
"So for five days we can do what we want?" Duo asked, pleased with the idea.
"Yes. Anything we want."
Duo settled back into the warmth of Heero’s chest once more, feeling content and looking forward to the rest of his life. How odd, he thought, that he’d dreaded the coming Spring for so long and the mating the northern riders had planned for him. The prospect of his future had been grim and bleak when all that he could envision was a life with the northerner riders, of being lonely and longing for escape. What a difference a morning, a rescue and mating made. The difference, of course, was being mated to the right person, the person meant for him, and suddenly his future was anything but fearful and something to dread.
Only a short time had passed before Duo’s thoughts returned to the previous conversation, his curiosity roused. "So what do you want to do for the next five days?" he asked.
Heero chuckled, and with his lips brushing against his hair he answered, "I’m sure we’ll think of something."
As Heero predicted, it was dark when they returned to the familiar sight of the mountain that were known as the Dragon’s Spine. Though they had landed several times during the day to stretch their legs and switch from Wu Fei’s back to Relena’s, Duo’s legs and feet were numb from sitting for so long. It was during one brief rest that Duo learned from Wu Fei that the dragons of Amulah were following behind them, returning victorious from their battle. He also told his rider that the others were feeling jubilant at not suffering any losses and for the fact that they hadn’t had to kill any of the northern dragons while defending their retreat.
Torches had been set on top of the mountain, illuminating the palatial gardens and home of the king of Amulah. The many flickering flames acted as a beacon to the weary travelers and a welcoming sight to the dragons returning home in triumph. The sound of the dragons loudly greeting each other drew people from inside the castle and the Halls to their windows and balconies, looking for evidence that the journey to the North by their most skilled riders had been a success. Those who caught sight of the black dragon as he floated down towards the Halls like a shadow, his scales reflecting the torchlight, sent up a cheer that spread quickly and grew in volume.
"It’s your welcome home," Heero told him, pleased by the triumphal welcome. He pressed his face against the side of the braided rider’s head and held him close.
Duo remained quiet, his eyes wide as he tried to comprehend all that was happening and trying to control the overflow of emotions he felt at seeing the familiar walls of the palace, the Halls of Dornan and the city of Rydell below. He really was home. Hearing the shouts of happiness, seeing the welcoming waves from people filling the balconies, made it difficult to dismiss the lump forming in his throat. He clung to the arms surrounding him, using Heero to anchor his happy emotions.
Relena took the lead, guiding Wu Fei to their newly appointed lair, one tier up from where they had once nested.
//Rayer and his rider bid us a goodnight,// Wu Fei reported as he hovered in the air while Relena gently landed on the balcony’s edge. After she stepped down onto the hay-strewn floor, the black dragon followed.
Crouching down to allow her riders to climb down from her back, Duo felt Heero reach over to unstrap his legs from the bindings. Once that was task was accomplished, he then moved from behind Duo to climb down Relena’s side. Turning, he waited with their mating blanket tucked under his arm and satchel in his hand. for Duo to dismount. The long-haired rider moved a bit slower, feeling the aches and pains that came from not having flown on a dragon’s back for more than a short period of time during the last few months. When at last his feet touched the floor of the lair, his knees wobbled and threatened to buckle under him. Heero’s hand at his elbow caught him before he could stumble.
"Sorry," he said, embarrassed by his weakness and leaning heavily on his mate’s arm. "I haven’t ridden in a long time."
"You haven’t?" Heero asked, shocked by the statement. Though Duo had told him some of what had happened during the long winter, there was still more to tell.
"I wasn’t allowed to ride Wu Fei the entire time I was a prisoner on Cordith," Duo answered. "They were afraid I would run away if I did, so we were kept apart except for the brief visits. They chained Wu Fei to the wall of his lair in Muir each time I was brought to him."
Heero turned Duo by his shoulders and took him into his arms. "If you’re able, I’d like you to tell me everything that happened to you while you were there. I thought the worst and had nightmares that you were being hurt and abused."
Duo pulled back just enough to cup Heero’s face in his hands. "It’s behind us, Heero," he said, looking deeply into the dark blue eyes. "No matter what happened, I’m here now and that is what’s important." The truth of his consoling words struck a cord within himself, and despite his desire to remain unemotional, his vision blurred with unshed tears as he added, "And I’ve never been happier than I’ve been today."
Heero studied his mate’s eyes, and seeing the truth of Duo’s words his face softened and he drew closer, his head bending slightly and tilting to the side to place a gentle kiss on the braided rider’s lips.
Regardless of the intimate act and touch they’d shared earlier that day, the two young men had much to learn about each other. The sweet and gentle kiss seemed appropriate for the two about to enter their new room and life together. When Heero pulled back, he placed his forehead against Duo’s. "This is the happiest day of my life also. Welcome home," he said softly.
Duo chuckled. "I can’t begin to tell you what I feel being back here and with you."
Above them, the bellowing of dragons greeting and those returning home filled the night air. Wu Fei and Relena joined the chorus in welcoming the victorious dragons. Both young men looked up to see the shadowed forms of many dragons as they descended from the sky above the palace, making their way towards their lairs to for a much deserved rest.
Heero sighed with contentment. "They’ve returned safely," he said, taking Duo by the hand. "Come inside. Garron told me a couple of days ago that the room had been prepared for us."
A thought lingered in his mind as both riders bid their dragons a good night. Following Heero to the door that led to their room, Duo asked, "Garron truly believed that your attempt to rescue me would work?"
"We all had high hopes of being successful. For myself, I was determined not to come back without you."
Duo wanted ask Heero why he’d felt that so strongly about rescuing him because it was still difficult for him to comprehend how Heero could feel so deeply for him, considering that he’d once been Ha’ber’s dark cloud. Yet after entering the candle lit room that had been prepared for their return, his questions faded away and he stopped short, taking in the sight of the large bed centered against the left wall. A blanket that looked like it had come from his village lay on top of the mattress along with two, soft-looking pillows that were inviting. His gaze swept across the contents of the room, noting the two chests for clothing, two small tables placed on either side of the bed and a longer one against the far wall. Each held metal candle holders with long candlesticks that were lit and casting a warm glow. The table against the far wall held a pitcher and bowl for cleansing with several towels neatly folded next to it. Duo’s lips turned up in a smile as he saw the tapestry he’d brought from Ha’ber tacked onto the wall above that long table. He could see that some effort had indeed gone into the preparing of this shared room, and not only for him. Around the room were things he didn’t recognize, and he realized they must belong to Heero. The blending of both their lives, if viewed by their joint possessions in this one room, seemed well matched and in harmony with each other. The final touch of warmth was the fire blazing in the hearth that was set against the right wall. He’d thought his room as a fledgling was remarkable, but this room surpassed anything he’d ever hoped to have. He watched as Heero stepped forward and set the mating blanket down on the end of the bed, then turned to him with a grin.
A sudden knock sounded on the door to the hallway. Before either of them could answer the door swung open and a line of servers entered the private chamber carrying a large metal bath and buckets of water. One of the servers stopped to address the two young men.
"Greetings to you, young riders, and congratulations," he said, bowing from the waist. "Master Garron has order a hot bath to be brought to your room. He believes that our newly returned rider will have need of it after such a long journey. Your evening meal is being readied and will be brought to you also. Is there anything else we can bring for you tonight?"
Duo watched the two servers carrying a metal bathing vessel set it down to the right of the hearth. Once it had been place, they bowed their heads to the two riders, then quickly left the room, leaving the other servers began to begin filling the container with their buckets of water. Two more servers entered the room, carrying trays laden with food and drink.
"I think we have everything we need. Thank you, Gil," Heero answered, receiving a grin from the server. The man’s eyes then strayed to Duo, his smile remaining sincere as he said, "Welcome back, rider of the black dragon."
"Thank you," Duo replied, pleased by the man’s pleasant welcome.
Gil turned and began to direct the other servers, entering the room only to empty their steaming buckets of water into the bathing vessel. While that process continued, Duo walked over to the trays of food that had been set on the long table, the candlesticks and the wash basin set to the far sides. His mouth watered at the assortment of food presented, smelling as good as it looked. After eating the same three meals each and every day during the past months, he felt like a starving man receiving his first meal after being deprived for a long while. "Are you sure I’m not dreaming?" he asked, gazing hungrily at the feast.
"I’ll prove to you that you’re not," Heero answered, his voice low and suggestive. At the touch of a hand moving around his waist, Duo quickly slipped out of its reach. "Oh no you don’t," he said with a nervous laugh and evading his mate’s hands. He spun around with a grin and put his hands up to defend himself from the advancing man. "I’m starving and I need both food and bath." He was telling Heero the truth. He was hollow with hunger and the pain in his rebelling stomach was becoming unbearable.
It appeared as though Heero hadn’t taken offense at his evasiveness, for his smile was pleasant when he conceded. "Very well. Let’s eat, bathe and get some rest."
Duo’s gaze turned back to the large bed, feeling both longing and some nervousness. Sleeping with Heero every night was very appealing, yet by the heat of Heero’s gaze he doubted that after he’d eaten and bathed he’d be resting for some time yet to come. Being as tired as was, he could only hope that he was up to pleasing his mate.
While washing his hands and face, the servers finished filling the bath and Heero thanked the departing men. "Best of all wishes to you both," Gil said, as he shut the door, following behind his fellow servers after they’d exited the room.
Heero moved to the basin of water and splashed water on his face and hand, then used a cloth at the side of the bowl to dry himself. Duo followed his example and refreshed himself also, then together the two filled their platters high with food and sat in front of the fire to eat most of the food that had been set out for them. Between mouthfuls, the long-haired rider told Heero of his limited diet in Cordith, and of how he’d dearly missed the food that was served in the dining room of the Halls of Dornan.
Once they’d eaten their fill, Heero set aside their platters then moved closer and wrapped his arms around his mate. While Duo’s neck was being kissed, he felt a tug at the end of his braid and realized Heero was loosening his hair tie. He closed his eyes as the kisses moved upward and his braid was unwound by fingers carefully combing through his long, brown tresses. Yes, he thought, life with Heero was undoubtedly going to be a very pleasurable experience. Even with that thought in mind, Duo blushed with embarrassment as Heero’s hands moved forward and began to unfasten his clothing with the intent of undressing him. Taking a clue from his mate, Duo turned to copy his actions and worked to remove Heero’s clothing as well.
Both riders were relieved to finally divest themselves of their stiff and odorous garments. Their sullied clothing was left in a pile on the floor as Heero took his mate’s hand and led him to the bathing vessel and waited for Duo to climb in before he joined him.
They settled on opposite ends of the large wash basin, smiling shyly at each other. Though they’d bathed together many times before, neither rider had bathed exclusively with anyone else, nor in such an intimate setting.
Unable to resist the lure of the heated water, Duo lowered his body down into the water, his legs settling on either side of Heero’s hips. "I haven’t words to tell you how good this feels," he sighed with obvious pleasure. "I haven’t had a bath since I was taken from here."
"You haven’t?" Heero sounded shocked, but Duo decided not to take offense. Nothing was going to diminish the pleasure of the hot water surrounding his body. He was sure he’d never take bathing for granted ever again.
"If they had a bath of some kind in Cordith, I never saw it. Besides, it was too cold there to take your clothes off," he murmured with a purr and the water lapped at his chin. "Had to chip ice off the bucket of water each time I wanted to wash."
For a stretch of time the two boys sat without speaking but nevertheless enjoyed their time together. Duo, eyes closed, luxuriated in the hot bath while Heero enjoyed the tantalizing view of his mate, with his long hair fanning around the pale body that rested just under the surface of the water.
"Let me help you wash your hair," Heero offered. "I’ve wanted to do that ever since the day when I watched Quatre wash it for you."
Duo opened his eyes and smiled at the notion of Heero having had such thoughts of him. "All right."
"Turn around and sit in front of me."
Realizing exactly what position Heero wanted him to take, Duo blushed again as he moved to the indicated spot, though not so close that their bodies touched. Once seated between Heero’s parted legs, he felt his shoulders nudged. "Lean back into the water and wet the top of your head." With a hand bracing the back of his head, Duo slid his bottom down so he could comply with Heero’s request. He paused as the warm water encircled his face, looking up at Heero’s upside down and grinning face. He couldn’t help but return the smile and received a tender kiss to his forehead just before he rose out of the water once more, his entire head completely wet. Eased back into place by sturdy hands, Duo held his breath as he brushed up against the insides of Heero’s thighs. But when soaped fingers began to wend their way through his wet mass of hair, he relaxed completely, closed his eyes once more and lost himself in the pleasure of Heero’s touch. Heero most definitely had magic in his hands, he decided.
Heero was thorough, and not only was every inch of hair paid attention to, but so was Duo’s scalp. He couldn’t help the moan of pleasure that escaped him from having those dutiful fingers gently messaging his weary head. The long eventful day suddenly caught up with him and a feeling of utter exhaustion filled both his mind and body. As his thoughts began to fade, Heero’s soaped-filled hands shifted, and moved from his hair to his shoulders and over the tops of his upper arms and chest. The touch of Heero’s hands on his body was relaxing and yet stimulating. The long-haired rider sighed deeply, simply enjoying the moment.
Those wonderful hands then pulled at his soap-slicked shoulders until he leaned back further, resting against Heero’s chest, his head finding a place to settle on a strong shoulder. He was acutely aware of something solid against his posterior, but Heero’s hands kept moving, easing any lingering tension in his body. After a short while, he relaxed into the new position completely and closed his eyes and gave into his weariness and the wonderful feeling of being safe and cared for.
He hadn’t realized he’d dozed off until he heard Heero’s voice whispering his name in his ear. "What?" he asked, sitting up abruptly and blinking his eyes to focus on his surroundings.
"We need to rinse your hair before the water becomes too chill." Duo nodded and followed Heero’s instructions to lower himself back into the water. He turned himself and his hair completely over to the other rider. When Heero decided he’d gotten as much of the soap out of the hair as he could, he gathered the long hair and began to twist it, wringing out the excess moisture, then held the long tail up and out of the water and instructed Duo to stand. As Duo grabbed the sides of the bathing vessel and rose out of the water, his back became visible to his mate, rising behind him. Wet hair fell against his back as firm hands abruptly grabbed his hips and held him in place while Heero studied his back.
"What are these markings?" A finger lightly traced one of several long, raised and colorless stripes on his lower back.
"There from the beatings I received," he replied with a long yawn, then glanced over his shoulder to see his mate staring at the stripes on his back. "The first one was the worst of two, but the welts are healed and no longer cause me any pain."
Heero’s head disappeared out of his view as he moved forward for a closer inspection. Still held in place by his grip, Duo was confused by Heero’s silence. He jumped, slightly startled, when a gentle finger touched his skin, tracing one and then each of the marks that had become permanent reminder of his winter in the north. Once each line had been traced, the warm finger was replaced by warm lips tenderly following the same path the finger had a moment before. Duo recalled well enough the burning pain he’d once experienced from those welts inflicted by Finn and then Quinze. Yet now the seared memory of those punishments were being replaced by Heero as he kissed away the pain that had remained only in his mind. He closed his eyes and lost himself to the tenderness of each kiss. Despite the fact that he was naked, as was his mate, and that the other rider was kissing his wounds, creating another intimate memory, that deep feeling of weariness settled over him once more.
In his stupor of exhaustion, he hadn’t realized Heero had finished, nor that he’d been lead out of the bathing vessel until he felt a hand on his arm guiding him across the carpeted floor. He stood, swaying slightly while his mate placed him in front of the fire in the hearth and began to towel off his body. Once he was sufficiently dry, his mate placed a night shirt over his head and pulled it down to cover his goose pimpled flesh. Heero sat him in a cushioned chair adjacent to the warm fire that softened the chill of the evening air, and only then did he move to dry and dress himself for bed. Pulling the night shirt over his head, Heero said, "I’ll brush your hair and then we’ll go to bed."
Too tired to reply, Duo nodded, enjoying once again the unusual feeling of contentment as a brush was pulled through his long, damp hair. He could only hum his pleasure at being cosseted, cared for and loved. All sense of time was lost as Heero slowly brushed his hair so thoroughly that there wasn’t a snag or pull when at last it was dry enough to re-braid.
"Finished." Heero declared as he tied off the end of the braid. The Duo felt his hands clasped and he was reluctantly pulled to his feet. "Come now, our bed awaits."
He didn’t remember climbing into the bed, nor having the blankets pulled over his body, but he was aware of being pulled into strong arms, of his head pillowed on a shoulder. Heero smelled of soap and cleanliness, and it was those very pleasant scents that promptly followed him into his dreams.