After The Fire


"After the fire, the fire still burns,
the heart grows older, but never, ever learns.
The memories smolder, the soul always yearns.
After the fire, the fire still burns."

"After the Fire" by Pete Townshend


Not so long ago, Zechs Marquise would not have come to a place like this. He'd have ignored this little bar, dark and personal, on the unfashionable side of town. He would have chosen a place where crowds danced to loud music under glittering lights. But war and loss and age had made him crave solitude, silence. Though a stranger's loneliness threatened to drown him like the rain sluicing down outside, he still sought out a place where other humans would not impinge too far on him.

He shook the rain off his coat before draping it over the back of the booth. Sliding into the seat, he smoothed his long, platinum hair behind his ears out of habit. He looked around the dark bar. A piano and saxophone combo played soft jazz on a tiny stage in the corner. A few couples occupied other tables, and a solitary businesswoman read a novel over her dinner.

With a sigh, he decided that he actually would like some company. He hadn't become anti-social, just extremely selective about his companions. The crush of sycophants that surrounded his sister was one reason he had left Relena's court—call it what she wanted, claiming she only held civilian office, it was still a court. He didn't want mindless admiration from toadies who cared nothing for him, only for his position. Nor did he want constantly to explain himself, his feelings, his motivations. Better to be alone than to suffer fools.

A waitress approached Zechs, smiling in obvious appreciation as she realized his face and body matched the magnificence of his hair. "What can I get for you tonight?"

He smiled in return. "Just coffee, I think." He knew from experience it wasn't a good night to begin drinking.

She walked away and he finished his survey of the bar. One couple decided to brave the autumn storm, the girl squealing as they stepped out into the downpour. The door opened again, and a slight figure dashed in out of the rain. Zechs' first thought was appreciation; the young man had a slim, elfin quality about him that he'd always found attractive. Then the newcomer turned, waved at the waitress as though he were a regular, and walked toward a seat near the musicians. He caught a glimpse of wide eyes, deep indigo in the low lights. A long, brown braid hung down his back past his waist. Recognition jolted Zechs. What was an ex-Gundam pilot doing here?

The waitress brought his coffee.

"Thank you. It smells wonderful."

"Coffee's good here. Food, too, if you're interested." She lingered a moment, waiting.

"I'll keep that in mind." He flashed her his dazzling, princely smile. "That young man who just came in. He looks familiar. Do you know him?"

"Duo?" She rolled her eyes. "He's in here a couple of nights a week, when he can afford it. Little bit of trouble, that's what he is." She smiled again, like an indulgent parent. "No, really. He's a good kid. Behaves himself, most of the time. Tips good when he can."

Zechs looked past the waitress to the booth where Duo Maxwell stretched out across the seat, hands locked behind his head, listening with half-closed eyes to the rambling jazz. "What does he drink?"

"Coffee." She raised her eyebrows. "Just like you."

"Yes," Zechs murmured. "Like me." He pulled his gaze away from the young man, looked up at the waitress. "Would you be so kind as to serve him a cup of this excellent coffee with my compliments?"

She winked at him. "You got it, sugar. Good luck. You'll need it." She left him alone again.

What did she mean, he would need luck? He shrugged off her puzzling comment, redirecting his attention to the former Gundam pilot. His face had lost its childish roundness and he seemed a bit taller, although he remained small for his age. A simple white button-down shirt and jeans replaced the familiar black costume. But those eyes, that hair—the pretty child had grown into a remarkable young man. Zechs ran his long fingers along the edge of the scarred wooden table, wondering what chance had brought his old enemy here tonight.

The waitress reappeared, delivering coffee to Duo's table. He saw the young man frown slightly as the waitress undoubtedly explained. Duo glanced toward Zechs, his expression dark and dangerous. Zechs met his glare with a cool intensity of his own, and the violet eyes widened in shock. Zechs raised his cup, bowing his head slightly in a silent salute. After a moment's hesitation, Duo picked up his own cup and crossed the floor. He slid into the opposite seat.

"So, Milliard Peacecraft. You're just about the last person I'd expect to see in here." Duo lifted the cup to his lips. "Thanks for the coffee." He drank, watching Zechs warily over the rim.

"Please. Call me Zechs." He shivered slightly. "I really have no desire to be connected with my sister's machinations. Whatever they are at the moment." Although they had tried valiantly, the Peacecraft siblings did not get on together. Relena enjoyed being a politician, and Zechs found he had completely lost his taste for intrigue. It was but one of the things he'd lost after Treize's death.

Duo smiled, a slightly crooked grin that had only an echo of the cockiness Zechs remembered. "All right, then. Zechs."

Zechs noticed the young man didn't refer to Relena at all, and he wondered if the rumors about Duo and Relena's betrothed held any truth. If so, then Heero Yuy was a fool. Zechs drank in the waiflike features of the young man opposite him. Duo hadn't been wearing a coat when he came in out of the rain, and his damp shirt clung to him, revealing a body that was muscular for all its slenderness. Zechs' gaze traveled down the open neck of Duo's shirt to the thumbprint hollow at the base of his throat. Through the wet cloth, he could see the tiny nubs of the young man's nipples, erect from the cold.

Zechs felt his gaze drawn back to those violet eyes, and this time, he noticed the dark smudges beneath them. The boy looked tired, he realized. And sad. His slim fingers wrapped around the coffee cup as if he tried to absorb all the warmth he could from it. A pang of sympathy twisted in Zechs' belly.

"What are you doing now?" Zechs surprised himself by feeling genuinely curious. What did a warrior do when the war ended? He hadn't been able to answer that question for himself.

Duo shrugged. "Not much. Had a few jobs, but nothing real steady. I just can't get used to being grounded, I guess." He laughed, but the shadow in his eyes made Zechs think that he wasn't joking.

"It's been hard for me, too." Zechs heard the things Duo hadn't said aloud. "Are you alone?"

Duo's eyes widened, startled. "Well…yeah, I am…but why…?"

Zechs sighed. "I suppose I wondered if you'd managed better than I. I find myself uncomfortable in this new, peaceful world."

"Me, too." A look of relief washed across Duo's face. "Man, I haven't been able to say that to anyone else. They'd think I was crazy. After all, it's what we fought for, right? But I just don't feel like I fit anywhere. Y'know?" He looked hard at Zechs, his eyes full of hope that someone would at last understand him.

"Yes, I do know. A warrior prince is superfluous in this day of world nations and total pacifism."

"So's a Gundam pilot. They just want to forget we ever existed." Duo stared out the window at the front of the bar, watching the rain streak the glass like a flood of bitter tears.

"We're an uncomfortable reminder to them, a reflection of their darkest natures. No wonder they want to forget about us."

"Well, I can't forget."

Zechs sipped his own coffee. "Nor can I."

Duo shivered, rubbing his hands on his arms.

"You're cold." Zechs thought of all the ways he would like to warm that delicious little body. His jeans suddenly felt far too constricting.

"It's kind of chilly in here." Duo watched Zechs through his bangs, his voice suddenly tentative, almost shy. "Do you want to go someplace warmer?"

Zechs smiled, a little amused by Duo's hesitation. He'd have thought someone with the boy's looks would have been used to picking up partners. Then he remembered the angry glare when he'd bought him coffee and the waitress's warning. Perhaps not.

Zechs stood and put on his coat. "My hotel is across town."

"My place is just around the corner, 'bout a block down." Duo's cheeks flushed. "Zechs…"

Zechs reached down and pulled the young man to his feet. He tilted Duo's chin up toward him, leaned close until their lips almost brushed. "I know that you don't make a habit of this. You don't have to tell me."

Duo's mouth quivered slightly as Zechs' warm breath brushed across his lips. "How do you know what I'm thinking?"

Zechs lifted a wet lock of hair off the younger man's cheek. "Because we're two of a kind, Duo Maxwell."

"Oh, sure." He laughed, his voice shaky. "More like the prince and the pauper."

"You'll catch cold if we stand here much longer. Let's go." Zechs fished a few bills out of his pocket and left them on the table. He slipped an arm around Duo's thin shoulders, led him toward the door. They went out together, and as Zechs turned to pull the door shut behind them, he saw the waitress flash him a smile and thumbs up.

The rain had slowed to a steady drizzle, and street lamps glowed blue through the watery haze. Cars splashed past, anonymous in the dark. Zechs drew Duo close to his side, enjoying the feel of the lithe body pressed against him. His fingers toyed with the long braid.

He'd always thought Duo alluring. He and Treize had sometimes amused themselves by speculating on the merits of each of the Gundam pilots, and of the five, Duo had been his own favorite topic. Of course, Treize could speak from experience in at least one case, but that pain had almost faded, like an old scar that's more familiar than troublesome. Still, perhaps he could finally even the score, write the end to their competition. Fool, he chided himself. Treize is dead, and you still can't let it go.

Half way down the block, they turned the corner onto a quieter street. As they passed under a store-front awning, Zechs pushed Duo against the wall in the recessed doorway of the closed, shuttered business. He knew it was a chance, being this bold, but he was willing to gamble that Duo would respond to a show of strength.

"Zechs?" The smallest hint of fear tarnished Duo's voice.

You're taking a risk. What if he doesn't want this? Zechs ignored the voice in his mind and pulled Duo into his arms, pressed his mouth against the boy's velvet lips. He traced them with his tongue, gently working them open. As he tongued Duo deeply, he ran his hands along the young man's back, cupping his rear. The kiss grew hotter as Duo responded, searching out Zechs' mouth with his own tongue. Zechs groaned, then slid one hand down the front of Duo's jeans, rubbing firmly until he felt Duo's erection swell against his hand.

His own breathing became difficult as he made a decision. If he hadn't read this little ex-pilot as well as he thought, he could very well find himself with his throat ripped out. His fingers pulled on the boy's zipper, giving him the access he craved. Still devouring that hungry mouth, he worked Duo's jeans down around his hips, sliding a hand down the back of his waist to caress a bare buttock. The other hand invaded the front of Duo's open jeans. Duo gasped and bucked as Zechs' fingers brushed the swollen head of his cock, and Zechs felt a sudden wet droplet oil his fingertips. Smiling at the boy's response, he wrapped his hand around the young man's shaft and pumped him slowly.

"Shit…Zechs…" Duo groaned as Zechs increased his speed. "What if someone sees us?"

Zechs lifted his hand off Duo's backside, tugging his jeans and underwear to his thighs. "Then they'll see what they're missing, because I won't share you." Zechs reached behind Duo's bare ass, sliding his fingers down the divide between the globes of his bottom until he found the small opening there. He swirled his middle finger around the rim, pushing steadily on the closed ring of muscle. Swallowing Duo's moans, he slowly worked the tip of his finger inside up to his first knuckle.

"How would you feel if someone were watching this?" Zechs murmured, his mouth against Duo's. With his other hand, he pushed down the front of Duo's jeans so that he stood completely bare from his waist to his thighs, only Zechs' body blocking him from being exposed to anyone on the street. A sense of power rushed through him at having Duo so totally in his control. Zechs stroked Duo's quivering cock, rubbing the sensitive ridge with perfect pressure. "What if I moved aside and let everyone see what I'm doing to you?"

"God, Zechs…" Duo rocked his hips, pushing back against Zechs' invading finger, rubbing his hardness against the prince's other hand. Zechs let him find his rhythm, working his finger farther inside as Duo rocked against him. "Don' care…just don't stop…"

"So sweet," Zechs whispered against Duo's ear. "And so hot. How long has it been for you, little one?"

"A l-long time." Duo shivered against him, but not from cold, Zechs guessed. "Not since…not since Heero…"

"Poor, hungry baby." Zechs took control again, fucking Duo's ass with his finger and pumping his cock in a choreography of lust.

Duo whimpered, his answer rendered unintelligible by desire. He slumped into Zechs, his arms weakly circled around the tall man's neck. Zechs used his own body and the wall behind them to support him, afraid he'd fall otherwise. With his finger buried to the hilt in Duo's body, he searched for the seat of his pleasure. As he brushed against the hidden treasure, he continued to pump the swollen, twitching cock with his other hand. He felt the lean, little body tense on the edge of ecstasy, needing only a nudge to fall over the precipice. Zechs thrust hard into the tight entrance, rubbing his hand along the length of the dripping shaft. With a sob, muffled against Zechs' coat, Duo exploded into Zechs' hand. Zechs felt his partner's knees fold under the violence of his orgasm and quickly freed his hands, sliding them around Duo's slender waist, holding him up.

"D-damn." Duo panted against his chest, still shaking from the aftershocks of his passion.

Zechs pulled up the young man's jeans, careful of his still-sensitive shaft. He took his handkerchief out of his coat pocket, cleaned them both up, then zipped Duo's pants. Before he released him, Zechs planted another kiss on the young man's swollen lips, this one as tender as he had been demanding only moments before.

"I'm sorry, Duo. That was presumptuous of me." He nuzzled his cheek against the brown hair. "I just couldn't wait to touch you."

"S'okay." Duo still leaned against him. "I didn't mind."

Zechs chuckled deep in his throat. "You didn't seem to." He wrapped his arms around the fragile-looking form. God, he'd been so eager—but so unsure of himself at the same time. Doubt suddenly assaulted him. Had he moved too quickly? He'd been so hungry himself for the feel of that sweet flesh. He really hadn't given the boy a chance to object. Treize would have handled this better. Treize…

He choked, unconsciously tightening his hold on Duo. As if he sensed his partner's anguish, Duo looked up at his face, a line of concern drawn between his brows. "Zechs? What's wrong?"

"Nothing." He released his hold, but Duo sidled up to him again. Relenting, he put his arm around the slim waist. "I was only thinking."

"Then stop it. Too much thinking isn't good for a person." He grinned up at Zechs, the cheeky, exuberant smile that he remembered.

"Excellent advice. Now, I've kept you out in the wet far too long. Where is this place of yours?"


Duo's hand shook slightly as he unlocked the door of his apartment. He felt Zechs' warm body behind him, a bulwark between him and the dismal night, and he thought he'd never get the door open soon enough. He fumbled with the key, swearing nervously, knowing that he looked like an idiot.

Zechs reached around him and took the key out of his hand, fitting it into the lock without difficulty. Duo started to turn the deadbolt when he felt Zechs' lips brush the back of his neck. He almost collapsed into the door.

"You gotta stop that." He swallowed and took a deep breath, steadying himself. "Or do you just have a thing for doorways?"

"I have a thing for you," his blond knight murmured against his ear.

Duo closed his eyes. He didn't understand it, but every time Zechs touched him, he felt consumed. He'd been lost from the moment he'd seen him across the bar. It seemed to him he'd been pulled across the floor by the sheer force of the man's presence. He could no more have resisted Zechs downstairs on the street than he could have held off a unit of Leos without his Gundam. And he didn't want to. That part surprised him. He hadn't wanted anyone since…Heero.

Heero. Duo clenched his fist, feeling the urge to punch something, his usual response when he thought of his ex-lover.

"Duo?" Zechs turned the deadbolt for him. "Are you all right?" The taller man laid his hand on Duo's shoulder. "If you don't want me to stay, you only have to say so."

"Don't be a dope. I wouldn't have brought you here if I didn't want you to stay." He finally got the door open. "C'mon in."

For a second, his hand hesitated over the light switch. The place really looked better in the dark, especially to someone used to palaces. At least he had a decent view. He liked looking at the city at night. Oh hell. Screw the lights.

He took Zechs' coat and hung it in the narrow closet by the door, rubbing the soft wool between his fingers. That coat probably cost more than he'd made in months. What could a guy like Zechs want with a street rat like him?

Zechs had gravitated to the huge window that dominated the room. He stood looking out at the city, one hand resting lightly against the glass. In the darkness, his platinum hair glowed like a beacon, his features shadowed and still beneath the moonlight curtain of his hair. Even in jeans, a casual shirt, and loose tie, he looked like a prince. Duo's stomach jumped as though he'd just been thrown into zero-g.

"It reminds me of space." Zechs gazed out at the glittering pinpoints of light.

"Me, too." Duo stole behind Zechs, boldly wrapping his arms around the man's waist. Zechs took his hands and pulled him tight against his back, folding his own arms over Duo's. Duo rested his head against Zechs' shoulder. "That's the reason I like it here. It's as close as I can get to the real thing."

"Do you miss it that much?" Zechs rubbed his thumb across Duo's wrist. "Why don't you go back?"

"Didn't you know?" A year's worth of bitterness distilled in his voice. "Relena grounded us. We're a 'threat to the peace of the Earth and the colonies.' They want us where they can keep an eye on us. We can't even leave the planet without a special permit. Except for Heero, of course. And Quatre. I guess he's got more money than her, so he can get around her. But me, I'm nobody. So I'm stuck."

"I'm sorry, Duo. I didn't know she'd be so vindictive." Zechs sounded sad, but not surprised. "It must be hell for you."

"I'm getting used to it."

"Liar." Zechs turned and pulled Duo into his arms. "You're like me. How can we expect a planet to contain us when infinity couldn't?"

Duo's eyes burned and his throat constricted. "Zechs…talk about something else."

Zechs cupped his hands around Duo's face. "As you wish." He leaned down and kissed him, long and sweet. "Better yet, let's not talk at all."

He dropped his hands to Duo's damp shirt, slowly unbuttoning it, sliding it off his shoulders, then peeled off his jeans with equal care. Zechs stepped back, studying Duo's body. Duo thought that he should have felt self-conscious, standing naked before his prince this way, but instead he felt as though he had been born for this moment.

"Take down your hair for me, little one." Zechs smoothed his palm over Duo's shoulder, watching intently as Duo obeyed. When Duo had finished, Zechs raked his fingers through the thick tresses, wrapping the strands around his hand. Duo tipped back his head, bemused by the electricity that sparked through his spine. No one had ever treated his hair as though it were more than an annoyance, but Zechs acted as if it were a toy, something that existed only for his pleasure. Zechs made a leash of the absurdly long lock in his grasp and tugged Duo toward him.

Duo felt his will dissolve as he melted into the embrace. He freely submitted to the hands that roamed over his body, arousing him as thoroughly as if they hadn't brought him to climax scant minutes ago. Zechs bent slightly, sliding one arm under his knees, another behind his back, scooping him up as easily as though he were a child. Duo nuzzled against the pillar of his neck, nipping at the tender flesh. His prince tipped back his head, his blond hair spilling over his shoulder onto Duo's chest. It brushed against his aching nipples, teasing him like a whip of silk threads.

"Where's your bed, my darling?" Zechs punctuated the question by lapping at Duo's ear, laving it with his tongue.

Duo arched his spine at the warm, wet touch. "In there." He pointed to his bedroom door.

Zechs laid him on the mattress. For a moment, he merely stood over Duo, looking at him with heavy-lidded eyes. Then he bent over him, gently lifting Duo's wrists, stretching his arms over his head. He removed his necktie and lightly bound his wrists together. Duo's breath quickened. He never thought to question Zechs' right to control him. This was his prince, and what his prince commanded must be so.

Zechs smiled, rubbing his thumb lightly across the boy's lips. Duo flicked his tongue along the pad, feeding off the taste of his lord's flesh. Zechs allowed him to suckle for a moment, then rubbed his wet thumb over Duo's nipples, teasing them until his poor subject squirmed and whimpered.

"Shhh." His blond god laid a hand on his belly to still him. Again, he obeyed without question. Zechs reached under his knees, lifting them, positioning him with his knees bent and spread wide. He leaned down, delivering a trail of kisses along the tender flesh of Duo's inner thighs. "Do you have any wine?"

"Huh?" Duo blinked, confused.

"Wine." Zechs traced his fingers over Duo's hip, up his side with a teasing, ticklish pressure. "Do you have a bottle here?"

"In the f-fridge." Duo drew a stuttering breath.

"Don't move," his prince commanded him, leaving him lying open and vulnerable. Duo heard the refrigerator door open and shut. He closed his eyes, waiting. He felt the bed give and looked up to see Zechs pouring a glass of white wine. "Drink," he ordered, holding the glass to Duo's lips.

Duo opened his mouth and a trickle of cold, sweet wine played across his tongue. He swallowed, and again as Zechs poured yet another libation. Zechs tipped the glass a third time, but not into his mouth. He gasped as the chilled wine splashed across his nipples, groaning as a warm tongue lapped it up, swirling circles around the sensitive nubs of flesh. Zechs poured a thin stream from Duo's chest to his navel, following the trail with his mouth, the paradox of cold and warm wetness making the boy wild with need.

Duo tensed, waiting for the chilly contact against his belly. When it came, he twitched and moaned despite his efforts to prepare himself. He felt the wine trickle maddeningly between his legs, his body igniting as he imagined Zechs' mouth drinking from him there. Zechs moved his lips over the quivering flesh of his belly, their touch firm and heated. He sucked the drops that pooled in Duo's navel, swirling his tongue into the delicate indentation until Duo felt the pressure clear through his groin.

Zechs poured another glass. He slipped a hand under the back of Duo's head, carefully lifting him a little off the bed. He offered a sip of wine, then took one himself, then placed the glass against Duo's lips yet again. Silently, eyes locked in an inferno of desire, they shared the wine until the glass emptied. Then his prince gently lowered Duo's head back onto the bed and filled the glass a third time.

Duo's chest constricted, and he gasped for breath, anticipation torturing him. Zechs made him wait, drawing the cold glass along his inner thighs, the curves of his buttocks. Duo shivered, straining upward with his hips. He heard his own voice, as if from a great distance, begging softly. Without warning, Zechs tipped the glass, bathing Duo's genitals in a rush of cold wine. The shock of the chill liquid made him cry out, but the wail died to a moan as his prince began to suck the wine from his shaft, licking the drops with long, provoking strokes of his tongue. His head spun from the wine and his yearning, his entire existence suddenly focused on the firm, arrogant mouth that engulfed him.

Zechs cupped Duo's knees with his powerful hands, pushing them back, exposing him more fully than ever. Duo wriggled, wanting to touch the silken strands of hair that tantalized his belly and thighs. Zechs shook his head, pressing Duo's bound hands back to their place on the bed. Accepting the precious opportunity to lie helpless beneath his prince's desire, Duo willingly allowed himself to be controlled.

Zechs teased his shaft with his fingers until the hard length twitched against his hand as if it had its own life. He bent low, licking the drops that leaked steadily from the tiny slit as though they were of a sweeter vintage than the wine. Still spreading Duo's legs with one hand, he took the nearly empty wine bottle in the other. Patting Duo's thigh in an unspoken command to hold his position, he poured the last drops of wine from the glass down the crevice between Duo's upturned buttocks. Duo's eyes widened as he realized how Zechs intended to use the bottle, a last protest dying unborn on his lips as the cold glass pressed against his entrance.

Zechs pushed slowly but inexorably against him. He shuddered, his body resisting the onslaught, but his prince was unrelenting. The warmth of flesh juxtaposed with the hard chill of the bottle as a finger worked into him, opening his gate to the battering ram of glass. The round mouth of the bottle entered him, and he tried to escape the burning pain that accompanied its invasion. Whimpering, he pulled his hips back, but Zechs pushed another inch of the bottle past his protesting muscles. He screwed his eyes shut, breathing in shallow gasps, as his prince ruthlessly plundered him.

The feather touch of fingers on his cheek startled him, and he opened his eyes. Zechs watched him from within the veil of his fine hair. "Shhhh, baby," he said, his voice soothing. "Trust me that I won't harm you. And if you cannot take this slender bit of glass, how can you possibly hope to take me?"

Duo closed his eyes again. It had always been his secret shame, this need to be controlled, to be instructed. He wanted nothing so much as to belong completely to someone. He couldn't question how Zechs seemed to know, how he saw into Duo's soul and drew the need out of him. He only knew that in obedience to his prince he might find salvation.

He gave himself over to the burning pressure between his buttocks, relaxing until the sensation of being filled became first pleasure and then ecstasy. Zechs fucked him slowly with the bottle, pulling it out until the ridged lip stretched him open, then pushing it into him, the smooth glass walls slick with wine, the long neck of the bottle completely buried in his body.

With a last, gentle push, Zechs worked the bottle into him more deeply than ever. "Now, little one, keep it there," he ordered, untying Duo's wrists as he spoke. The bottle slipped out of him a little despite his efforts to hold it in place, and he raised his eyes to his prince in mute apology. Tell me…tell me what to do. I'll do anything you tell me…

"It's all right, darling. You will learn." Zechs guided his hands to the bottle, placed them around its girth. "Push," he commanded, his voice low and husky.

Duo obeyed, recovering the length he had lost.


Gritting his teeth, he pushed down with his hips as his hands held the bottle steady. He could feel himself stretching wider as the diameter of the bottle swelled.

"Far enough."

Duo felt himself sweating with the effort of holding the glass column inside him.

"Excellent." Zechs bent to kiss the swollen head of his cock, jutting in a hard, aching pillar from its soft nest of chestnut curls. A warm flood of pleasure washed him at Zechs' words, and he realized how much he had feared disappointing his prince.

Zechs pried his hands off the bottle that still thrust into him. "Let me watch you pleasure yourself, my little one. Show me how you like to be touched."

The last vestige of his will dissipated under his prince's gentle command. Craving only his master's approval, Duo obeyed, pumping his erection with abandon even as his ass still gripped the wine bottle. He felt the bed give and opened his eyes to see Zechs standing above him. His stroking faltered. "Z-zechs?" he whimpered, reaching for his prince in supplication.

"Hush. I'm not going anywhere." Smiling in reassurance, his prince began slowly to remove his own clothes. As he revealed the broad, smooth muscles of his chest, Duo's hand moved faster against his own arousal. Languidly, he pulled down his jeans, revealing his taut stomach, his powerfully muscled thighs, his long, lean legs. In the midst of this glory rose his maleness, hard and ready. Duo's eyes widened, understanding why his prince had used the bottle to prepare him.

Hands resting on his hips, his ice-blue eyes burning with intensity, Zechs watched him touch himself. He'd never done this in front of anyone, not even Heero. Surprised at how it excited him to display himself this way, he increased his efforts, his breath growing ragged, his body taut with tension.

Zechs moved closer. "Don't stop. I want to see you come." Duo pulled on himself, running his thumb over the red, glistening head of his cock, his attention divided between the rising tide of his own need and his prince's demand to hold his glass substitute within him. Zechs reached under him, lifting his hips so that the bottle tilted. The remaining wine gushed into him, spreading its cold fire through his insides. With a dizzying cry, Duo flung back his head, his orgasm hitting him with crushing force. For an eternal instant, nothing was real but the flames of pleasure that lifted him on their scorching gale, threatening to burn the flesh from his bones. As the firestorm subsided, he felt cool hands soothing the last tremors of his climax from him.

"Relax now," the throaty voice of his prince instructed him, gently withdrawing the pillar of glass from his body.

Duo lay completely spent. If a whole squadron of mobile suits had surrounded the building, he couldn't have moved. Exhausted, he let Zechs gather him up, too tired even to return the embrace.

"Worn out so soon?" Zechs teased him, kissing the tip of his nose. "We'll have to work on your endurance."

Duo managed a smile, summoning enough strength to nuzzle against the satin of Zechs' hair. For a time, he lay as weak as a newborn in his prince's arms. So strong. I want someone else to be strong… for me, for a while.

Zechs' skin met his, their bodies pressed together, and Duo became aware of the heated pole pushing against the small of his back. "Zechs!" He struggled out of the blond man's arms, wiggling around to face him. "God, I'm so sorry!"

Platinum brows drew together in genuine bewilderment. "Sorry? About what?"

"Well, you're still…I mean, you haven't…damn, Zechs, I've come twice, and you haven't…"

Zechs smiled, understanding replacing confusion. He combed his fingers through the heavy curtain of Duo's chestnut mane. "Little one, don't be concerned about me. Do you think I didn't take joy in watching you?" He captured Duo's mouth in a tender kiss. "And I'm not finished with you yet. I'm merely letting you recover your strength."

"You always were a master tactician, Lightning Count." Duo pressed himself back into the tall man's embrace, snagging a long leg with his own, twining their bodies together.

"Then prepare for the next battle," Zechs whispered, flipping Duo to his back and pinning him against the bed.


Zechs wondered at himself. He had never felt so…so forceful before. Of course, Treize had never allowed him so much power. But the little waif beneath him surrendered himself over and over, as if sensing his need to command, to protect. Dear God, what a gift that was, even more precious when he considered the giver. Submission was as foreign to Duo Maxwell's nature as to his own, and yet he submitted himself to Zechs without hesitation.

Zechs leaned up on his elbows, unwilling to force his entire weight on that slight body. He devoured Duo with his gaze, fixing the moment indelibly in his mind. Duo reached for him eagerly, but he struggled to keep his eyes open. He'd observed this tendency in the boy during the war, the pilot pushing himself far beyond the limits of his body in order to fulfill his mission. But the war had ended and with it their need to keep punishing themselves. As badly as he wanted to make love to his little one, he could wait.

"Duo." He liked the way the name felt on his lips. "You are about to fall asleep."

He laughed. "So wake me up."

"And how flattering that will be to me, to have to wake you continually while I'm making love to you. No, my darling. I want you to rest. We have time."

A soft sheen covered the impossibly violet eyes. "Zechs…"

"Hush." Zechs tugged at the worn comforter that covered the bed. He wrapped them both in it, a cocoon of warmth. He smoothed Duo's tangled hair away from his face, then cuddled him close. "Now sleep, little one."

"All right. Since you insist." Duo snuggled against him. "But not too long, okay?"

Zechs kissed the top of Duo's head as if he were a child tucked in for a nap. "Even my self-control has limits."

"Glad to hear it. I was beginning to…wonder….beginning to wonder if you were human." Duo burrowed into the warmth, his voice slurred with fast-approaching sleep.

Zechs didn't answer, and in a few minutes, felt the rhythm of the young man's breathing change to a slow, regular pattern. He lay still, afraid to move for fear of breaking the spell that had granted him the precious weight in his arms. The sounds of the night and the city surrounded them, a gust of wind that spattered rain against the window, the distant scream of a tire. He felt as much as heard the jets of a shuttle departing from the spaceport, reminding him of Relena's punishing decree.

What had possessed her? She had Heero. Quatre Winner she dared not touch, nor his lover. Chang Wufei—the name twisted in his chest, and he swallowed against the hurt—had disappeared, perhaps seeking solitude to atone for the death of the man they'd uneasily shared. It was as though she were determined to take everything from Duo, even escape, so that he would know he'd lost to her. And to think he'd once believed her more worthy of the Peacecraft legacy than he.

He'd told Duo that Earth could not contain men like them. He was right, especially an Earth where the scion of pacifism could use her power for so small and mean a purpose as to hurt the boy whose only crime was that he'd once dared love her beloved. He was, in his own words, nobody. Zechs fingered the threadbare edge of the comforter. What had she to fear from him?

Rain pounded furiously against the window as another storm moved in. Lighting flashed, throwing the sparsely furnished little room into pen-and-ink relief. Thunder rumbled, shaking the apartment, and Duo whimpered in his sleep. Zechs murmured a soft assurance, pulling the cover back over the boy's bare shoulders. Lightning struck nearby with a loud crack, thunder exploding on its heels. With a cry, Duo sat up, fighting his way free of the blanket and Zechs' arms.

"Duo!" Zechs shook him lightly. "Wake up! It's just the storm, baby. It's only thunder." He crooned softly, stroking his hand against Duo's cheek until recognition returned to the boy's eyes.

Duo blinked, owl-eyed in the dark. "Zechs?"

"I'm still here. It's all right."

Duo's shoulders sagged. He hugged his knees, resting his forehead against them. "Of all nights…" he mumbled.

Zechs massaged the tense shoulders. "What do you mean?"

"Just my luck, that there'd be a storm. And you'd see…" He stopped, his voice thick with shame.

"Are you embarrassed? Look at me." Zechs lifted Duo's chin. "Why?"

"It's the thunder and lightning. It's like canons, like when the church…" Duo pulled away, rolled on his belly, and clutched a pillow.

The church? "Baby, I'm sorry, I don't…Oh." Understanding flashed on him like the lightning. Maxwell Church. "I see." Zechs pulled Duo back to him.

"It was a long time ago. It's just storms, they always…oh, forget it."


Duo rolled onto his back, captured Zechs in a rough kiss. "You promised to love me again. So do it."

Zechs' need spiked as he fed on that demanding mouth. A ravenous demon had replaced his submissive angel. Zechs groaned as Duo ground their hips together, rubbing their cocks against one another. Frantic hands grappled at his shoulders, his back. The scents of sweat and sex and Duo mingled, inseparable, as Zechs buried his face in the tangle of his lover's hair. He fastened his mouth on that beguiling spot at the base of the little demon's throat, sucking fervently, his tongue whipping tiny circles over silken skin.

Duo moaned, clinging fiercely to his blond lover. He dug his fingers into Zechs' buttocks, pressing upward with his own body until both men panted from delayed desire.

Zechs thrust a knee between Duo's legs. He pushed his thigh into his lover's groin, rolling his knee against the firm-fleshed balls. Duo rode against him, rubbing himself on Zechs' heavy muscles.

Zechs levered himself to his knees. He had to find something to use for lubrication now, before his mind deserted him entirely. He heard Duo's sobbing pants of frustration as he staggered to the bathroom and fumbled through the medicine chest. Duo had had a lover, surely there was something…ah. In the back, pretending to be forgotten, he found a half-used tube of jelly. Returning to the bedroom, he knelt over the boy's spread figure.

He captured one of Duo's hand and squeezed a dollop of gel into it. Then he held the hand to his own cock and rubbed. Duo took to the task with enthusiasm, smearing the jelly over his entire length. Zechs dabbed more of the jelly on his own fingers, massaging the tight opening with lubricant. Duo groaned at the touch, but when Zechs pulled back, Duo grabbed his hand.

Violet eyes gazed into his own, fully aware of what they requested. His demon, his angel reached for a strand of platinum hair that fell forward over his shoulder. Rubbing the lock of hair lightly between his fingers, Duo looked up at Zechs. "Fuck me, my prince."

Zechs needed no other encouragement. He plunged into Duo's tight body, pushing his little one's hands flat against the bed, riding him with all the fierceness of his overdue passion. Duo strained against him, urging him on.

"Harder, Zechs….ah, God…" Duo begged, locking his legs around Zechs' waist. "I need you to do it hard…"

The bed shook with their efforts as Zechs claimed his little one, his demon, his Duo, pounding their bodies together until both screamed. He circled his hand around Duo's dripping cock, pumping him with the same rough rhythm as his thrusts, drawing frantic, mewling cries from his lover with each movement. Duo's body gripped him, stroking his hardness with silk as he rocked inside him.

"Oh, my little one…" Zechs bore down into Duo's most secret places, pummeling him from the inside out. "You are so perfect."

"Zechs…" Duo sobbed his name, clawing at him in the urgency of his need.

Zechs surrendered to his own passion, grasping Duo's hips with bruising strength and plunging into his narrow cavern with loving violence. Duo cried out, his voice raw with pain and pleasure, imploring Zechs for his release between squeals. Zechs drilled him, fucking him as hard as he'd ever ridden any lover, determined to wring the last bit of strength out of his little one, to leave him totally drained and helpless.

"Mine," he growled with each thrust, "…no one else…does this…to you. Do they, little one?"

Violet eyes glazed over with wanting. "No one…my prince…only you…"


Duo was dying and living and dying again, he was a prisoner and he never wanted to escape, he was being tortured and he never wanted it to stop…Zechs became his master, his world, his god…he'd been claimed at last, the orphan had found his home.

Zechs' fingers dug into his shoulders as he drove into him with punishing force. Duo met him at each crest, handing over piece after piece of his soul until he had nothing left to give. With a last thrust, he pinned Duo to the mattress, his mouth devouring Duo's with bruising strength. Duo felt emptied and filled at the same time, pouring himself out in offering to his prince, his god even as he was replete with the other's essence.

Zechs collapsed on him, nuzzling against his neck, his chest heaving as though he'd just fought a battle. Duo hesitantly put his arms around the muscled torso, rubbing Zechs' sweat-glazed back.

"Mmmmm…." Zechs purred contentedly, stretching like a huge tomcat. Opening his eyes, he smiled lazily at Duo. He put his hands on Duo's waist and rolled them both to their sides, then folded Duo into his embrace. For a few minutes, neither spoke as they cuddled together.

Duo clung to Zechs, glad for the darkness. If Zechs saw the need in his eyes, it would only push him away. Duo knew he wanted too much, grasped too hard, clung too closely. He'd driven Heero away by demanding more than his lover could give. He wouldn't make the same mistake this time. He would take whatever Zechs offered and not ask for more. Even if it were only this one night. Even if it killed him.

Thunder still rumbled in the distance. Zechs' arms tightened around him at the sound while he murmured comforting words in Duo's ear. As the sweat cooled on his body, he trembled, and Zechs pulled the covers around them. He snuggled against the prince's broad chest, his cheek warmed by the bare flesh beneath it.

"Sleep now, baby," Zechs ordered, his voice low with his own exhaustion.

"Yes, my prince." Duo relaxed, his hand wrapped around a lock of soft, platinum hair. He fell asleep to the sound of rain drumming softly against the window.

Rain rattled at the glass. Duo groaned. He was so tired of rain. He began to burrow his head under his pillow, but his aching body protested. Shit, he was sore. Why…last night. The fog of sleep lifted and he remembered last night. He rolled over, reaching for Zechs—and discovered the bed was empty.

He sat up, a fear he recalled far too clearly gripping him. He tried to call, "Zechs?" but it came out a strangled whisper, as if he were trying to scream in a nightmare. Holding the gnawing panic at bay, he slid out of bed, padding to the coat closet by the front door. He opened it. Gone.

Zechs had gone.

Pain, both immediate and remembered, speared him, nailing his heart to the floor. Never going to learn, are you?

Whimpering, he staggered back to his bed, trying to get warm under blankets that still smelled like lust. He didn't think it could hurt this much twice in one life. Stupid, stupid…it was one night. The prince and the pauper. What did you expect? Trying not to think, not to feel, he huddled into the covers and shivered.

The front door creaked open. Duo sat up at the sound. He was afraid to look, but he had to. If he didn't, he'd lie here and convince himself that the door hadn't blown open, that Zechs had come back. He knew the games his mind played with him, and he couldn't face the hurt of those kinds of fantasies again.

He sat with his feet on the floor, gathering courage to face the truth, when a voice like velvet called his name.

"Duo? You're awake." Zechs sat down on the edge of the bed, a paper bag in one hand and a carrier with two coffee cups in the other. "I got breakfast."

Duo reached out, touched the sleeve of Zechs' dripping coat. He didn't leave, he came back, he's still here…

"It's just bagels, but…Duo?" He put the food down on the rickety nightstand. "Baby, what's wrong? Tell me." He stroked the tangled mass of chestnut hair, his voice concerned, almost loving.

"I thought…" Oh shit, don't cry! "I thought you left."

"Left? You? What kind of a fool do you think I am?" Zechs kissed him, his lips warm and real. "You'll be lucky if you ever get rid of me now."


"Let me take my coat off, and we'll eat. Get back under the covers before you catch cold. I won't have you sniffling all over me." Zechs left the room and came back, sans his coat. He kicked his shoes off and climbed onto the bed beside Duo.

"Come here," he ordered, patting his thigh as if he were calling a pet. Duo crawled onto his lap and took the cup of coffee he offered, wriggling a little to try to find a comfortable position.

"Sit still, you little demon." Zechs reached into the bag for a bagel, tore off a piece, and fed it to Duo.

"Can't help it. I'm still sore. If you weren't such a tyrant…mmmph!" Zechs crammed another piece of bagel into Duo's mouth, effectively silencing him.

"If I weren't a tyrant, you wouldn't be nearly as satisfied as you are. So hush and eat your breakfast." Zechs brushed his lips against Duo's cheek. "You're going to need your strength."

"Bubble bath."

"It's what?" Duo watched Zechs take a bottle out of the other package he'd brought back with him. "What do you need that for?"

"Don't tell me you've never taken a bubble bath?" Zechs turned on the water in the tub, then opened the bottle and poured some of the shimmering liquid under the gushing spout.

Duo watched in fascination as the tub filled with billowing white foam. "Nope. Never."

Zechs smiled. "I'll be gentle with you since it's your first time."


Zechs handed Duo into the tub. "Sit down," he ordered, smirking as Duo gingerly lowered himself into the warm water, mounded with scented bubbles. "All the way down."

Duo obeyed, the look on his face telegraphing that he still hadn't made up his mind about this. Then the warm water rose up around his hips. "Oh. That's nice."

"Of course it's nice. And it's going to get nicer." Zechs sat down on the edge of the tub, leaned over, and filled a pitcher with water. This would be better with a hand-held shower, but he could make do. "Lean forward and close your eyes." He poured the pitched of water over Duo's head, chuckling at his little one's indignant spluttering.

"Hey! You didn't tell me you were going to drown me!"

"I'm not. Yet. Close your eyes again." He dumped another pitcher of water over the brown head, ignoring the grumbling emanating from under the sopping mane. Pouring shampoo into his hand, he began to massage it into Duo's hair, his fingers working through the heavy locks, rubbing his scalp in slow, lazy circles.

"Mmmmm…okay, maybe this will be all right after all." Duo wriggled under his hands, like a puppy that wanted to be scratched in a very particular spot.

"If it's only all right, I will have failed miserably." He began to work the tangles out of Duo's hair, careful not to tug too hard. "Do you sleep with rats, little one? Did you invite rodents to nest in here?"

"Doesn't your hair ever get tangled?"

"It wouldn't dare." Zechs worked the shampoo through Duo's mass of hair, humming softly. He thought having someone shampoo his hair was one of life's great pleasures, and he intended to have Duo form the same opinion. From the contented noises the young man made as Zechs washed and rinsed, it seemed he'd met his goal.

Half-dazed by pleasure, Duo smiled. "Thanks. I could get used to that."

"I intend to give you the opportunity." Zechs looked down, searching for the washcloth he'd brought in with him. He shouldn't presume that Duo wanted more than a one-night stand, but he planned to do everything in his power to convince this sprite that a relationship with him could be, at the very least, pleasant.

Zechs poured bubble bath onto the cloth. Lifting the wet, clean hair with one hand, he began to wash Duo's back with the other, working the liquid to a soapy foam with long, sensuous strokes. He pushed Duo's shoulders back against the tub and worked his way around to his chest. He rubbed the cloth lightly over Duo's nipples, teasing them until they hardened. Zechs drew the cloth across the firm little belly, watching the rivulets of warmth run down the taut skin, disappearing into the soft mass of curls that floated just below the surface.

He moved the cloth down Duo's legs, feeling the muscle underneath the smooth flesh, all the way down to smooth the calluses on his heels and back up his inner thighs again. Duo panted softly, mewling as Zechs rubbed the washcloth over his cock and balls. Zechs smiled, finding his little one hard before he'd even touched him there. Discarding the cloth, he poured bubble bath into his hand and worked it into a lather. Slowly, he began to massage the boy's eager rod, his hands sliding up and down the firm length. He kneaded Duo's balls, juggling them lightly in his hands. Duo leaned back, raising his hips, and Zechs lifted one lean leg over the side of the tub. He ran a wet finger along the exposed inner thigh, teasing small tremors from the muscles. Then he slipped his hand underneath the round little bottom, his fingers searching for Duo's opening. Duo whimpered when Zechs stroked his anus, choking slightly as he pushed a fingertip into him.

"Zechs?" Duo opened his eyes. "Can you get in, too?"

Zechs measured the small tub with his eyes. "It will be crowded," he said, doubtful.

"I can sit on your lap." Duo grinned at him.

Zechs stripped off his own clothes and slid into the warm water. Duo maneuvered himself until he straddled the prince's lap. Already aroused from bathing Duo, Zechs grasped his lover's hands and pulled him close until their erections pressed between their bodies. Duo leaned forward, showering Zechs with kisses, then pulled himself up, positioned himself over Zechs' stiff pole. He gripped Zechs' shoulders, then lowered himself, groaning as the head of Zechs' cock pierced him.

"Duo, are you sure? After last night…" Zechs knew he hadn't been gentle, and Duo had been so very tight.

"After last night, I just want more." He pushed down with his hips, burying Zechs in him. His hands dug into Zechs' shoulders, and Zechs wrapped his arms around the slight chest. Duo bit his lip, and Zechs was about to tell him to stop, that there were other ways of satisfying each other. But then the boy threw back his head, riding his cock with abandon. He impaled himself, rolling his hips with practiced motions, expertly controlling the depth of Zechs' penetration.

Zechs let him pursue his pleasure, gasping in delight as tight walls of muscles clutched at him. He wrapped his hand around Duo's hardness, measuring the thickness and length with his fist. Duo rode him faster, crying out each time he bore down, finally taking Zechs' entire length into him. Unable to remain inactive any longer, Zechs grasped the slim hips and pushed Duo back against the side of the tub. He lifted the long, lean legs over his shoulders and thrust himself into that heated sweetness. He seized one of Duo's hands, brought it to his cock, closed the slender fingers around the quivering shaft. As Duo began to pleasure himself, Zechs covered Duo's hand with his own, guiding his strokes, controlling the pace of his passion. He deliberately held his lover to a rhythm just a hair's breadth slower than what he needed to climax, thrusting slowly into his body with the same tempo. Duo squirmed under him, tried to force his hand to go just that much faster, but Zechs responded by slowing ever so slightly. Finally, Duo opened his wide, violet eyes.

"Please?" he whispered, his voice shaking.

"Please what, my little one?" Zechs held him still. Let him give voice to his need. Then he could have whatever he wanted, but first, he must ask.

In a small voice, he said, "Make me come."

Zechs began to move again, giving him the speed and pressure he craved. Gouts of white semen spurted from Duo's cock. As he came, his muscles clenched around Zechs, and he followed his little one into ecstasy a few seconds later.

They lay together in the cooling water. Duo traced a wet finger down Zechs' chest. "Zechs…"

"Yes?" Zechs captured the wandering hand and kissed the palm, then twined their fingers together. "What is it?"

"I promised myself I wouldn't ask this, but…well…what now?"

The vulnerability in those violet eyes made Zechs' chest ache. He understood how hard it was for Duo to ask that question, and how badly he needed an answer. "I told you, baby. You can't get rid of me."

"Do you mean that?"

"I don't usually say things I don't mean." He stood, pulling a dripping Duo out of the water, drying him off with a towel. "I've been thinking."

Duo laughed, wrapping his arms around Zechs. "I told you that's a bad habit. Besides, when have you had time?"

He playfully smacked his lover's bottom. He liked the little jump and squeal Duo gave, and the sound of his hand against his little one's firm backside. But he would have to wait to sample more of that delight. Just now, they had important things to settle. "When I've not been fucking you senseless. When do you suppose I've had time?"

Zechs walked back to the bedroom, pulling Duo by the hand. He sat on the bed and drew Duo down to his side. "I want to take you back to space."

Duo's eyes glistened. "Zechs…I can't go, I told you…"

"Leave Relena to me. Will you go back with me? Somewhere there must be a place for old soldiers, but I don't think it's on this planet. And I want to take you someplace where there are no storms."

Duo swallowed. He blinked, holding back tears. "My prince," he whispered, his voice raw.

Zechs kissed him, gentle and sweet. "Does that mean your answer is yes?"

Duo nodded. "Someplace where there are no storms," he whispered. Then the mischievous sparkle Zechs recalled returned to his eyes. "But please…"

"What?" Zechs asked, suspicious.

Duo shook his wet hair like a dog shaking water from its fur, spattering Zechs and the rest of the room. He tackled his lover, and they rolled across the bed. "Make sure it's someplace with bubble baths."



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