High noon was siesta time in Agrabah, a blistering heat that wrapped its fiery fingers around the sandstone city. For Treize to even attempt to assemble his people during that time only proved once more how out of touch he was with the customs of his own subjects. Wufei, designated Court Parrot, sat on one of the high shaded balconies of the cool marble palace, arms wrapped around his knees as he brooded. The crowd far below was cheering in reception of Prince 'Triton.'
So, it was happening again. Against all odds Trowa had succeeded and even now he was enjoying the company of his fiancé Quatre. Heero had somehow gotten lucky with the Genie of the Lamp, of all unlikely things. And he was stuck with Sultan Treize chasing after him trying to hand-feed him crackers and calling him 'bird of paradise.'
It wasn't to be countenanced!
With a discontented expression pulling his full mouth downward, slanted black eyes sulky, Wufei pushed himself upright and gripped the railing in both hands. It wasn't fair, he decided. Where was his justice? Why, he'd been ripped away from family and country all in one stroke and brought to this land of endless heat...
Wufei blinked and re-evaluated that statement. A chill had shivered across his skin, making him squirm. Spandex wasn't exactly the warmest of outfits and he was in a crop top.
He looked up at the sky, the black silk threads of his dark loosened hair spilling over his shoulders. Ominous seething clouds had boiled up, swallowing the searing blue ceiling of the sky overhead and with it, a sudden drop of temperature cloaked the city. Wufei rubbed at his arms as goosebumps pebbled up the skin. He definitely wasn't dressed for this weather. But Agrabah did not HAVE this kind of weather. Not naturally.
A premonition crackled up his spine.
Wufei cursed and wondered which would be a better bet, staying here on this balcony, or dashing down onto the ground floor. Whichever it was, he didn't think it would make a difference. Heero had gotten his hands on the lamp -- another reason he was in despair -- and not only did that ensure that he got the beautiful exotic Duo, but it meant Wufei's chances at freedom and a normal life and returning to China were blown.
And it meant Heero possessed the phenomenal, cosmic power of the Genie.
Maniacal laughter boomed out over the rooftops, flattening everything in its path with the sheer intensity of the sound wave. Wufei saw Treize's head snap up; saw Trowa put an arm around Quatre's waist and hold tight to the railing of the third-story balcony they stood on. The townsfolk had bundled into a shrieking mass of terror.
The psychotic cackle pealed out again. Wufei scowled. He recognized that insane godawful noise; it was Heero's laugh without a doubt.
"FOOLS!" Heero's voice boomed out, and Wufei craned his neck. Sounded like it came from the top of the palace...
Heero Yuy balanced precariously on the gilded onion-shaped dome of the palace of Agrabah, looking absurdly small but wielding a giant megaphone. That was why his voice was so damned loud. Wufei rubbed at his ears. In his other hand he was clutching a small switch. Duo the Genie clung to one of his legs, expression wavering between guilty and terrified.
"He's psychotic!" Duo managed to yell, chestnut hair streaming everywhere. If they were lucky it would tangle up Heero's legs and he would take the six-story plunge. "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!"
"He's just now figuring that out?" Wufei muttered, shaking his head in disgust. On a scale of one to ten of how bad things could have gotten, this incident had taken the scale and bounced up and down on it a couple of times, then disassembled the pieces.
"PEOPLE OF AGRABAH!" Heero roared, thumbing the megaphone even higher. Wufei winced and clapped hands over his ears. "SULTAN TREIZE... I'M GOING TO SELF-DESTRUCT YOUR CITY!"
"What!?" Treize exclaimed, classic features dissolving from stunned incomprehension to sheer outrage. "You're fired!"
Heero laughed at him, the crazy sound amplified until it thundered over the palace and the stone buildings and dislodged random stones and birds from their nests. "No, YOU'RE fired!" he corrected with a gleeful smirk. "As your city goes up in FLAMES!"
Wufei sighed and pinched at his nose. He was starting to get a headache.
Treize's face was turning red. Maybe it was actually seeping through that Heero intended to destroy the city. "Heero, reconsider this!! Isn't there anything you'd rather do instead of DESTROYING the city?" He looked pained, obviously considering how much time it had taken him to accumulate all that wealth.
"NOPE!" Heero thundered back. "I just want to blow it up and warm my hands over the fire."
"You're CRAZY!" Treize fumed.
Wufei smirked. So he was wising up, too?
"Heero, please!" Wufei could hear the Genie pleading, probably only because he was on the sixth story. "PLEASE don't blow up the city and everybody in it! I might have to hate you forever... "
"N-nani -- !?" For the first time since Wufei had known the Vizier, Heero faltered. His fanatic-burning blue eyes turned down until he met Duo's wide pleading orbs.
"Please don't kill anyone! When you wished for complete and total power over Agrabah I didn't think you meant you were going to blow it up... " Duo advanced his cause with a quivering lower lip and trembling bambi eyes. "I mean, the part of the wish that involved three kilo-ton explosives should've tipped me off, but call me naive; I've been in a bottle for a few hundred years!"
"It was a lamp," Heero corrected automatically. In passing he seemed to have forgotten he still had the megaphone raised to his lips, and his words pounded over the city.
Wufei raised his eyebrows and glanced down at Trowa, who still had a firm grip on Quatre. Trowa had gone absolutely white, thin face drained of color.
"Lover... " Duo quavered. "Would you be content with complete and total domination of the city? And Sultan Treize as a slave?"
Heero considered it, lips pursed. "I want to blow something up," he uttered, in a manner that was almost like a petulant boy. Wufei tried to hold back a snicker. If Heero spotted him now in this unpredictable mood, no telling what would happen.
"Well, you can't!" Duo snapped, letting go of his leg and standing on his own two curly shoes. "If you do I'll hate you forever!" he threatened.
"I can live with that," Heero grunted, making a move to thumb the switch.
"Noooo!" Duo shouted, leaping for the switch and wrestling him for it. Both boys went rolling off the far side of the domed palace roof.
A moment later, there was a thump and a crunch.
"Well, that settles it," Treize stated, looking enormously pleased. "There will be no blowing up, and no domination. Everyone go back to your normally-scheduled lives!"
Heero appeared around the curve of the palace, dragging the Genie by his long unbound hair. Duo was kicking, sputtering, and wailing.
"You bastard!" Duo railed. "See if YOU get any nookie tonight!"
Heero ignored him and glared up at Treize. "Since Duo fell on the self-destruction switch, I'll settle for complete and total domination."
Treize glared back down at him. "Oh yeah? How are you going to enforce that, whelp?"
Heero whipped out a gun and shot off a chunk of plaster five inches to the left of Treize's head.
"Ah... " Treize pronounced weakly. "I see."
Wufei observed the proceedings with fascination. There was actually a rather high chance that now that Heero was in power, he might actually get something for all the dirty work he'd been doing lately... Especially if Duo the Genie kept Heero content. The Vizier still had one wish...
Heero continued to stare intently up at the third-story balcony. He tilted his head, gaze fixed now on Trowa. "Oi... aren't you that boy I shoved into the Cave of Wonders?" His eyes dilated with rage. "You bastard! You're the one who stole the Lamp from me!"
"Prince Triton?" Treize raised an eyebrow, looking over at the tall young man who still had an arm around Quatre-Hime. "You must be mistaken, Heero."
"He's no Prince," Heero said flatly. "I found him on the streets. I was just using him to get to the lamp."
Treize turned a questioning gaze on him. "... Triton... ?"
Quatre looked surprised. "Trowa... ?"
It was a small, petty feeling that wormed its way into Wufei's breast and he knew it but didn't really care. Finally, for the first time, someone had just sunk himself into a hell of a lot of deeper trouble and misery than he himself had been plunged into.
"Now get in there, and stay there!" Heero added with satisfaction, hurling him into the cell and slamming the door shut. "If you try to get out I'll blow the cell up. You'll never see your precious Quatre again either way, so just resign yourself to the inevitable."
Heero's face was particularly loathsome when he smirked to himself like that, Trowa reflected. Then he winced and rubbed his elbow, which had been jarred by the fall and then rolling over the cold stone floor. He was back in the dungeon. The look on his face was bitter as he surveyed his surroundings. This was where the whole mess had started; all the pretensions to becoming wealthy, the pretension to the dream -- it had all started with Heero's offer. If only he had never seen the sandblast-bedamned lamp in the first place.
Even if by some miracle he got loose, he'd never be able to look Quatre in the face again.
It was an eternity of bread and water for him, and he'd probably end up talking to the skeletons. Hell, maybe it was only what he deserved for being such an impostor.
But how had Heero gotten his hands on the lamp?
Trowa's eyes widened. It couldn't be... No way. Impossible. Would Duo actually be swayed to the other side merely by spending one night with Heero?
He sighed and slumped further down the wall. It really didn't matter. However it had happened, Heero had the lamp, the upper hand, total domination of the city... and he had nothing to show for it. Even his princely clothing had been taken away, returned with the street garb he had been wearing the first time around in this dungeon.
Sounds filtered down from above through the ventilation system, Quatre's light pleading alto and the sound of Treize's deeper tenor lifted in outraged exclamations. Trowa closed his eyes and let his head thump back against the stone wall. If only he hadn't been so stupid. His mind conjured up horrific tortures that Heero might be putting them through -- up to and including making them listen to repeated top-volume performances of "Cry for the Dream."
He shuddered and felt absolutely miserable. Once that started, he would know the worst was just beginning.
"Stop -- Heero, no -- DON'T!!" Treize's face was an unusual mixture of panic and agony. Unusual, in that his features were usually nothing less than smooth and bland.
Heero's face was smeared with gunpowder and ashes and bore a look of extreme satisfaction.
"No, NOT my collection of Ming vases--"
The pieces of that explosion ricocheted around the entire room. Treize watched in horror and disbelief. Heero was systematically destroying Treize's entire collection of valuables -- a very efficient combination of torturing Treize, and making use of the explosives.
Heero tossed the detonator to the side, wiping at his face with the green tank top he had donned once more. Instead of wiping away the smudges he managed to smear it worse. He pulled out a large picture of Trowa and dangled it in front of Quatre.
"How should I kill him, hmm?"
Quatre regarded him with huge trembling eyes.
"Hn?" Heero half-turned. "Stop what, pet?"
"Stop being so absolutely beastly!" Duo stamped a foot, golden bracelets jangling. He glared across the darkened throne room at Heero. The Vizier had dimmed all the torches to a sultry gold-red glow, and shadows flickered across Quatre's strained pale face and Treize's indignant aristocratic features.
Heero stowed away the picture and produced a whip from hammerspace. He snapped the whip taut between his hands. "Can't help it. I'm in character," he grunted, then advanced on Treize, smirking.
"You wouldn't DARE!" Treize thundered.
"Oh, I would," he smirked, then stopped and tapped the handle of the whip against his palm. "But... I really don't have a grudge against you."
He snapped his fingers and suddenly it was Zechs Marquise sprawled on the marble floor beside the sultan, weighted down by chains. Zechs looked utterly shocked. "What the hell -- !?"
"Hello, Zechs," Heero purred, unfurling the whip.
"Stop it right now!" Duo tackled him. "Geez, what a jerk!"
They both went sprawling on the marble floor. "Duo!! Don't spoil my fun... " Then he reconsidered as Duo wriggled underneath him, giving him a very significant look. "Okay, so maybe this can be fun too."
"How could you let Heero get into power?" Treize snapped at Zechs.
"ME!? Look, you're the one who--"
"Shut UP, both of you!" Heero growled, standing up and hauling Duo to his feet, too. "Torture will resume later. Enjoy the reprieve." Then he stalked off, one hand closing around a hank of Duo's hair and hauling the Genie along with him.
"Stop -- ow -- quit, you bastard... "
Duo's protests trailed off in the distance, then the noises abruptly ceased. As soon as they were out of the room Quatre eyed the golden anklet that Heero had chained to each of them. It was fixed to a ring in the wall. He considered the effect a determined assault would have on the gold -- it wasn't as hard as most metals -- and decided he'd rather keep his nails.
"Anyone have any lockpicks?"
Wufei watched Treize and Zechs fumble around helplessly for something to help unlock the chains or at least loosen them from the wall. He shook his head; they should know better. Heero would have already anticipated any such attempts and planned for them. He sucked air between his teeth and considered what to do. His options were very limited.
For Heero, or against him?
Now that Heero was in power he was completely ignoring Wufei. Who had gotten him there. Although, he mused, he was lucky he wasn't dead. Or being tortured like the other three chained in the throne room. He heaved a sigh.
After his initial, rather shamed reveling in the fact that at least one person in Agrabah was more miserable than he, Wufei had snapped out of it. Someone would have to get the lamp -- or at least, trap Heero into making a stupid last wish. But he couldn't do it by himself.
He nodded and made his decision.
It didn't take long to reach the dungeons. Wufei padded up to the bars and squinted into the gloom. Against the far wall, he could make out a single slumped figure, dressed in the same dusty, stained and torn pants and vest he had been wearing only a few days before. Trowa looked defeated.
The dark head crowned with bangs lifted; one eye stared at him then fixed dully on a corner of the cell again. "Go away."
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," Wufei snapped, irritable. "We don't have time. Duo is distracting Heero and I need to get you out of here -- we've got to get our hands on that lamp."
Now he finally had a portion of Trowa's attention. "You're crazy," Trowa said bluntly. "This is Heero we're talking about. We'll never see that lamp again. It's already too late."
"Well we have to do SOMETHING!" Wufei flared. "Do you just want Heero to go on torturing Quatre?"
"Doing what to Quatre!?" Trowa's head lifted. His eyes sparked with anger.
"Oh, it's awful!" Wufei assented, playing it up. Trowa would have to be good and angry to oppose Heero, with all the power of the Lamp at his disposal. "He's been SINGING... "
"Get me out of here," Trowa shot to his feet. He crossed the cell and gripped the bars.
Wufei smirked. Mission accomplished.
He produced the key with a flourish and unlocked the cell. "We'd better hurry," he warned. "Can't tell how long Duo will be able to keep him occupied."
"Let's hope," Trowa muttered.
They hurried up the stairs, pressed with a sense of urgency. A feeling niggled at Wufei, that perhaps he should tell Trowa exactly how he had lost the lamp then he shoved it back into a corner of his mind. He'd made up for it by unlocking the cell. And they would take Heero down, and finish things.
But they would have to hurry. He knew how fast Heero could finish... a game of Battleship.
Duo had been staring at the ceiling for about fifteen minutes before his conscious mind kicked back into gear. It was a marble ceiling bright with gold flecks, he noted idly, then he shook his head, snorted, and rolled over. What the hell had just happened?
Heero lay propped on his elbow, watching him. A trail of smoke wafted up into the air. "Cigarette?" he offered calmly.
It all came flooding back in a rush.
"WAHHH!! You BEAT me!" Duo wailed, sitting up and blinking around the palatial chamber. These must be Treize's quarters; they were so tastefully yet richly furnished. Part of his mind continued to function because it was really the only thing he could do, to direct all possible attention from his recent defeat... which brought him back to... "How could you?" he glared at the Vizier, who was still smoking his cigarette and now observed him with that intense, fixed expression. "I've never been beaten so badly at Battleship in my entire LIFE!"
"Hn," Heero smirked. "I've been studying your moves."
Duo took handfuls of his dark hair and made as if to tear them out, then tossed them over his shoulder. Maybe he could turn this to his advantage, yet. "Well, I've been studying yours," he purred back, then gathered himself and wriggled.
Heero's eyes widened and he started to scoot back, tossing the cigarette to the floor.
Duo squirmed and pounced.
"Ack - Duo - quit it--"
As soon as they crept out of the stairwell into the throne room, Trowa blinked, shook his head, and took another look. The apparition remained. Treize's throne room had been transformed; torches burned around the circuit of the room, making the already near-unbearable heat of Agrabah into something molten like the lip of a volcano. The torches burned against the darkness because all the windows had been walled up; whether they were boarded up or sealed completely was unclear. The effect was like the inside of a pagan temple. Trowa and Wufei peered into the vaulted, dark torch-lit room.
Beads of sweat were forming and rolling down his face already. It made Trowa dread actually venturing in there.
"Do you see him anywhere?" Trowa whispered, hoarse.
Wufei shook his head, dark eyes intent. "He dragged Duo out of the throne room about ten minutes ago, but it's hard to say how long he might be gone."
Trowa scowled. "How did Heero get the lamp? Did Duo just give it to him?" He heaved a sigh. He really had thought Duo could be trusted -after all, it had been his idea to 'distract' Heero in the first place, and that had saved his neck for almost a full day...
"Uh... not exactly."
Turning to give Wufei a puzzled glance, he found the Chinese boy biting his lip and looking incredibly guilty. "You gave it to him!?"
"Well... " Wufei lifted a hand to scratch at his loosened coal-black hair. "I didn't mean to; it just kind of happened."
"But how did you find it?" Trowa demanded, now more confused than angry. If Wufei had stolen the lamp, why had he come now to help him?
"Oh, please." The look Wufei cast at him now was scornful. "You hid it in your underwear drawer. The first place a teenage boy would hide anything, aside from underneath the mattress."
Trowa flushed. "Let's just get on with this, okay?" he returned, aware that his voice was somewhat strangled.
They peered back around the corner into the sultry heat-shimmering room. Across the far side Trowa could make out the gleaming gold head of Quatre and his breath caught with relief. So, he was okay, despite Wufei's words about torture. Beside him Treize and Zechs were chained to the wall, and they appeared - even from this distance - to be quarreling.
"I don't see him," Trowa said at last.
"Neither do I," Wufei agreed.
Trowa mopped his brow and started forward. His feet were bare and he winced as the soles felt seared the moment the real heat of the chamber struck. It couldn't all possibly be from the torches, he reasoned, as he darted as swiftly as possible over the hot marble floor to prevent his skin from getting cooked. But what it might be, he had no idea. Sweat flowed thick down his skin. Behind him he could hear the slap-slap of Wufei's feet and it sounded like the lucky Chinese boy was wearing sandals.
As they approached the three figures on the far side, Quatre's head lifted. A sick sensation made itself known in the pit of Trowa's stomach. Before Heero had ripped him away from the young blond, Trowa had been exposed for the fake he had felt himself to be so acutely, all along. How would Quatre see him, now? He could barely bring himself to look at the boy but Quatre took the choice away from him and looked up at him, first. His blue eyes were half-closed and his face was covered with sweat, yet as soon as he saw Trowa his face lit up.
"Trowa!" he cried, his open face registering nothing more than happiness - mingled with acute discomfort at the heat.
He knelt beside the boy and noticed the gold chain running from ankle to the wall. "Are you all right? Did he hurt you?"
"I'm okay," Quatre returned, catching at his face. "But you're hurt." His smooth palm ran over Trowa's cheek, a brushing sort of caress, but painful over the skin that had been bruised when Heero manhandled him into the cell.
"It's nothing," Trowa shrugged, uncomfortable. The fleeting touch made his veins course with a seething glow that burned hotter than this room. Yet he had no right.
He looked up and Wufei was crouched close, his face unreadable as he watched Treize and Zechs arguing fiercely. Their topic appeared to be fixed on assignation of blame for this recent crisis with Heero - namely, somehow letting a demented psycho-boy get ahold of absolute power.
"I don't see the lamp anywhere," Wufei turned his black gaze back in their direction.
Trowa cursed then glanced back at Quatre. "Quatre, have you seen a weathered brass lamp anywhere near Heero? Holding onto it, maybe?"
Quatre blinked guileless eyes, mouth pursed in a frown. "No. The only thing he's been holding onto recently has been Duo."
Trowa swallowed and once again controlled the urge to question Duo's motives. "What--"
Quatre latched onto his vest and Trowa shielded the blond boy with his body as pieces of scattered plaster showered from the roof.
"What the hell was that!?" Wufei sputtered.
"Bombs," Quatre's expression turned distressed. "Heero set the bombs around Agrabah to time-detonate, starting with the lower quarters and outlying parts of the city."
"But the people-" Trowa was aghast. Hadn't he said he would settle for complete and total domination?
Wufei's expression was seething and disgusted. "He must be stopped."
"Duo managed to let the Agrabans know with enough time for them to evacuate," Quatre hastened to reassure him. "No one should be hurt. I'm not sure how Duo got loose long enough, but he did it and told me so I wouldn't worry."
"WHY would Heero do such a thing?" Trowa demanded.
"I think because-"
Suddenly the ambient light of the heat-smothered temple was cut to zero. They were left blinking in the dark, torch-spots swimming against their eyes.
"I believe Quatre was about to explain," Heero's nasal voice twanged into the darkness, "that I had prepared for the eventuality of your escape. The next bomb, you see, will go off underneath the palace. Killing you and your star-crossed lover - and everyone else - instantly."
The torches flared up once more and Trowa got a good, long look at the infuriating smirk on Vizier Heero's face. Frustration burned a slow route up his senses.
"You're all going to die."
The vaulted cavernous throne room still echoed with the last traces of Heero's grim words. It seemed as if everything had paused in recoil of that dire threat, from the flickering bob of the torches to Quatre's thready shallow breaths beside him. It was only an external pause forced on them by that statement, though -- Trowa's mind was working furiously. The heated shimmer of the room threw phantom shadows on the floor and he cast about for anything, a slender pole or a broken piece of pottery even, to use as a weapon. Who was he kidding? Heero had the cosmic powers of the Genie at his disposal.
Trowa's green eyes widened. The Genie...
"So, you're going to take everyone out in one last, big explosion, huh?" Trowa forced himself to break the weighted silence that hung thick over everyone with a pall of doom. "Is that it?"
Another strained silence dug its claws in, as everyone in the room turned incredulous eyes towards him. Was he insane!?
Trowa was morbidly pondering the same thing.
Heero's throat released a short, incredulous grunt. "You've got to be kidding me. I'm taking out your entire city. Nothing will be left but random bits and a big, big crater." His cobalt eyes started to shine with anticipation.
"And I said, 'is that all?' "Trowa repeated, anxiety fraying his nerves but he had to seize this chance, whatever kind of chance it was by the slimmest of margins. Quatre was looking up at him with huge frightened eyes and he didn't deserve to die.
Heero's eyes lost their gleam and he narrowed them at Trowa, practically growling. "What are you talking about?"
"Well," Trowa forced himself to make a casual gesture, taking in the gigantic room that had been so drastically transformed, "you've got the immense cosmic powers of a Genie at your disposal, and one more wish, and the only thing you're going to do is blow us up? You're wasting your time!"
"Prince Triton," Treize uttered in a strangled whisper, "if you get us killed, consider the wedding to be off."
"Go on," Heero prompted, slitted eyes blazing at him.
"Think about it," Trowa urged him. "You like explosions, right?"
Heero tapped an impatient foot. "Obviously."
"But you're only human," Trowa continued, his frantic brain piecing up the logic as he went along. It was their only chance, and it just barely made sense... now, if only Heero would swallow it whole. "You're limited in the number of explosions you can cause, you know."
Heero smirked and tugged Duo close, stroking his long unbound brown hair. "Thats why I've got him."
Duo wriggled in the circle of his arm, glared, and snapped at his fingers. "Jerk. Meanie. Rapist!"
Heero scowled at him. "You didn't say 'no'."
Trowa ignored that and hurried on. "Yeah, but who's doing the explosions? You, or the Genie?"
Heero blinked. "The Genie... " he said slowly, a dawning wave of understanding breaking over his features. "If I had the powers of a Genie... "
"You'd be able to blow up whatever the hell you wanted to," Trowa concluded triumphantly. He wiped sweat from his brow. It seemed perfectly logical, but...
"Duo," Heero snapped, "have you got the power to blow up anything in the Universe?"
Duo nodded vigorously. "Yep, sure do."
Heero's eyes gleamed.
Trowa recognized that look in his eyes. It was a fanatic sort of gleam. He had managed to trip Heero's obsession -- and a fanatic didn't think rationally.
Quatre was tugging at his hand. "Trowa -- either you've done something really, really brilliant -- or abysmally stupid and we're all going to be killed." His worried eyes drilled into Trowa's already-frayed nerves.
Wufei nodded. "Cross your fingers and hope."
Heero frowned, then nodded his head with a decisive look settling over his features. "Duo, my third wish."
"Yes?" Duo lifted a brow.
Trowa found he was sweating from more than just the heated atmosphere of the room. Quatre clung to his hand tightly. If he had known how to pray, in that moment he would've been prostrate doing so.
"Make me a Genie," Heero growled, throwing an insufferable look of triumph across the room.
"Your wish is my command!" Duo said brightly. "O ye who was once my Master."
Heero turned a confused look on him, as the bright blue glow sprang up between Duo's hands. "...Duo... ?"
Duo merely chuckled wickedly, and flung the magic at him.
For a long moment, nothing happened. Everyone held their collective breath -- Trowa, most anxious of all because he knew if this backfired it would be all his fault, and no one else's. Heero stood stock-still, staring at his hands. Then his clothing writhed and morphed until he was wearing tight black pants instead of little spandex shorts, and his green tank-top became a green vest, baring chest and stomach. He looked stunned and his ears began to lengthen, morphing into ifrit-points.
"I... I feel so POWERFUL!" Heero shouted, an expression of unholy joy transforming his features. "I could blow up Earth with a mere thought -- ! I could blow up the entire solar system! The GALAXY!" He began to laugh again, a dreadful wicked sound.
"Now you've done it," Treize said in disgust.
"No, just watch -- " Quatre leaned forward, expression intent.
Heero raised his arms as if to stretch out and try his new power. And then the gold bracelets appeared, clacking onto his wrists like gilded shackles. He eyed them in astonishment. Then stunned, sick comprehension crossed his features. "No," he whispered, numb. "NOOOOO!!!"
A gunmetal-gray lamp appeared on the floor, and a thick smoky trail of vapor extended from its mouth and clung to Heero's legs, drawing him in. His face was mottled with red fury as he was sucked into the lamp, still yelling "NOOO!!! OMAE O KOROSU!"
Trowa scrambled over to the lamp, satisfaction tipping up the corner of his mouth in a tiny smile. "Yes, Heero, you've got the 'phenomenal, cosmic power.' But now you're stuck in a dinky brass -- well, steel -- lamp."
"And like I said, it's hell for your sex life!" Duo finished with a grin. Then he looked at the lamp and scooped it up, crowing gleefully. "MINE! MINEMINEMINE!"
"Hooray! Trowa, you did it!" Quatre cheered, and Trowa staggered as the blond boy flung himself into his arms. "You saved us from being self-destructed!"
Treize looked up calmly, still chained to the wall. Wufei had picked Quatre's golden chain but didn't dare get close enough to Treize to free him, too. "Good job, Prince Triton. Now, if you'd be so good as to free me--"
Trowa glanced at him unhappily. A few things had to be cleared up. "I'm not a prince," he corrected softly, as Quatre pulled back to look at him. "Heero was right about that."
"Not a prince?" Treize echoed, raising one thick brow. His gaze hardened. "Quatre-Hime, get away from that vagabond."
"Wait," Wufei called out, approaching. "Trowa, don't you have at least one more wish?"
"I've got two," Trowa replied, then bit his lip as he looked at Duo. The long-haired Genie was regarding him with bright eyes and an unquenchable smile. "Well... really only one."
"So wish to be a prince again," Wufei urged.
Trowa considered it. Then he remembered the bombs exploding, crumbling plaster... and realized that the outlying quarters of Agrabah must be lying in shattered ruins. Their people were homeless, and the chance of Treize financing reconstruction was... oh, who was he kidding; Treize would never finance the rebuilding of the lower quarters. "But... all those explosions."
"Now's not the time to grow a conscience," Wufei chided, his expression peculiar.
Quatre was looking at him intently now.
Trowa sucked in a breath of air. "Duo?"
"Hn? Yes?" Duo bounced over and grinned, still dangling the gunmetal-gray lamp from his fingers. It appeared to be his most prized possession now.
"Do I still get two wishes from you?"
"Sure thing!" Duo beamed, giving him a rib-cracking one-armed hug. He held up the lamp. "And hey, thanks for this."
"Sure," Trowa blinked. "Duo, I wish... "
Wufei took a step forward, eyes expectant. Quatre's grip on his arm tightened.
"... for you to restore the city to the way it was, before the bombs went off."
Duo snapped his fingers. "Done!"
The throne room was plunged abruptly into darkness.
Wufei was agreeably surprised with Trowa's wish. And then the lights went out, and he had a frantic minute or two to be fervently grateful that Treize was still chained to the wall and couldn't grab him. When sunlight finally burst through the windows to stream into the throne room, the torches had vanished, the windows were walled-up no longer, Treize and Zechs were straightening their clothing making fussy noises... and Trowa was making out with Quatre.
"Quatre!" Treize exclaimed in outraged tones. "Stop that at once!"
Quatre pulled his mouth away from Trowa's long enough to reply with something scornful and unsuitable for mixed company.
"Quatre!" Treize blinked in shock. "How dare you... "
"Trowa still has one more wish left," Wufei pointed out, edging away from Treize who had advanced off the dais and was coming dangerously close. "He could still become a prince."
Trowa sighed. "No, I can't," he replied regretfully. "I've already committed my last wish. Duo, I wish for you to be free."
Duo's eyes got huge. "REALLY!?"
"YES!" the slender Genie cheered, dancing around in his curly gold shoes, hopping up and down and hugging the lamp to his chest. "Oi, thanks Trowa-man! You're the greatest! The best! WOW! You've made my century!" He grabbed Trowa and spun him around until the tall lanky boy looked dazed. Then Duo took a good hold of the steel lamp and rubbed it, snickering wickedly.
In a flash of black smoke and a gunpowder-scented cloud, Heero Yuy appeared, glaring viciously. "What do you want?" he snapped.
Duo waggled a finger at him. "Ah, ah, ah!" he chided.
"...master... " Heero tacked on sullenly.
Duo glomped him. "Hey, lover, let's go play Battleship." He leered and dragged the newly-made Genie out of the room.
Trowa sighed and looked at Quatre. "See? I've got nothing to offer you but a life on the streets."
Quatre looked back at him, his mouth firming in a determinedly stubborn line. "I don't care." He flung himself into Trowa's arms again. "OW! What was that!?" Quatre pulled back, rubbing at his ribs.
"Huh?" Trowa frowned, then put a hand to his vest. His eyes got very wide. Then he carefully extricated a scintillating blue pear-shaped sapphire bigger than Wufei's fist. "From the Cave of Wonders!"
"You're rich!" Quatre grinned. "Does that mean we can elope, and you can support me in the lifestyle I'm accustomed to?"
Trowa pressed a tender kiss to his lips, cupping his face, then turned with a determined expression, keeping his arm around Quatre. "Sultan Treize?"
"Uh-huh?" Treize drawled, looking amused as he folded his arms over his chest. "You try eloping and I'll send Zechs after you."
Zechs nodded, blond brows raised. He dropped a hand to his scimitar meaningfully.
"You're trying to marry off Quatre to get him out of the line of inheritance, right?" Trowa commented.
Treize pursed his lips, acquiring a wary look. "... Maybe," he conceded.
"Well, if Quatre and I run off and leave Agrabah, you won't have to be worried about him claiming inheritance rights to any part of your property," Trowa put forth.
Quatre shook his head vigorously.
Treize considered it.
"In fact," Trowa continued, warming up his logic, "Quatre could be declared ineligible to inherit Agrabah because he ran away with a poverty-stricken boy like me."
Treize nodded thoughtfully. "It has potential."
Wufei looked back and forth as a silence descended. Trowa and Quatre were standing so close to each other that there practically wasn't an unbridged space between their bodies. Treize was eyeing them, chin in hand. The offer was too good to refuse, though, and Wufei knew it as well as the Sultan did.
"All right," Treize finally declared. "Just so long as Quatre knows I'll disown him as soon as he sets foot outside Agrabah with you."
"Fine by me!" Quatre returned, chin lifted high. "But I get to take Rasid."
Treize waved a languid hand. "Take the tiger, for all I care. Just another mouth to feed, and he bites."
"Only pompous windbags," Quatre muttered as he and Trowa turned to leave the throne room.
Wufei overheard it and carefully controlled the urge to snicker. He was creeping towards the nearest exit and didn't want Treize to notice.
"What was that!?" Treize demanded.
So close... only six more feet and he'd be out of the throne room and running for freedom. Heero certainly wouldn't be needing his earthly possessions anymore so if he just fenced a few jewels he'd be able to finance the trip back to China...
"Bird of paradise!" Treize's commanding voice rang out over the throne room.
Dammit, dammit! Trowa and Quatre had managed to make a clean getaway; why couldn't he escape too? Maybe it was karma. Maybe it had something to do with stealing the lamp. All he knew for sure now was that if he took off, Zechs would probably be right behind him, and drag him back to see Treize anyhow.
Slowly he turned. "Ye-e-es?" he replied.
Treize was still wearing that carelessly amused look, and now he had his arm around Zechs' waist, toying with a handful of platinum hair. "We want you to witness something. Zechs and I resolved our difficulties during that trying time while Heero was in power."
Wufei stared. With all that constant arguing, they had 'resolved their difficulties?'
"That's all I have to do?" Wufei stated. "Just witness something?"
"Yes, then you can leave," Treize returned. He loosened his arm, stepped back, and took Zechs' hand instead. "I, Treize Khushrenada, take Zechs to be my lawfully wedded spouse... "
Wufei could not believe he was hearing this.
Everyone!! Literally everyone was hooking up, but HIM!
They finished their marriage vows and stood looking at him expectantly. Wufei coughed. "Well, all right, heard and witnessed -- go ahead and seal it with a kiss."
Treize cupped the back of Zechs' head, drew him close, and kissed him thoroughly and passionately.
Wufei blinked and wondered for a brief instant if he hadn't been missing something, after all, by avoiding Treize with such determination.
"Finally," Zechs murmured, when they broke the kiss. "I can't wait for you to meet your new heir, lover."
"You're PREGNANT!?" Wufei nearly shrieked, his belief tolerances stretched to their limits.
Both men cast him annoyed glances. "No, you incompetent," Zechs sniffed. "My sister, Relena. She arrives with the next caravan, and Treize promised to make her his new heir if we ever did marry." He gave Treize a glance somewhere between amused and exasperated. "If he ever got around to committing."
Wufei blinked. So *that* was why...
"You're dismissed," Treize nodded at him. "Thank you for all your help, bird of paradise."
"It was nothing," Wufei muttered, still feeling disgruntled as he left the throne room. Had all that chasing been for Zechs' benefit only, to make him jealous?
He ripped the streamers off his arms on the way back to Heero's room, then after a quick change of clothes he grabbed enough money to finance the trip back to China. He was sorely longing for home, and it had been a few years. Why, the Arabian food here was enough to give even a camel indigestion...
The streets of Agrabah were crowded and buzzing with people who were still excitedly discussing the events of the past twenty-four hours. Wufei sought out the nearest caravan going to China by way of India. There was no time like the present.
He stepped up to the counter and eyed the old man snoring behind it, his chair tipped back, head resting against one of the awning poles with the snorts and sawing noises emerging from the gape-tilted mouth. Should he wake him?
A young girl hurried up and ducked behind the counter. "Don't wake Grandpa; he got in on the late caravan last night... may I help you?" She smiled at him, slanted dark eyes bright with vivacity.
Wufei felt like he'd been struck in the back of his head with a board. One with hobnails.
"I -- I'm Wufei," he offered his hand, unable to tear his eyes away from her delicate features. If she was going back on the next caravan... wouldn't life be grand!
"I'm Meiran," the girl returned with a shy smile.
Maybe he'd get his happy ending, after all.
"You didn't pack much," Trowa observed, as Quatre began to heft the shoulderpack onto his back. He put out one long-fingered hand to stop him, then picked up the burden himself. "Here, let me -- you handle Rasid." He hefted the pack up onto Quatre's camel and tied it.
"Rasid will be just fine!" Quatre asserted, scratching the tiger behind his ears. He butted against the blond boy's hand, then made a quizzical 'mrow' deep in his throat, buzzing inquiringly at Trowa. "This is Trowa, Rasid... I told you about him."
"You did?" Trowa blinked astonished eyes at the orange-and-black tiger who was snuffling at his hand.
"All good things," Quatre assured him, then his mouth crinkled up at the corners as he dissolved into a smile. "Trowa, I'm so glad you came for me."
Trowa shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "I had to do it," he returned, his voice soft.
Quatre tilted his head and regarded him with unwinking bright eyes. "I know," he said at last, "and I love you for it."
"Quatre -- I -- " Dammit, his breath was sticking in his throat again. Instead of words, he caught at Quatre's hand, and the former princess gave him a brilliant smile.
When they came to a halt before the gates, Trowa checked once more to make sure that they had enough water stowed in their camels' packs to make the trip to the nearest oasis. Somewhere out of this sandblasted desert might be a nice place to settle -- someplace green and cool, with a lot of water. Actually, he'd always been curious about something called 'circus.' Maybe he could check it out, with Quatre.
"You're not unhappy about leaving Agrabah?" Trowa said, squeezing his beloved's hand as they checked through their packs once more before mounting up.
Quatre tightened the girth then turned to give him a half-quizzical, completely loving smile. "Of course not, Trowa. I hated palace life -- I always thought I could do so much more. Besides, Treize made me dress up as a girl and I don't think he was my real father."
"Let's find him," Trowa suggested, lifting Quatre's fingers to his lips. "Your real father."
"That would be nice," Quatre slid both arms around him, resting his cheek against Trowa's shoulder. "But I've already found everything I ever wanted right here."
Trowa returned the hug, his throat tight. Silently he was thanking Duo and Wufei for providing the opportunity to receive his most cherished dream -- hell, even Heero had been a part of that.
"Let's get going," Quatre suggested, pressing a kiss to his collarbone before he drew back.
"Yes," Trowa agreed. Away from Agrabah, city of bad fortune and uncertain luck... "And Quatre?"
"Yes?" Quatre tossed the word back at him as he climbed onto his camel.
"If you see any lamps... for god's sake don't pick them up."