Three hours later Quatre
found himself standing near the front door of the house. He still
couldnt understand why in world these people insisted on
wearing so many clothes. His fingers still hurt from doing up all
the buttons, hooks and ties on Trowas clothing. He
didnt even want to think about what it would take to get
him back out of the costume when they got home.
He felt his cheeks suddenly heat up at that thought. He couldnt understand why the thought of taking Trowas clothes off of him made him feel funny.
Duo was standing near him. Although his feet never moved from their place, the rest of him wasnt still. Something on Duo was constantly in motion. Quatre had learned that even asleep Duo wasnt still. Right now he was playing with the end of his braid, tangling it in his fingers and then smoothing it back out again.
Heero and Trowa were sitting on a couch a few feet away. When they had come into the room Trowa had told him to stand where he was and wait quietly. Quatre wondered just exactly what they were waiting for.
At that moment a richly dressed man walked into the room. Quatre had not seen anyone dressed in this uniform before and he wondered what he did.
Your Lorships, the man said quietly. The carriage is ready.
Trowa nodded slightly and rose to his feet. Thank you. He glanced over at Quatre and inclined his head slightly, indicating that he wanted him to follow.
Quatre obediently fell into step three paces behind Trowa, making note that Duo did the same to Heero. It was the way hed been shown to follow Trowa. Close enough to hear Trowa if he wanted anything, without Trowa needing to shout, and yet far enough back to not be in the way.
They walked outside to find, what was to Quatre, a rather strange looking carriage. For, attached to the back and facing backwards, was what looked like an extra seat.
Quatre paused, not certain what was expect of him. He noticed that Duo had stopped as well.
Immediately another uniformed man stepped forward and opened the door to the carriage. With a slight nod of his head, Trowa stepped up into the carriage. Heero followed him in. The man shut the door and stepped away from the carriage.
Duo suddenly darted forward and scrambled up into the extra seat, indicating that Quatre should follow him.
Fortunately Quatre moved fast enough, for he had barely gotten himself settled when the carriage lurched forward and they were off.
You got to move fast, Duo whispered. They wont wait for you. And actually were lucky. Some people make their slaves follow along behind, like dogs or something.
Quatre blinked in surprise. He couldnt imagine anyone being able to keep up with a moving carriage. And what happens if they dont? Quatre whispered back. He had a feeling that they werent to talk to loudly and distract the occupants of the carriage.
Duo simply looked at him, the expression on his face the only answer Quatre needed.
I figured I should explain a few things on the way, especially since this is your first time. A lot of the rules that apply at home apply here. No talking to anyone unless given permission. Trowas orders supersede everyone elses, excetera. You have a job to do and thats why you come along. Believe me, they dont bring us so that we can enjoy ourselves.
What kind of job?
You are Trowas personal server. Even though there are other slaves that bring the food to the tables, its your job to actually serve Trowa. You also see that his wine glass, or what ever beverage he chooses to drink, is kept full and that there is nothing he needs. You also pull out his chair so that he may sit down and also when he goes to get up. You stick with him, in case he wants anything. Unless he tells you to wait in a specific place for him. Then you are to stay there and not move. No matter what anyone else tells you.
You wont be asked to disrobe, since there will be ladies present and if you are dont. The only time you are to obey that command is when Trowa issues it and there are no women around. Duo gave a slight smile. Guess they dont want to know what theyre missing.
What if somebody tries to do something you dont want them too? Quatre had, on several occassions, been pinched, usually on the butt, by one of Trowas guests.
If it hasnt been cleared with Trowa you can refuse. But if Trowa gives his permission, there isnt anything you can do or say. But I dont think you have to worry about that. I doubt if Trowa will let anyone do anything.
I wont get in trouble for refusing.
Only for refusing Trowa.
Quatre nodded. It seemed rather simple. Just follow Trowas orders, whatever they may be.
Duo smiled slightly. He didnt think anything would happen, since Quatre was Trowas slave. That carried a lot of weight in the circle of people they would be with tonight.
The ride to the party seemed to take a very long time to Quatre and he was more than a little sore when they did finally arrive. The seat hed ridden in had obviously not been designed for comfort.
He wasnt sure if he was supposed to open the carriage door, but before he could move a fancily dressed man stepped forward and did so.
Duo slid up beside Quatre. See the symbol on his shoulder? he whispered.
Quatre nodded, making note of the patch sewn to the shoulder of the mans shirt. It looked like a stylized horse head.
That means he in a livery slave. Basicly he works in the stables, tending the horses and carriages.
Its his job to open the door to the carriage and to see to the safe....extraction of the people inside.
Quatre barely kept from laughing at Duos choice of words. Some of the people he could see walking up the stairs looked as if extraction was the only way to describe how they could have gotten out of their carriages.
Of course, he dont care how the slaves get off. Thats up to them.
Trowa glanced back at them for a moment, then started up the stairs.
Its show time, Duo whispered, before falling into step behind Heero, who was walking up the stairs as if on a mission.
Quatre frowned as he followed Trowa. What did Duo mean by that?
An hour later, Quatre understood the comment completely. How could a group of people talk to each other and not really say anything at all? There was such a complicated dance of beating around the bush going on, Quatre was amazed anyone could even remember what started a conversation.
He did notice that not a lot of people seemed to want to engage Heero for very long in any sort of small talk. After standing near him for a few minutes, he understood why. Heero didnt beat around the bush. He was blunt, almost to the point of rudeness at times.
At the moment he was glaring at some air-headed blonde that had tried to convince him to dance with her. She didnt seem to be getting the hint that Heero wasnt interested.
Just as Heero opened his mouth to say something, Trowa stepped forward. Heero, Ive been looking for you. I need you assistance in explaining several matters to Lord Andar.
Fortunately, Heero got the hint and with a slight nod at the blonde girl, turned and followed Trowa. Why didnt you just let me tell her off?
Because then you would have actually spoken to her, instead of just glaring and shaking you head. You would have never gotten rid of her then.
I would have told her exactly what I think of her.
And she would have figured you were just playing hard to get. She is one person you dont want to give any encouragement to.
Well, well, well. If isnt Cousin Trowa and his tag along buddy Heero Yuy. I hadnt heard youd actually arrived or I would have greeted you sooner.
Quatre blinked in surprise at the man walking towards them. In a room full of gaudy people, he was the gaudiest. Quatre wasnt sure exactly how the man managed to walk, with all the gems and such that he was wearing.
The thing of it was, he might actually be a rather nice looking man if he hadnt been so horrible dressed. His light brown hair feathered a face that could be called handsome, if not for the plotting look in his dark brown eyes.
It was obvious to Quatre that there was no love loss between the two cousins.
Trowa inclined his head slightly. I knew you would get to us eventually. You do have a great many duties as host.
Nice one, Duo mouthed behind Heeros back. Quatre smiled slightly. There was something about this man that gave him the creeps.
Ever the diplomat, right Cousin. He glanced passed Heero at Duo. Brought your trained killer with you, I see.
Never leave home without him, Heero replied calmly.
Is he really as good as they say?
Heero gave him an odd smile. Hope you never have to find out.
Michal laughed. There was something fake about it, as if it was too hearty for the man it was issuing from. Touché, Heero. How about his other talents? I hear hes quite good in the bedroom as well. Jakar knew how to train them up right.
Youre not going to say.
Heero shrugged. One trained whore slave is pretty much like the next one.
Quatre blinked. He couldnt believe those words had come out of Heeros mouth. And what was even more surprising was that Duo didnt even react to them.
Then why buy him?
Michal nodded. I understand completely. You have managed to out live any of the others that have owned him.
Thats not true. His first owner had him for nearly five years before he died.
Michal only looked at him for a moment. Then he turned his attention to Quatre.
Quatre could feel his skin crawl as the man looked him over. And this is you newest toy, Cousin. I hear hes already quite loyal. I dont know too many slaves that would take a knife meant for their master.
Quatre barely managed to keep his face blank. What in the world did he mean by that?
Yes, Trowa replied softly. I was very fortunate.
Michal looked Quatre over again. Very. I heard the bidding went quite high. Too bad I had other business that day. You might have had a more serious challenge for him. He is very nice.
Trowa shrugged. That is the fates. It wasnt meant to be.
Michal laughed again True. He looks like hes quite a ride. Is he?
Trowa simply arched an eyebrow.
Maybe youll let me test him out some time. I might teaching a new trick or two.
I dont know when Ill be getting back. It might be several months.
Too bad. Maybe you can loan him to me for the night.
I dont think so.
Michal shook his head. Your loss. Might have made the ride that much more interesting.
Quatre is fine just the way he is. I certainly dont need him learning any more tricks.
Just then a slave hurried up to them. Your highness, Lord Nichols says that he must speak with you at once. It is on a most urgent matter.
Things are always urgent with him. Michal looked at Trowa. Im sure well have a chance to talk again later.
Michal turned and follwed the slave, grumbling under his breath about stupid old men and their problems.
Quatre couldnt contain the shudder that ran through him. He definitely did not like that man.
He glanced over at Duo, who
looked at him and then at the retreating back of the Crown
prince. To Quatres surprise he made the weirdest face at
the man before looking back at Quatre. He nodded slightly and
Quatre understood the silent message. Duo didnt like the man either.
Trowa sighed. At least that is out of the way.
Heero nodded his agreement. Hes done his token duty and properly greeted his dear cousin. I doubt if youll see him the rest of the night. Lord Nichols probably has some serving wench all tied up for him.
Trowa looked at Heero. Tied up?
You dont think any of them would actually be still for him, do you?
Trowa shook his head. Youd best not let him hear you say that.
Heero shrugged. I cant help it if he cant accept the truth. The only thing that gets him attention is the fact that these people want to kiss up to the Crown Prince.
Trowa simply shook his head again. He knew there was no need to encourage Heero.
Quatre stood quietly in the deserted hall. Trowa had told him to wait here while he went into the bathroom. It seemed that slave were not to soil the room with their presence.
If it isnt Cousin Trowas little slave boy. Wheres the master, boy?
Quatre continued to look straight ahead.
Suddenly Michal was standing in front of him. Such a good little slave boy. I bet you do everything your dear master tells you too, dont you? There was a slur to Michals speech that indicated to Quatre that hed been drinking heavily for the past few hours.
Quatre tried to keep the revulsion he felt for this man off of his face. It wouldnt do to get him angry.
Michal reached out and snatched Quatres arm. Did you know that Trowa and I share everything? There was an odd emphasis on the everything.
Quatre remained still, trying to calm his rapidly beating heart.
Michal smiled at the feel of the racing pulse beneath his fingers. I knew youd want this. Youre a very smart boy. Play your cards right and please me and Ill see that you are mine.
Quatre hid the frown he felt. He wasnt sure what the man was talking about.
Suddenly, Michal jerked him into a darkened corner and pressed his lips to Quatres.
Now, Quatre was scared. Trying to free his mouth enough to shout for help, he struggled in the mans arms.
Michals grip tightened. You are a very good kisser, he slurred when he finally pulled away.
Before Quatre could make any noise, Michal was dragging him out through an open door and into the garden beyond. As Quatre opened his mouth to shout, Michal clamped his hand across it. Not one noise, he hissed in Quatres ear, suddenly sounding very sober. Or I will make you regret it. What I want , I get. And tonight, its you. I cant wait to test out that hot little ass of yours. I bet you give my dear cousin quite a ride. Well, now Im going to show you how a real expert rides.
After a moment, Quatre found himself in a remote part of the garden. Michal seemed pleased with the location as he nodded to himself.
With a dark laugh, Michal grabbed at Quatres shirt, ripping it open even as he forced the blonde to his knees in front of him. This position brought Quatre at eye level with Michals groin and his very obvious erection.
Suddenly, Quatre understood what Michal meant by ride. He struggled to stand, not wanting this to go any farther.
Michal only laughed and shoved him backwards. Caught off guard, Quatre fell on his back, finding himself staring up at the leering man. Very nice, Michal growled. Reaching down, he ripped Quatres pants off. Very nice indeed.
Quatre went to cover himself, but Michal was faster. Grabbing Quatres wrists in one hand, he forced the blondes arms above his head. No fair, hiding this fine piece of work, Michal chided, reaching down to take Quatres penis in his hand. Has my cousin let you use it on him, or does he prefer that sweet ass?
Quatre didnt reply as he struggled to escape the mans grip. Suddenly pain flared through his wrists and groin as Michal tightened his grip.
This time Quatre did cry out, a high pitched wail that split the darkness.
Michal laughed. Scream all you want. The sounds of the party will cover any noise you make. In fact, I want to hear to scream as I take you. He released his grip on Quatres penis and ran his hand down across Quatres buttocks.
Quatre arched his back and screamed as a thick finger suddenly shoved its way passed the tight ring of muscle that guarded the entrance to his body.
Michal leered down into his face. Very tight. If I didnt know better, Id swear you were still a virgin.
Quatre sobbed, trying to escape the invading finger. After barely a moment a second and then a third finger were roughly added. The pain that shot up his body from his abused opening had Quatre screaming continuously now.
After a moment or two the fingers were removed, but before Quatre could even register that fact he felt a weight pressing down on him, forcing his legs to spread apart. He opened his eyes to find himself staring into Michals glazed expression. I like watching.
Quatre could feel something infinitely larger that the fingers that had so recently invaded his body pressing against him. There was also a great deal of moisture sliding down the crack in his butt.
NO! he shrieked, struggling to keep this new invader out.
Just as he felt himself begin to give way beneath the onslaught, the weight was abruptly gone. With a pained moan, Quatre curled up into a tiny ball.
He didnt see the thick, brown colored rope that was wrapped around Michals throat. Michal clawed frantically at the rope, barely registering that this rope was really a thick braid of hair.
Duo tightened his grip. When Trowa had come back and reported that Quatre had wandered off, Duod had a bad feeling. Following his instincts hed headed for the gardens, the most private place on the estate. As soon as hed gotten away from the noise of the party hed heard the anguished wail. Following the screams, hed come across a scene that had infuriated him.
At the sight of Michal trying to force his way into Quatres body, while Quatre had struggled to keep him out Duo had simply reacted. Using the first available weapon, his long braid of hair, hed simply wrapped it around Michals throat and pulled.
Duo barely registered the gasping breaths or the frantic fingers as he pulled even tighter. He didnt even notice that Michals eyes were practically bulging from their sockets as he struggled to draw a breath.
Duo, let him go. Heeros calm voice suddenly cut through the darkness.
No, Duo replied.
Heero moved forward to put his hand on Duos shoulder. Duo, let him go. Hes not worth it.
Duo looked up at Heero. He was going to....
Calm blue eyes looked back at him, full of understanding. I know. Let him go.
Reluctantly, Duo released his grip on his braid. He continued to look at Heero, not paying any attention to Michal as he fell forward onto his hands and knees, coughing and choking as his lungs labored to draw in air.
Hell pay for that, Michal gasped out after a moment.
Heero glared at the other man. Just try it. I wonder what youre punishment will be, for attempting to rape another mans slave?
Michal glared back. He was asking for it.
Doesnt matter. His master didnt give his permission. Id say that theyll figure Duo had every right to stop you in the manner he saw fit. He smirked. Just be glad he didnt break your stupid neck. Next time he just might.
An odd noise drew Heeros attention away from the prostrate prince. Duo was trying to comfort the nearly hysterical Quatre.
Its all right, Quatre. He wont hurt you now. Its just me. Its Duo. I wont hurt you. Over and over Duo muttered gentle words, trying to calm the blonde down.
NO! Quatre cried over and over, curling up into a tighter ball and rocking back and forth. His heart-rending sobs tore through the night air.
Heero moved forward, pulling off his cloak to hand it to Duo. Cover him up.
Duo took the offered cloak and tried to wrap it around Quatre. It took several tries, but finally he succeeded.
Heero studied the scene for a moment before kneeling down beside the young boy. With a quick move, he suddenly pressed two fingers into the back of Quatres neck.
Without a noise, Quatre abruptly sank into unconsciousness.
Duo glared at Heero. That wasnt necessary.
We need to get him home, now. It was the fastest way to go about it. You carry him. Ill get Trowa and the carriage.
What about him? Duo practically spat out the words.
Dont worry about him. Im sure hell come up with something.
Duo started to say something, then fell silent. Gently, he picked up the still boy and headed for the front of the house. There was no way he was going to carry Quatre through that crowd of vultures. Theyd enjoy the show too much.
Heero watched Duo leave. I dont think I have to warn you what will happen if you try and make an issue out of this. Good night.
With one last disgusted glance at the prostrate man, Heero turned and headed for the house.
Trowa didnt even jump when Heero suddenly materialized next to him. Find him?
Yes. Duos taking him out front. Its time to leave.
Trowa turned at the flat tone in Heeros voice. What happened?
Your dear cousin tried to rape him. If Duo had been a few seconds slower, he would have succeeded.
Trowas eye glittered angrily. Where?
Hes still getting his act together. Almost being choked to death is not a good thing. Duo lived up to his reputation tonight. I almost didnt persuade him to let him go. Not that I wouldnt mind killing the bastard myself, but as I told Duo, he isnt worth it.
Heero grabbed Trowas elbow and started to lead him from the room. Now is not the time to deal with him. His day will come. Right now, you have a very upset young man who needs to be taken home.
Trowa started moving faster towards the door. Is he all right, otherwise?
I saw some blood. Id say Michal did something to him, I just dont know what. Why dont you let Doc check him out.
Trowa nodded as he stepped outside. This time his cousin had gone too far.
As Trowa walked outside, he
found Duo already there. The scene was so eerily familiar, Trowa
paused and blinked. Once again, Duo stood before him with a still
Quatre in his arms. This time, though, there wasnt the
blood there had been before. Quatres clothing was ripped,
however, and there were grass stains on the fabric.
Is he? Trowa asked, walking up to Duo. He didnt notice that Heero had slipped off to one side and was talking to one of the footmen standing nearby.
He passed out. Duos voice was flat and cold.
I found that bastard of a cousin of your about to rape him.
Trowa blinked. Hed never heard such fury in Duos voice. It certainly made him believe that Duo really had earned the nickname Shinigami legitimately.
I know that part. Why did he pass out?
Duo glared at Trowa, the fury in his eyes causing Trowa to take a step backward. Before Duo could say anything, though, the sound of a carriage coming to halt at the bottom of the stairs halted him.
Let go, Heeros voice cut through the air, drawing Duos attention away from Trowa.
Duo moved down the stairs like a stalking panther. Even his walk demonstrated the anger the braided boy was feeling. Trowa made a silent note to himself to talk to Heero later. There was more going on here than he knew.
Looking back at the large house, where the party continued unabated, Trowa sighed. Somebody must really not be happy with him. This situation continues to get worse and worse. With another sigh, Trowa headed down the stairs.
When he had nearly reached the bottom he noticed that Duo was headed for the seat on the back of the carriage where the slaves normally rode. No, he spoke up, waving at the footman that had run up to open the door to the carriage. Inside. Theres no need for the two of you to ride on the back. It will make the trip easier for him.
Duo blinked in surprise at the quietly spoken words. He had never even considered Trowa allowing them to actually ride in the carriage. There were times when Trowa could be very insistent on doing what was proper.
Heero smiled slightly at the surprise on Duos face. Stepping up into the carriage, he looked down at him. Hand him up.
Duos arms tightened their hold on the small blonde for a moment as he looked up into Heeros face. Then, with a slight smile, he did as he was bid.
Quatre moaned slightly at the feeling of being transferred and tried to curl up into a protective ball, but Heeros strong grip wouldnt allow him to move. At that, he began to struggle more fiercely, the fear making itself known even in his semi-conscious state.
Duo hopped up into the carriage and sat down beside Heero. With a speaking glance at Heero he took Quatre back into his arms, holding the struggling boy close to him, his hands already stroking Quatres hair as he murmured soft words of assurance.
At Duos touch and voice Quatre settle back down, snuggling closer into the safety of Duos hold. On an instinctual level, Quatre trusted Duo to protect him and his body responded to that trust.
Trowa said nothing as he got into the carriage. He noticed that, as Duo curled protectively around the small boy he held, Heero did the same to him. Though Heero made no move to actually touch either boy, it was obvious that he was guarding them. There was a soft look in his eyes as he watched Duo as well. Any doubts or questions Trowa might have had about his best friends relationship with his slave were settled in that moment. Trowa suddenly felt left out, alone and unwanted.
Closing his eyes to shut out the scene, he leaned his head against the back of the seat as he felt the carriage lurch forward. He had hoped this night would be a good experience for Quatre. Once again, he had failed the young boy and he had paid the price for Trowas stupidity.
Trowa really didnt know what he could do now. Maybe he would simply turn the boy over to Heero. It was pretty obvious that Duo already cared a great deal for him. Maybe things would be better that way.
With a silent sigh, Trowa let himself fall asleep.
NO! Quatre cried out, fighting the feeling of being pawed and manhandled. He could still feel those hands on his body, touching him in places that had never been touched in such a manner before. He could still feel the pain that radiated from the more abused portions of his anatomy. And most of all, he could feel the fear at what was happening to him.
Shh. A soft voice whispered, sliding through his panic like a gentle breeze. Youre safe. He wont hurt you anymore.
Gentle fingers brushed across his forehead and Quatre jerked away from the touch. Dont touch me, he whimpered, fear overwhelming him.
The fingers slid gently through his hair, moving slowly and softly. Its just me, little one. Open your eyes. Youre safe.
Slowly, reluctantly, Quatre opened his eyes. He relaxed slightly when he found Duo looking down at him, a small smile on his face. Duo? he whispered softly.
Duos smile widened. The one and only.
He.... Tears filled Quatres eyes and spilled over.
Duo immediately gathered him up into his arms. Its all right. Its over. I wont let him hurt you. I swear it. I wont let you go through that.
Quatre sobbed in Duos arms. He wasnt sure why he felt safe, but he did. He knew he could believe the softly whispered words.
Finally, the storm abated some and Quatre lay quietly in Duos arms. Why? he whispered.
Duo sighed. He had a pretty good idea what had brought on tonights incident. With Michal its not always easy to say. My guess is he saw something of Trowas and wanted it for himself. He probably figured you were already spreading your legs for Trowa and figured he should get a piece of the action. Hes always been that way.
But why would he think....?
Because thats what a lot of personal slaves are bought for, one way or another.
Quatre began shaking his head in disbelief. What was these peoples preoccupation with sex?
Duo gently took Quatres chin in his hand and titled his face upward. Ive told you before and Ill tell you again. If Trowa hadnt bought you at that auction, youd be serving in some whorehouse. There are plenty of people out there that will pay for some time with a young kid. And plenty of those who cater to them.
Duo nodded. Do you know how old I was when I was introduced to oral sex?
Quatre shook his head, part of him dreading the answer.
Quatre gasped, shaking his head harder. He refused to believe such a thing could happen.
Yes. I was just past my fifth birthday when a man put his cock in my mouth and made me suck him off. He was my first master. Duos eyes grew dark. I was six the first time I was raped.
Raped? Quatres voice was barely above a whisper.
Duo frowned. If I hadnt been a slave thats what they would have called it. One of my masters houseguests decided he wanted to get his rocks off, but didnt want to have to go find a convenient whore. Besides, I think he liked little boys and here was one handy. I couldnt move for three days after that, it hurt so badly. I just wanted to curl up and die. I prayed for it at night. Duo shrugged his shoulders After a while I learned how to turn myself off so I wouldnt really feel what they were doing to me. And I learned to be very good at it, so theyd get off sooner and go away.
But....I saw.....you and......
Duo smiled. I know what you saw. With Heero it isnt just sex though. For the first time in my life, all of me is involved in the act. I enjoy it. Heart, body and soul. An odd gleam filled Duos eyes. Especially body.
I dont understand.
Maybe some day you will. Heero doesnt force me to do anything I dont want to. Im a part of whats happening, not just a convenient vessel. Ive never had anyone truly care about what I want. He does. That makes it more than sex. That makes it love.
You love him?
With every fiber of my being. There was a fierceness in Duos voice at his quietly spoken words. For Heero I would do nearly anything.
Duo looked at Quatre. What?
Boys arent supposed to......
Love other boys.
Its not right.
By whose standards?
The Great Book says.....
Duo snorted. A book written by a bunch of stick-up-their-ass men with a vendetta. They decided what was right and what was wrong. They say all these things, but they rarely listen to their own words. I think love is love, it doesnt care what the body looks like or whats between said bodys legs. It cares about whats inside. The heart and the soul. And I can enjoy sex with Heero as much as with any girl. And I dont have to worry about children and what might happen to them.
Had sex with a female?
Duo nodded. One of my masters was big on breeding his slaves. He wanted to have plenty to work his fields and mines.
That I might have a few kids out there somewhere. Its possible. Ill probably never know for certain though.
How old would they be?
Duo frowned for a minute. Around six or seven, I guess.
You were just a child yourself.
Yeah. Breed em young and often. Hell, some of the girls they brought in were younger that I was. I know for a fact a couple of them were virgins.
Its good to have a young mare mated with an experienced stallion, Quatre murmured, a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
Duo laughed. Right.
Of course, you usually do that with a young stallion as well.
Duo lowered his head, shaking it in disbelief. Do you?
Quatre nodded. Yeah.
Duo glanced at the other boy, noticing that his eyelids were starting to slide closed. I think youd best rest. You need it.
Quatre didnt argue as he curled up on his side. Dont leave me.
Duo pulled up the blankets and tucked the blonde in. Ill keep you safe.
Quatre smiled slightly as he drifted off to sleep.
Duo looked down at the
sleeping boy for a moment. I hope things get better for
you. With a sigh he turned and climbed into his own bed.
Hed told Heero that he felt it would be a good idea if he
stayed here for the night, to make sure everything was okay.
Though he knew he would miss his lover fiercely, Heero had not
Duo frowned as he stared up at the ceiling. This was going to be a very long night.
Trowa barely paid any attention to Felix as the older man rambled on about how the plans for Trowas trip were going. He was mentally going over the options he had available to him in regards of what to do with Quatre.
Although Quatre seemed all
right when with Duo, the boy immediately withdrew if anyone else
came near him. Though the reaction wasnt so bad if it was
Heero, he absolutely froze if anyone else was around. It was
getting so bad that Trowa had stopped having Quatre serve dinner
if it was more than just him, Heero and Wufei, who also
didnt seem to threaten the boy.
Even Trowa himself seemed to cause the reaction to some degree. Trowa was getting heartily tired of being addressed as Master in that flat, monotone voice. It was getting so Quatre could give Heero a run for his money in the dead voice department.
Of course, its taking longer than I originally anticipated. The large travel carriage had to be completely reupholstered. Someone failed to take proper care of it and the fabric was full of dust and holes. And the cook insists he needs at least two more assistants.......
Master? The soft voice floated past Felixs droning tone. Trowa turned his attention outward once more and found himself looking at a pale Quatre. In his hands, Quatre held a tray with some covered dishes on it
Trowa blinked. Yes?
I brought you some lunch, Master. Its past the noon hour, Master.
Trowa winced inwardly. Thank you, Quatre. He glanced at the desk full of papers that needed to be looked over. Much of the papers were Felixs, brought to show Trowa exactly what was planned.
Trowa glanced over at the older man, who had fallen silent when Quatre had entered the room. Why dont you get some lunch yourself. Im sure everything is in order and that you are working as quickly as possible.
Felix nodded and began to gather up his papers.
Leave them. I want to look over them again, anyway.
Of course. With a slight bow, Felix turned and left the room.
Trowa turned his attention back to Quatre, who had remained standing by the desk, the tray held in his hands. Just put it down somewhere.
Yes, Master. Quatre carefully set the tray down on a small clear spot on the desk. Is there anything else, Master?
Trowa frowned. Have you eaten yet?
Do you read?
Trowa indicated the papers spread across his desk. Could you please sort these out? I want to look at the plans for the trip, but theyre mixed up in everything else on this monstrosity.
Yes, Master. Quatre immediately began to pick up the papers, glancing at them and then sorting them into separate piles. There seem to be a lot of lists for a simple trip. He made note of the trail marked out on the large map he had just picked up. Master?
Trowa glanced up from his lunch. Yes?
Is this the route you plan on taking for this trip, Master.
Trowa looked over at the map Quatre was holding. Yes.
Quatre glanced at some of the other papers he had gathered up. Are you going to be staying in inns at night, Master?
Not most of the time. The towns arent that close together. I thought wed probably have to camp out a lot of the time.
Quatre continued to read through the lists. He couldnt believe the incredible amount of people and things that were apparently going on this trip as well. Why do they need six people to tend to the horses? And that is apparently their only job.
Trowa noticed that Quatre was frowning as he read the papers in his hand. Is there something wrong?
Quatre looked up and hastily set the papers down. No, Master.
If you think something is wrong, please tell me. It was the first time that Trowa had actually seen the boy interested in something. Hed grab any thread he could to try and help the boy out of the depression hed sunken into.
It just.... it seems like a lot of stuff for a trip, Master.
Quatre glanced back at the map again. It just is an awful lot of people and things that arent really needed. You can buy a lot of your supplies on the trail or gather them. And when you get up into this part of the route, He pointed at a section of the map. the wagons are going to be totally useless. And youre going to have to keep a lot of mouths feed, mouths that arent necessary. Most of these people only have one job to do. When theyre not doing it, theyll just be standing around getting in the way.
Trowa watched the boy as he ran his finger down the list of people Felix was planning on sending with him. There was actually some emotion in the boys voice and he noticed he hadnt called him Master once. A sudden idea struck him. Then why dont you plan this trip.
Quatre looked up in surprise. Master?
Your people travel a great deal, right.
So you can plan this trip. Start over from scratch. Plan it the way you think it should be done and then bring it to me. As long as its workable, well go with it.
Quatres fingers ran lightly across the map. Everything, Master?
A very faint smile crossed Quatres face. As you wish, Master. He paused for a moment. May I have some paper and something to write with, Master?
Trowa gestured with his hand Take what ever you need.
Quatre quickly gathered up the things he would need. Who is going on this trip, Master?
You mean the main ones.
Me, you, Heero, Duo and Wufei.
Youve met him. The one that offered to buy you the first time.
Quatre nodded, remembering the odd boy. He is bringing no one, Master?
Not that I know of.
Quatre nodded again. Ill bring you this as soon as possible, Master.
Trowa smiled as he watched him go. It was the most animated the boy had been in some time.
You did what? Heero looked at Trowa in disbelief.
I asked Quatre to plan our trip. It is what his people do all the time. Travel. And he seemed to think we were taking a lot of wasteful things.
And you agreed to follow his plan.
If its a workable plan, yes.
Heero shook his head. Are you sure?
Heero, he was actually interested in something. He told me some of the things he thought were wrong and he didnt call me Master once.
Heero looked as his friend for a moment. He knew how frustrated Trowa was becoming at Quatres continued listless behavior. If he wants us to sleep naked under the stars and bath in streams....
Trowa laughed. With Duo around youll probably be doing that anyhow.
Heero glared, but a slight smile crossed his lips. I just hope you dont end up regretting this.
I dont think I will.
Trowa turned at the sound of the quiet voice behind him. Hed come out into the garden to get away from the ridiculous amount of people that had invaded his home. Yes, Jor.
Your uncle is here to see you.
Trowa closed his eyes for a minute. Hed been expecting this visit for days. Send him on out.
A few minutes later Trowas uncle strolled out of the house and over to where Trowa waited for him.
Even if you didnt know who this man was, there was an air about him that command attention and respect. King Gawain was a man not to be trifled with, on any occasion. He was a rather large man, with dark red hair and broad shoulders. Even in his formal attire he looked every inch the strong, firm handed ruler that he was.
Trowa once again wondered how such a strong man could have sired such an ass for a son. Greetings, Uncle.
Gawain looked at his beloved brothers only child. He had mourned the loss of his brother and the hurts laid upon his nephew and had taken upon himself to see that the boy was well taken care of. Although hed never admit it, not even to himself, there were times when he wished this quiet young man was his son and heir, not Michal. You dont seem too surprised to see me, he commented as he sat down opposite Trowa.
Why should I be? I figured my cousin would come running to you the moment you returned. What does he want?
That braided boy is menace. And his master isnt much better.
Did he tell you why Duo nearly strangled him?
He said he was in the gardens when the boy attacked him.
And I dont suppose he told you what he was doing in the garden.
Gawain frowned. What do most people do in the garden. Thats not the point. The point is that boy attacked my son. Michal wants him punished and I agree. Such actions, especially from a slave, cannot be tolerated. Ive come to see that the punishment is applied, personally.
Then you should see to it that your son also receives the punishment he deserves. Duo did what he did because Michal was trying to rape my personal slave.
Trowa nodded. The doctor said that although hed been injured in the attack there was no signs of semen inside his body. Just on it. He figured that Michal had probably put at least a couple of fingers into him, but Duo stopped him before he could actually complete the act.
Gawain slumped back in his seat. That is quite an accusation you are making.
I have Duos eyewitness report, as well as Heeros, who wasnt too far behind Duo. I have the testimony of the boy involved, as well as the doctor who examined him. If Duo had been a few seconds slower, he would no longer be a virgin.
Gawain looked at his nephew. Disgusted as he was, he could believe that his son would do such a thing. Where did I go wrong?
Trowa turned and looked at the blonde figure that had stepped out of the shadows. He was a little surprised to see Quatre out here. The boy had refused to come anywhere near the gardens since the attack.
Quatre noticed the other man and paused. I am sorry, Master. I did not realize that you had company, Master. I will wait until later, Master.
Trowa shook his head. Its all right. Come here, please.
Quatre took a couple of cautious steps forward. Trowa noticed that he had a small bundle of papers in his hand.
Trowa looked at his uncle. This is the boy that was attacked. His name is Quatre.
Is it true that my son attempted to rape you?
Quatre winced slightly at the mans blunt question. He looked at Trowa. Master?
Trowa nodded. Tell him what happened.
Quatre looked over at the older man. Yes, sir.
Gawain looked at the boy for a minute. He could detect the fine trembling that shook the boys small frame. It was pretty obvious to him that the boy did not expect to be believed. Did he hurt you?
Quatre blinked. Very slowly he nodded.
Did he put any part of his body inside yours?
Quatres hands fluttered at the question as his face turned red. In.....
In your anus?
Quatre nodded miserably, turning even redder at the blunt question.
Did he put his penis in you?
Did he try?
Did he make you put it in your mouth? Or touch it in anyway?
Did he touch yours?
Did you like it?
No, sir. It hurt, sir.
Gawain watched the boy fidget. Although he was embarrassed and upset, Gawain could tell the boy wasnt lying. He looked over at Trowa. Is Heero and that boy of his going with you on this trip?
He nodded. Ill take care of Michal. He looked back at Quatre. My son will be punished for what he did. Although I will it admit it probably doesnt help you any, or can it change what has already happened.
And punishment wont be nearly as harsh as it should be, since Quatre is only a slave. Trowa watched as his uncle rose to his feet.
I hope you enjoy the trip, Gawain looked at his nephew. Take care.
Trowa nodded, understanding the underlying meaning in the words. Thank you, Uncle.
Quatre watched as the man walked away. How could a man that seemed rather nice be so cruel?
What did you want to see me about, Quatre? What was it that brought you out into the garden, especially at night?
I had a question about this trip, Master.
Do I have your permission to spend some money, Master?
Quatre looked down at his feet, which he shuffled nervously. A lot of the things you have really arent suited for travel, Master.
And you think they should be replaced.
Do you have your plans written down?
Right here, Master. Quatre indicated the papers he held in his hands.
Then bring them here so that I can look at them.
Quatre reluctanly moved over to the table and handed the roll of papers to Trowa.
Trowa began to read the papers, pleased at the precise way in which the information was presented. Exactly what do you wish to purchase?
I made a list, Master. Its the last two pages, Master.
Trowa sighed. Quatre?
Do you see anyone else around?
Quatre looked around the area. No, Master.
Then it is not necessary to address me as master.
I am ordering you to stop calling me master when there is no one around.
As you command, Ma.....
Quatre. There was a hint of warning in Trowas voice, a warning that he was getting very fed up.
Trowa clenched the papers he held in his hand. Let me make this very clear, when there is no one else around or even when Heero and Duo are here, you are to address me as Trowa or nothing at all. No sirs, masters or anything else of that matter. Is that understood?
Yes, s... Quatre caught the glint in Trowas visible eye. Yes.
Thats better. Now come over here and sit down so that you can explain what youve got.
Quatre made his way over to where Trowa was sitting and sat down in a chair.
Trowa noticed that Quatre sat poised on the edge of the chair, as if ready to bolt at a moments notice. With a sigh he turned to the last two pages and began to read. He was surprised at the list of things that Quatre had written down. Where do you want to get all of this stuff?
There is a market on the south side of town run by some Southlanders, Quatre paused for a moment. Trowa knew hed been about to say Master again. They should have what Im looking for.
Most of what you have will not travel well. It will wrinkle badly and never look right. The things I wanted to get will be much better for travel.
Duo will enjoy that. Trowa continued to read. Tents? I thought we had those.
They are too big and bulky. They would take up to much space.
Trowa shook his head. Hed always thought the damn things were too small. Saddles? Theres a barn full of tack, why get more?
Because the saddles you have are not designed for long distance travel. You would be very uncomfortable using them for long periods of time.
Trowa frowned and looked back over the list. It was then that he realized that there were no lists for wagons or for the people that would help take care of things. What are you going to put in the wagons?
I dont plan on taking any. They are unnecessary. And there are portions of the trail in which they would be totally useless, if they could even get through, which I doubt.
What about the other people?
Again, not necessary. Quatre lowered his head. He knew hed been mistaken in planning things the way he had. Im sorry, Ill go back and fix things. He reached out to take the papers back.
To his surprise, Trowa didnt release his grip on them. Do you think we can really take this trip with just the five of us.
Yes, Quatre whispered, not looking at Trowa.
Then how about this. We do things exactly as you have them planned for two weeks, until we reach Termal. If I dont think its working, or if Heero or Wufei dont, then we go with the original plan. I send for the servants and we wait for them to catch up. Agreed?
Quatre looked up in surprise. But wont that just be wasting money?
Trowa smiled. I have plenty to waste. I think the best way to find out if your plan will work is to try it. How long will it take you to get things ready?
Then we leave in the morning, three days from now. You have my permission to get anything you think we will need.
Quatre blinked, then nodded. Thank you. Taking the papers he rose to his feet and left the area. As soon as he was out of sight, he let the smile hed been holding back light his face. He couldnt believe Trowa was actually going to let him do what he wanted. He would make this the best trip anyone had ever taken it.
He didnt even wonder why he was so determined to make this trip work. If he had he might have been surprised at the answer.
Duo yawned and rubbed his
eyes as he walked down the hall to the room Trowa had allowed
Quatre to use as a place to store the things hed bought. He
figured the only way to get the blonde to go to bed was to drag
him there, personally.
The sight Duo saw when he opened the door was the one he expected to see. Quatre was standing in the middle of the large room, looking at the list in his hand and muttering under his breath.
Duo leaned against the doorjamb and watched for a moment. Do you have any idea how late it is?
Quatre looked up in surprise. Hed been so engrossed in what he was doing that he hadnt even heard the door open. Im almost finished. I just have a few things left to pack.
Duo sighed as he walked into the room. There didnt seem to be very many packs for a trip that was supposed to take at least three months. You know you could have gotten help doing this.
They wouldnt know how to do it right.
So youre planning on doing this every day were on this trip?
Quatre blinked at him in surprise. If I have to.
Duo sighed again. Show me what youre doing. The least I can do is help. He picked up a pole that had been lying on the floor next to a large pile of material. Whats this?
A tent pole.
What pack does it go in?
Duo frowned. Why not?
Because Im going to use it as one of the support poles for the packs that we put on the pack horses.
But I thought you said it was a tent pole.
Its that as well. Its more practical to use an item for more than one thing. Why should I take poles for pack support and more poles for tents when the same pole will work in both situations.
Duo nodded slightly. Makes sense. He picked up a small pack. Whats this?
Quatre glanced over. Clothes.
How many of these packs are mine?
Quatre indicated three small packs sitting a pile to Duos left. Those.
Duo looked them over. Is this all the clothes I get?
Only one of them has much clothing in it. The other two have the other things youll need.
Duo turned around and looked at Quatre is surprise. What?
You dont need that many clothes. Though I did pack more than usual since well probably see a large difference in temperature between here and the mountains.
Dont you people own anything?
Oh, you have a lot more things when youre moving the whole tribe. Im just planning things as if it was a small exploring or hunting party.
How many horses are we taking? Duo had heard Quatre had been in the stable yesterday looking over every horse Trowa owned. Heero had told him that the Master of the Stable had commented to Trowa that the next time he went to buy horses he was taking Quatre with him. He had been very impressed with Quatres knowledge of horseflesh.
Duo nearly choked. Are you going to make all the others walk?
The other people.
It will just be five people. One horse to ride and one to carry the extra packs. I made sure that every horse is saddle broke, so that we can switch off.
Duo hadnt believed Heero when he had said that Quatre had axed all the other help that had been planned on. You think the five of us can take a camping trip alone?
Quatre looked at him, innocent surprise on his face. Of course. You are all grown men.
Duo snorted at that statement. Do you know how many times Ive been on a horse in my life? Horseback riding is not considered a necessary skill for a slave to learn.
Ive taken that into consideration. I figured wed just travel part of the day at first to allow everyone to get used to riding.
Why not just take a couple of wagons?
Have you ever ridden in a wagon over most of the roads around? Its less rough on your butt to ride a horse.
How many tents are we taking?
Two. One for us and one for the others.
This I cant wait to see. How about sleeping arrangements? I dont like the thought of sleeping on the ground.
Neither do I. Quatre walked over to one of the packs and carefully pulled something from it. Turning, he handed it to Duo. You can fill this bag with air. It wont leak out and it forms a cushion between you and the ground. Its very comfortable. And in the morning you deflate it and it rolls back up into this small ball.
Duo looked at the item he held in his hands. Really?
Truly. Its more comfortable than what a lot of people call a normal bed. It doesnt have things to poke at you.
Duo yawned as he handed the roll back to Quatre. If Im going to help, wed best get moving. I want to get to bed.
Quatre laughed and nodded. Come on. Ill show you how to pack the small tent.
Duo watched for a moment as Quatre ducked around several piles of things. It was nice to see the blonde actually enjoying himself. Maybe Trowas got the right idea after all. I just hope the rest of us survive it.
Duo groaned and held his hands to his head. The ringing in his ears was driving him up the wall. He had a headache to end all headaches.
Finally he realized that the ringing noise wasnt in his head. It was coming from the bell hung over the bed on the other side of the room. Damn it, Quatre! Will you go see what the hell he wants! That damn bells giving me a headache.
The bell ringing was his only answer.
Rolling over he prepared to throw his pillow at Quatre, only to realize at the last moment that there was no one there. Where the hell is he?
Groaning again Duo rolled out of bed. Im going to do something rude with that damn thing in a minute. Continuing to mutter oaths under his breath he headed down the access hallway to Trowas rooms.
Trowa looked up when the door opened. Its about time you..... Duo, what are you doing here?
Duo glared bleary eyed at Trowa. After finally persuading Quatre to go to bed, Duo had headed to Heeros room to make sure there wasnt anything Heero wanted before he went to bed.
There had been. Him.
Hed finally climbed into his own bed an hour or two before being rudely awakened. I figured it would just be easier to come tell you that youre wasting your time. Hes not in the room.
Where is he?
How should I know? He didnt tell me and leaving me a note would be useless.
Trowa sighed, but before he could say anything else there was a knock at the door. Come in.
The door opened and a young boy came into the room. Lord Trowa?
Felix sent me to tell you that your slave is out in the stables, preparing the horses. Hes nearly finished, too.
Trowa smiled at the boy. Thank you for letting me know. Tell Felix Ill be out in a few minutes.
Yes, Lord. The boy turned and scurried off.
Duo rolled his eyes. Why am I not surprised.
Trowa looked over at him for a minute. Go get Heero up and tell him to meet me in the front drawing room. Ill get some kind of breakfast rounded up.
Duo blinked. Youre serious?
I did tell him that we were leaving in the morning. Its morning. I guess I should have told him that noon would be better, but its too late now. Id hate for him to have wasted all that effort. Heero can sleep later.
I mean about me getting Heero up now. Do you have any idea what kind of a bear he is in the morning?
No. Ive never had to wake him.
Duo huffed. If Im not back in an hour, bury me in that field out near the other house. The one with the big tree. I like it there. With a fatalistic sigh, Duo turned and headed towards Heeros rooms.
Trowa shook his head as he watched him leave. There were times when Duo could be downright melodramatic.
William! he called out, knowing that the man would be hovering nearby. It was his turn to watch the masters door.
Immediately a stout looking man entered the room. He was dressed in full leather armor and had a sword slung over his back. The only reason his sword was on his back was because he had a large mace in his right hand. William was one of the trained guards Trowas father had deemed necessary sometime ago. In fact, William was one of the original ones.
Yes, my Lord?
Could you have someone go and wake Wufei? Tell him breakfast will be in the front drawing room as soon as he can get there. Then send a message to the kitchen to have some sort of breakfast made up and sent to the room.
Of course, my Lord. Saluting smartly, William turned and left the room.
Trowa sighed as he turned and headed back into his bedroom to dress. He had found clothing laid out for him when hed gotten up that morning and had a feeling that this was what Quatre expected him to wear. He wondered if the others had received the same small reminder.
He studied the shirt as he picked it up. It was a dark green color, with a small bit of embroidery down the sleeves in a richer shade of green. The design of the shirt was simple, designed to be comfortable but not too clinging.
The pants were also of the same shade of green as the pants. They would fit him well, without being so tight as to chaff as he rode. The dark brown leather boots were also designed for riding, with a bit of heel to keep his foot from slipping through the stirrups, but not so much that walking in them would be awkward.
As he slipped into the clothes, he was impressed by the fact that they fit him perfectly. He had been unable to go with Quatre yesterday when the boy had gone to purchase the clothing and other supplies. Hed asked Quatre if he could get the things for him and Quatre had assured him he knew what sizes were needed. Apparently he had.
Quatre had seemed a bit surprised that he trusted him enough to go alone, but Trowa knew that this was a necessary step in earning the boys loyalty. He hadnt told the boy that there was no way for him to leave the city without being stopped by a city Guardsman. Quatres clothing alone marked him a slave and even if he knew that and changed, everyone in the city had to have identification papers with them. Quatre didnt.
So hed given him a letter, stating that Quatre was purchasing things on his behalf and that the merchants were to send the bills to him, and sent him on his way. The letter would also let any Guardsman who stopped him know that Quatre was on legitimate business for his master.
He had been relieved when Felix reported Quatres return four hours later. He hadnt wanted to admit hed been anxiously awaiting that bit of news. He didnt want to think of what could have happened to Quatre if hed tried to leave. The Guardsmen werent known for their gentleness in dealing with runaway slaves.
A final glance around the room to ensure everything that was needed had been gotten and then Trowa turned and left the room.
I hope Im not making the biggest mistake of my life.
Duo paused outside the door to Heeros bedroom. Hed been quite serious about what a bear Heero could be if woken up before he was ready. Duo had made that mistake once. It had taken nearly two weeks for the bruises to disappear. It had been two days before hed been able to talk right.
He had often wondered what kind of life Heero had led to have that kind of reaction. Hell, even he wasnt that bad when he woke up and hed been trained to be a killer.
With a sigh of resignation, he opened the door and walked into the room.
After closing the door he looked over to the large bed, where Heero lay sprawled. The softest of exhalations was the only noise he made as he slept.
Duo drank in the sight for a moment. It was rare that he was awake enough to enjoy the sight of Heero asleep. When he would leave him in the night he was usually so exhausted that he could barely see straight.
Heero, he whispered softly. He knew that Heero would usually awaken at the slightest noise.
Go away, a voice growled.
Yup. Definitely bear mode. You have to get up. Trowa wants you to meet him in the front drawing room.
A dark blue eye glared at him. Do you want to die?
Not today. But you do have to get up. Trowa made the mistake of not specifying what time he wanted to leave today and Quatres already got everything ready. Seems morning means something different to him. He smiled as he walked across the room. Besides, if Im up than you should be too.
As he stopped next to the bed a hand snapped out and grabbed his wrist. With a quick jerk, Heero yanked him down onto the bed. You bet Im up.
Duo laughed softly. He could feel how up Heero was. We really need to get moving.
Heero arched an eyebrow, but said nothing.
Duo blushed. Not that kind of moving.
We wont have much opportunity after today.
Its not like they dont know whats going on. Duo smiled slightly. And Quatre really knows whats going on.
Heero looked at Duo for a minute. What?
Duo reached up and laid his hand on Heeros cheek. Do you think, after we leave the city, we could pretend that were just two people in love? Not master and slave.
Heero rubbed his cheek against Duos hand. You stopped being my slave a long time ago.
I know, but....
Heero placed a hand across Duos mouth. We dont have to pretend. We can be exactly what we are. Im sure that Trowa and Wufei wont mind. With that he leaned in and pressed his lips to Duos mouth.
Duo sighed. He wasnt sure Heero quite understood what he wanted. But this would be enough for now. Hed work on the rest.
Just as Duo felt himself melting into the kiss, Heero pulled away and sat up. We need to get going. With a slight smirk, Heero was out of bed and padding naked towards the bathroom.
Bastard, Duo muttered under his breath, staring at the ceiling. Why does he always do that to me?
Heero glanced back over his shoulder. Join me?
Hell, yes. Duo jumped out of the bed and followed Heero into the bathroom. But wont we be late?
Wufei glared at Trowa as he walked into the room. Did you have to send that behemoth to wake me up?
Trowa smiled. I just asked if someone would get you. I didnt specify who.
Wufei walked over to the table and snatched a muffin from the basket. Whos idea was it to get up at this ungodly hour of the morning anyway?
Im afraid I didnt tell Quatre any specific time.
You should have, Heero commented as he walked into the room. Apparently his people get moving a lot faster than us.
Trowa watched as Duo followed Heero into the room. He made note of the fact that Duo was walking slightly odd and that his hair seemed to have been rather hastily braided.
You certainly have moved fast enough, Trowa replied.
Heero arched an eyebrow at the double meaning he heard in Trowas words. He was about to retort when a soft voice interrupted him.
Trowa turned to find Quatre standing in the doorway. He was about to reprimanded him when he remembered that he hadnt included Wufei in the list hed given Quatre the other night. He was going to have to remedy that. He sure didnt want to be Mastered for this entire trip.
Everything is ready, whenever you wish to leave, Master.
Trowa nodded. Thank you. He glanced over at the other three men.
He shook his head when he noticed that Duo had picked up at least three muffins and was in the process of stuffing one of them into his mouth. He hoped Quatre had taken Duos seemingly non-ending appetite into consideration when planning the food for this trip.
Shall we go then?
But... Duo started to protest around the muffin he was presently eating.
You can eat while we ride, Heero informed him, smacking Duos hand away from the muffin basket.
Duo sighed. If you say so.
Trowa looked over at Wufei, who nodded slightly.
Since Im up anyway, we might as well get going.
Trowa looked back at Quatre, who stood patiently in the doorway. Where are the horses?
In the stable yard, Master. I can bring them around front, Master.
Trowa shook his head. No need. We can just as easily start from there. Moving across the room he stopped in front of Quatre. Lead on.
Quatre nodded slightly, then turned and headed down the hall. Trowa followed quietly behind.
Heero glanced over at Duo before leaving the room behind Wufei. Duo quickly reached out and snatched another muffin before following.
Trowa stopped and looked at the sight in front of him. Ten horses, saddled and packed, stood quietly waiting for them. He had a feeling that Quatre had done everything himself.
I want you to be sure everyone can take care of their own horses by the time we get ready to move on tomorrow. That includes saddling and stowing the packs.
Wufei frowned, but said nothing.
Heero nodded his approval. It didnt seem quite right to expect Quatre to do everything on this trip. Not when they were all perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. Maybe that was part of Quatre intended to show us with this trip. Weve become awful reliant on slaves to do all the work.
Do you have any specific horse chosen for any of us? Trowa asked as he walked up to the horses.
Yes, Master. He indicated the dark brown horse he was standing next to. This one is yours. The white one is for Heero, the black for Duo and the gray for Wufei.
Trowa nodded. That left the golden colored one for Quatre. An appropriate choice.
As he moved forward to mount, Quatre was there to assist. Trowa was about to protest that he was perfectly capable of getting on a horse without help, but something stopped him. Quatre was willingly helping and he wouldnt stop him.
Within a few minutes all five were mounted and ready to move out. Duo was a little nervous about this but he refused to let anyone know just how unnerved he felt. Everything will be just fine. Dont let the horse know he scares the heck out of you. Duo glanced down. And dont think about how far it is to the ground if you fall.
Trowa looked around at the others. They all seemed to be ready. Quatre.
Quatre blinked for a moment, then nodded. Nudging his horse into a walk he led the small group out towards the street.
Has he left?
Good. See that this trip really is his last.
Of course, sir.
It took nearly an hour for
Duo to become comfortable enough to begin to enjoy the ride. Once
he decided that the horse wasn't going to throw him into the
street and he didn't have to maintain such a death grip on the
pommel of the saddle, he began looking around. The city looks a
lot different at this angle.
Quatre had obviously memorized the roads he wanted to take out of the city. He guided them unerringly through the crowded streets and out through the northern gate.
Soon the crowds thinned and the rows of houses became seemingly never-ending fields.
Duo looked around, enjoying the sights. He'd rarely been this way and the scenery was different than he was used to. Most of the time when he had been taken from the city it was to head west, towards the ocean estates that studded the shoreline in that direction.
The sun had just reached its zenith, and Duo was growing hot and uncomfortable, when Quatre swung his horse off the road and into a stand of trees. In the center of the trees was a decent sized clearing, one that had obviously been used for stopover before.
Lunch, was the only thing Duo could think of. He would be glad to get off the horse for awhile and stretch his legs. And I though wrapping my legs around Heero could be rough.
He watched as the others dismounted and was just a little pleased to see that none of them seemed to be in much better shape than him. Except Quatre. The little blonde bounced off the horse like he was getting out of a chair.
"How long are we stopping?" Wufei asked, sitting down on a log.
"I don't know. Not long, I'm sure," Trowa replied.
Heero sighed as he sat down. He'd thought he'd been in pretty good shape, but this ride was proving him wrong. He was already aching in places he didn't want to think about.
Duo frowned as he watched Quatre. He seemed to be taking a lot of things off the horses for a simple lunch break. Maybe he's giving the horses a break, too.
Trowa blinked in surprise as Quatre began to pace out an area on the ground. What in the world is he up to?
Before he could open his mouth to ask the blonde what he was doing, Duo had risen to his feet and walked over.
"What are you doing?" Duo asked, watching as Quatre began laying the poles he'd brought with him on the ground.
Quatre didn't even glance up. "Laying out where the big tent should go. I figured it would be best to get it arranged first, so that I know how much room I have left."
"I don't want it to be crowded."
"No. I mean why are you laying out the tent. I thought this was just a lunch break."
Quatre glanced at Duo, a look of surprise appearing on his face. "I told you last night that I only figured on riding half a day for the first few days, so that you could get used to spending so much time in the saddle. This is a good place to spend the rest of the day and tonight. I checked."
Duo could only stare at Quatre as he continued to unload packs. "What about lunch?"
Quatre laughed at the hint of a whine in Duo's voice. He had noticed how much the braided boy ate. "If you could wait a minute, I'll get lunch out of the packs."
"Don't tell me it's dried beef or something."
Quatre glanced back at Duo. "Why?" From what I can tell, you'll eat just about anything.
"Ummm. Because .because Heero doesn't like it. It gets stuck in his teeth." Duo ignored the snort from behind him. "And it's all .dry and stuff. That's why."
Quatre shook his head as began to pull several wrapped items from one of the packs. "Then Heero doesn't have to worry. It's not dried beef."
Duo eyed the odd assortment of things Quatre was removing from the pack. "Then what is it? Don't you need a fire or something?"
"I'll get a fire started in a little while for supper. This is just fine the way it is. I had the cook make it for us last night." He glanced at Duo. "If you get the plates and things out of that pack at your feet, we can serve the others."
Duo blinked. "Oh. Okay."
Within a few minutes Quatre had three plates made up. Taking to of them, he walked across the campsite to where Trowa, Wufei and Heero were sitting. "I'm sorry it took so long, Master."
Trowa accepted the plate Quatre handed him. He barely glanced at what was on it though. "Quatre?"
Quatre paused in the act of handing the other plate he carried to Wufei. "Yes, Master?"
"What did we discuss the other night?"
"What night, Master?"
"IN the garden. After you talked to my uncle."
Duo stiffened in surprised. He hadn't known that Gawain had been to Trowa's. I wonder what he wanted. As if I didn't know.
Quatre blinked. "But "
"Wufei is included on that list. Understood?"
"Yes, Mas .."
"I understand. I'm sorry." He turned back toward Wufei.
Wufei glared at him, then snatched the plate from his hand. He was starved and he had to wait for this boy to be reprimanded. Breakfast was too damn long ago. He glanced down at the food on the plate. The only thing on it that he recognized what the biscuit. Which is probably hard. Damn, I wish Trowa hadn't come up with this fool idea. Or that I'd had the sense not to agree to come along.
Heero was also eyeing the plate that Duo had brought to him. He looked up at Duo, a questioning look in his eyes. Duo just shrugged. He had no idea what this was, either.
"Quatre?" Trowa spoke up, noticing the odd looks the others were giving their plates.
Quatre was walking back to where the other were sitting, another plate in his hand. He handed the plate to Duo. "Yes?"
"Exactly what is this?" Trowa pointed at the food on his plate.
"Meat and potatoes."
Trowa looked down. The meat was like nothing he'd ever seen before and if those were potatoes, he'd never seen them made like that. "Would you mind explaining exactly what kind of meat? And what did you have done to the potatoes."
Quatre glanced around at the others, realizing that none of them were eating. Stupid. Just because you eat this all the time doesn't mean they do.
Trowa noticed the odd look that came into Quatre's eyes as he looked down. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "The meat is a kind of bird that we raise. I found a couple of them at the market. They're dipped in seasoned flour and deep fried. The same thing is done to the potatoes."
Duo sighed. He was too damn hungry to worry about exactly what it was Quatre had dreamed up for them. Picking up the meat, he took a small bite. "Hey, this is pretty good." And with that pronouncement, Duo proceeded to devour his lunch.
After watching Duo for a moment the others also began to eat.
Trowa had nearly finished eating when he realized that Quatre had not joined them. Looking around the campsite, he spotted Quatre, carrying a bundle of wood to the firepit that was set to one side of the clearing. "Quatre, have you eaten?"
Quatre carefully set the wood down. "No." Master.
Quatre looked at him. "I have to .." He waved his hands around the site.
Trowa glanced around. He realized that in the time he'd been eating, the rest of the packs had been removed from the horses and carefully set in piles. Even the saddles had been take care of and now the horse were happily grazing on the grass that grew around the edges of the site. It was also apparent that this wasn't the first load of wood Quatre had gathered. A neat stack of small sticks had been arranged in the firepit.
Trowa sighed. "Quatre, are there certain things that have to be done when you first make camp?"
"And is that what you've been doing while we've been sitting here eating?"
"Aren't you hungry?"
Quatre looked down at his feet. "I had "
"Yes," Quatre whispered. He could feel his stomach growl in agreement. He looked up. "But I ."
Trowa looked at him and Quatre fell silent. "From now on," Trowa glanced at the other three. "no one eats until those necessary things are taken care of. Understood?"
Wufei opened his mouth to protest, but a look from Heero silenced him.
Trowa watched Quatre. "Is that understood?"
"Good. Now get yourself something to eat and come over here and sit down."
Quatre hesitated for a minute, then did as Trowa bid. He couldn't really understand Trowa, though. It seemed silly for the others to just stand around and wait for him to tend to the horses and gather wood.
Duo walked over to where Quatre had set down a pile of fabric. Although he still ached, it wasn't too bad anymore. "What are you doing?"
"I'm going to set up the big tent."
"What do you want me to do?"
Quatre looked at him. "You could help me unfold it."
"Sure." Duo looked the pile over. "How?"
With a small smile Quatre showed Duo how the tent was carefully folded to conserve space.
When they got it all laid out, Duo was a little surprised at how big it really was. "Now what?"
Quatre picked up to of the poles. "Take these and put them together like so." He showed Duo how the two pieces fit neatly together, making one larger pole.
Duo eyed the pole. "It won't break, will it?"
Quatre shook his head. "They're much stronger than they look. The wood is ironwood."
"Oh." Carefully he studied the two pieces he'd picked up. It took a few minutes, but he figured out how the wood had been cut so that the two pieces would fit and lock together. "Neat."
"Now we lay each pole at the points where the holes in the tent are." Quatre showed Duo where holes had been punched through the tent in several places and then reinforced with metal rings.
"This is going to stand up?"
"It will when we're done," Quatre reassured him.
Duo shook his head. "If you say so." Grabbing a pole he placed it where Quatre showed him.
Step by step Quatre explained to Duo exactly how the large tent was set up. He didn't notice that the others had wandered over and were watching.
When Quatre explained to Duo how to raise the corner poles so that they could finish setting them up, he didn't see the look that passed between Heero and Trowa. The two moved forward to take up positions in the empty corners so that, much to Quatre's surprise, the tent went up smoothly.
After Quatre was certain that the poles were set properly, he ducked inside the tent with the final pole. This pole was nearly half again as large as the others and would serve as the center support. Carefully placing one end into the ring for it, he maneuvered the pole into its upright position. Only the weight of the tent and the firm ground it was sitting on would keep the pole upright.
Trowa ducked into the tent and looked around. He was impressed by the size of the space. It was a lot bigger than he had though it would be when he'd seen the size of the pile of material Quatre had pulled out, proclaiming that it was the large tent.
"But exactly what are we supposed to sleep on?" Trowa asked, eyeing the ground.
Quatre jumped a little at the sound of Trowa's voice. He hadn't realized that he'd come into the tent. "I was just going to go and get the other things."
Trowa nodded. "Show me what you need. I'll help."
Quatre could only stare at Trowa in disbelief.
Trowa blinked. "What? Don't you think I'm capable of helping?"
Quatre shook his head, hoping he hadn't accidently insulted Trowa. "No. It's just that ."
"I told you, we are going to help. I don't expect you to do it all yourself."
Quatre blinked. "But if you had brought all those other people with you, you would have expected them to do everything."
Trowa sighed. "You have a point. Maybe this trip will do all of us some good. Now, let get the rest of this tent set up. I'm curious to see what kind of sleeping arrangements you have planned. You did say that you just slept on the ground."
Quatre sighed as he walked back out of the tent. "Actually, I said the poorer people sleep on the ground. And only if the ground isn't too hard. We do like to have comfort in our lives, as well."
Touché, little one. Maybe you can teach me just how civilized your culture really is. Then, perhaps I can show my uncle that different doesn't especially mean ignorant.
Heero was waiting outside the tent when Trowa stepped back out. "Well?"
"The tent itself seems large enough. I'll just reserve final judgement until I see how he arranges it."
Heero nodded. "Duo said he found a pool not too far from here. I though maybe we'd go for a swim."
"That sounds like a good idea. But I did tell Quatre that we'd help him get the things moved into the tent first."
"That isn't necessary." Quatre had walked back up and heard what Heero had said. "I I'd like to do it by myself, if you don't mind. I want to get everything set up so that you can see what you think."
Trowa looked at him. "Are you sure? I told you I don't expect you to do everything yourself."
"All right. But holler if you need help."
"The hardest part is finished. The other tent won't be too hard to put up and I though I'd do that in a little while."
"Are you sure you don't want to go swimming? It will help you cool off some."
Quatre shook his head. "I'm sure." I don't know how to swim.
Trowa watched as Quatre ducked into the tent with his bundle.
Heero noticed the look on Trowa's face. He was just as good at reading Trowa as Trowa was at reading him. "I can have Duo stay if you want."
"No, that's all right. Besides, if I know Duo, he's already enjoying the water."
Heero gave a slight smile. Duo had taken to swimming like he was a fish. There were times when it was damn near impossible to get him back out once he got in. "True. But I'll send him back early to help Quatre with supper."
"Food might be enough incentive to get him out of the water."
Duo looked around the campsite in surprise. Quatre had been very busy in the time he had been gone. An area near the fire had obviously been designated as the dining area and Quatre had set it up for supper. Where in the world did he get a table? A fire was going in the firepit and there were several pots around it, including one that hung from a tripod set directly over the fire.
Quatre stuck his head out of the large tent, where he'd been finishing the sleeping arrangement. "I didn't expect you back so soon."
"Figured you might need some help with dinner."
"Not at the moment."
"Anything I can help you with?"
"You can check and make sure that Heero will be happy with his bed and things."
Duo nodded. After carefully laying the small towel he'd taken with him on a log near the fire to dry, he stepped into the tent.
And stared in disbelief. He couldn't believe what Quatre had done to the inside of the tent. Several small rugs were scattered about the ground, giving the area a bit more of a home-like appearance. Three chairs were arranged around another small table to make up a sitting area. On the table was a small lamp, obviously placed there to provide light for anyone making use of the table. Two large pieces of cloth were hung between the center pole and two of the corners, screening off the area and making it look like rooms.
Where in the heck did he put everything?
Following Quatre, he passed through an almost hidden slit in one piece of the material, to find himself in what had obviously been set up as a bedroom. Yet another table, this one low to the ground, was set up next to the bed. On the table was a candle, what appeared to be a glass and a small bowl.
The bed was rather low, but that wasn't to surprising. Though the way things kept appearing Duo wouldn't have been to surprised to see a full sized bed set up. He had a feeling the carefully arranged sheets and blankets were not typical, but had been had to take into consideration the sleeping habits of the person that would use this bed.
Off to one side he spotted several familiar packs. He recognized them as the ones that Heero had brought. Though they had been carefully laid out, none of them had been opened. There was another rug here, apparently set up as a place to set one of the chairs from the other area on. That way, Heero could sit in the chair to get out of his clothing and yet the chair wouldn't sink into the ground.
Quatre indicated the bed. "Make sure it's firm enough for him. I wasn't sure exactly how he would like it."
Duo approached the bed cautiously, remembering Quatre's description of the mattresses he'd brought. Expecting to find himself flat on the ground at any moment, Duo carefully sat on the edge.
To his surprise, he found himself sitting about six inches off the floor. The mattress beneath him gave a little, conforming to the shape of his butt, but that was all.
Continuing to move carefully, Duo laid back on the bed.
Quatre smiled at the look of surprise that appeared on Duo's face. "Is it all right?"
Duo looked up at Quatre, who now stood anxiously above him. With a sigh, he relaxed full on the bed. "Hell, yes. It's fine. Do I get one?"
Quatre laughed. "Yes."
"Cool." Duo shifted and felt the mattress give beneath him. It was like floating. "Though I don't think I'd want to do anything too vigorous on it."
Quatre tried to control the blush as he realized what Duo meant. Unbidden, the picture of him and Heero as they had been in the room that day rose up in Quatre's mind. "They really are pretty tough." How else do you think we make babies?
Duo sighed again. "Yeah, I guess they'd have to be." He got carefully to his feet. "Though they are a bit low."
Quatre nodded. "That might take some getting used to."
"Definitely." Duo looked around the area again. "I don't think Heero will mind this."
"Good. I figured they might want some privacy. Though they'll have to be careful. The material I used for walls isn't very heavy and when the lights are lit you can pretty much see through them."
Duo eyed the candle. "Is that safe?" He shuddered at the though of the tent catching fire from the flame.
Quatre walked over to the small table and picked up the glass. Duo realized that there was no bottom to the glass as Quatre carefully placed it over the candle. He also realized that the candle was sitting on some kind of small metal base.
"The base is weighted so that it can't tip over. The glass keeps drafts away from the flame so that it burns steady." He glanced at Duo. "Fire in a tent is something you have to be very careful with."
Duo nodded. He should realize that someone who lived his whole life in a tent would come up with ways to keep it safe.
"Anything I can help you with?"
Quatre pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to Duo. "If you could double check and make sure everything that's listed there is out by the fire, it would help."
Duo looked down at the piece of paper as if it was something foreign. "Quatre."
Quatre was reading off another list he'd pulled from his pouch. "Yeah?" he asked absently.
"Why don't you just tell me what you need done?"
Quatre glanced up. "What's wrong? Can't you read my writing? I know it's kinda messy but I .."
"It's not your writing. I'm sure it's perfectly understandable. It's just ." Duo looked up. "I don't know how to read."
Quatre stared at Duo in stunned disbelief. "You don't?"
"It's another one of those unimportant skills that slaves don't need."
"You can't read at all?"
"Or write. Not even my own name. Hell, I'm not even completely sure how to spell my name." Duo gave a slight smile. "For that matter, it's not even my real name."
"What is your real name?"
"I don't know. The guy that found me named me. Maxwell, cause that was the town he was near and Duo because I was the second kid he'd picked up that day." Duo's eyes grew sad at the memories. "The other boy died a few days later. He got sick. He called him Solo."
Quatre was silent for a minute. "I thought you were born a slave."
"Don't know for sure. I don't remember my parents. Maybe they were or maybe they weren't."
"You mean this guy just took you and sold you."
"Yeah. That's what he did. He liked picking up street kids and stuff. No one to complain if one went missing."
"How old were you?"
Quatre closed his eyes. Again and again he was stunned by the behavior of this supposedly civilized group of people. A lost child found by someone in his tribe would have been taken in and raised as part of the group. No child was without some kind of family.
"Today was the first time you've ever been on a horse, wasn't it?"
Quatre looked at him. "I'm sorry. If I had known "
"Hey, it's all right," Duo interrupted. "After a while I started enjoying myself. Things sure look different from the back of a horse." He was quiet for a minute. "But you sure didn't seemed bothered by the ride."
Quatre smiled. "I've been riding horses for as long as I can remember. I learned to ride before I learned to walk."
"You must miss it."
Quatre's eyes grew sad. "Yes," he whispered.
Duo mentally kicked himself for bringing the subject up. He hadn't meant to make the other boy sad again. He was glad to see Quatre beginning to show signs of life again.
"So, if you tell me what's on this list, I'll go check things out."
Quatre smiled, understanding the diversion for what it was meant to be. "All right." He took the list back from Duo and began reading it off.
Duo listened carefully, keeping careful track of what Quatre was saying. How does a poor nomad learn to read and write? Unless there is more to this poor nomad than meets the eye. He did indicate that Kadir guy was his father and someone said he was a chief. What does that make Quatre?
Quatre slipped quietly out of the tent and sat down on the small log he'd placed outside. Dinner had gone better than he'd expected and everyone seemed okay with the sleeping arrangement. Wufei had grumbled about the injustice of being forced to sleep on the ground instead of the comfort of one of the large travel wagons that were usually used on these trips, but he'd disappeared into his 'room' soon after the sun had set.
Quatre had a feeling Wufei just liked to grumble a lot.
He sighed as the wind whispered through the trees, cooling the air. He'd carefully checked the sky and was certain that there was no rain in the area and the wind seemed to confirm this conclusion. There was no smell of rain on it, a good sign. It was something he would have to take more into consideration than he was used to. You didn't have to worry about rain much in the desert.
Although he knew it wouldn't be too difficult for him to slip away, he also knew there would be no point in it. He had no home to go to and in this country he would simply be hunted down like some animal. Which, to many of the people he had so far met, he was.
He wrapped his arms around his waist as he stared up into the night sky. He barely even noticed the tears that tracked down his cheeks.
I'm trying, Great One. Angil said You have Your reasons for doing the things You do. But I really don't understand what the purpose is this time. You've allowed my people to be butchered like animals until I am the only one left. What purpose do You wish for me to serve? Am I, too, to be a sacrificed in the name of progress. What is it that You wish for me to do? Please, help me understand.
The soft whisper of the wind was his only answer. But this time, the wind seemed to actually be saying something.
Onto Parts Sixteen-Twenty