by SilverLady



Trowa sat looking out the window at the city. He knew that Heero and Wufei would be showing up soon to discuss what had happened today and what to do about it.

Trowa was torn. He didn’t want to believe that Quatre would deliberately try and hurt any of them. And yet…. things were definitely getting odd. Why had Quatre stepped away at just that moment? After he’d told the boy to stay with him.

And then there was Heero’s slightly strange behavior after the incident. He’d insisted that he was fine, but that they bring Duo back to the inn, stating that he felt Duo had been more shaken up by the incident than he was. Then Heero had disappeared down the street, acting as if nothing had happened.

Trowa sighed and leaned his head back.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Before Trowa could respond, the door swung open and Wufei stepped into the room. He was followed by Heero and Duo. “Sorry for just barging in, but we need to talk,” Wufei stated as he walked across the room and sat down in the chair next to the desk.

Heero nodded his agreement as he guided Duo to sit on the edge of the bed.

Trowa sighed again. “I figured you’d show up sooner or later. I really don’t know what you expect me to do. There’s been no real proof that he’s behind any of this.”

“What is it going to take then?” Wufei demanded angrily.“One of us getting killed. It’s not just Duo he’s after.”

Duo looked bewildered. He wasn’t sure why Heero had insisted he join them in Trowa’s room. He’d promised Quatre to teach him a game of cards Quatre had seen some men playing earlier in the day. “Who’s after? What in the world are you talking about?”


Duo blinked. Then he began to shake his head as understanding came. “You think… You’re crazy. Quatre would never hurt me or Heero.”

“He found the burr under your saddle blanket.”

“After he saved my ass. It was his riding that stopped the horse.”

“Made it look good. He wasn’t with us when that stall fell over.”

“He said he was buying potatoes.”

“He didn’t have any when he came up.”

“He probably didn’t have time to buy them. He came to see what had happened.”

“He didn’t go back.”

“You wouldn’t let him. Besides, why would he want to kill any of us? And if he did, why not Trowa? He’s the one that owns him, not me and not Heero.”

“Hurt Trowa by hurting his friends.”

Duo turned to Heero, his eyes pleading with him to disagree with Wufei. Heero looked calmly back at him.
Duo shook his head again. “You’re being ridiculous.”

“No matter what,” Trowa spoke up, “it’s obvious that a decision has to be made. I didn’t decide to take this trip or invite you along,to have you attacked and almost killed. I won’t risk any of you like that.”

“So what are you going to do?” Wufei asked.

“You are, of course, free to leave if you wish.”

“And leave you without protection,” Wufei snorted. “Not bloody likely.”

“I was thinking of hiring a guide. The next portion of the trip is through the Carpathian Mountains. It would be a good idea to have a competent guide along.”

“And what good will that do.”

“I doubt if anyone will want to try anything with an outside witness present.”

Wufei opened and closed his mouth for a minute. Then he exhaled sharply and crossed his arms across his chest.

Duo was looking from one to the other. “What about Michal?”

Trowa looked at him. “What about my cousin?”

“Maybe he’s the one behind the accidents. Maybe he’s the one that’s been trying to kill us.”

Trowa shook his head. “Don’t be ridiculous. My cousin would never try anything like that. What reason would he have? And what would he gain by it?”

Duo blinked. “What reason? How about hating your guts.”

“That’s insane. Michal and I get along just fine.”

Duo couldn’t believe it. They were willing to believe a quiet, frightened, hurt slave boy was capable of killing one of them and not that lunatic cousin of Trowa’s. What, is Quatre going to have to be hurt for them to realize it ain’t him?

“Any way, I talked to the inn keeper and he says the best way to get a guide is go down to the Guild House. They should be able to help us hire a competent guide.”

“I still don’t see how continuing this trip is going to help things out,” Wufei grumbled.

“This trip was taken under the pretense of health reasons. It would look odd if we return after only a couple of weeks. And as I already told you, until I have positive proof otherwise, I will continue to believe that Quatre is innocent.”

Heero watched his friend closely. He knew the underlying reason for Trowa’s reluctance to believe Quatre was capable of hurting any oneof them. He hoped his trust was not misplaced. He would keep a close eye just to be sure. He wasn’t letting anything else happen to Duo.

The others had all kept saying how he could have been killed this afternoon, but Heero saw it differently. If Duo had been walking his normal two paces behind him, it would have been Duo that would have been hit by that falling stand. It would have been Duo that could have been killed. He wouldn’t rest until he found out who was trying to kill his lover, be it Quatre, Michal, or someone else.

At that moment Duo placed his hand over his mouth, trying tofight back a yawn. “Excuse me,” Duo said softly, his voice sounding tired.

Heero was instantly on his feet, noting the weary look on Duo’s face and the dark smudges under his eyes. “Time for bed,” he stated calmly.

Duo arched an eyebrow at him, but rose to his feet.

Heero looked at Trowa. “Let me know when you plan on going in the morning. I want to go with you.”

Trowa nodded. “Fine.”

Wufei smirked a little as Heero reached out, snagged Duo’s braid and led the tired boy from the room. “One of these days, he’s going to yank too hard on that braid and snatch Duo bald.”

Trowa looked at Wufei. “And you hope to be there if it happens.”

“Of course.” Wufei rose to his feet and bowed to Trowa. “I hope you know what you are doing. Know that I will back you up in any way necessary.” With another bow, Wufei left the room.

Trowa ran his hand through his hair. “I hope we’re going in the right direction.”


After firmly shutting the door behind him, Heero led Duo over to the bed. With a small push, he made the long haired boy sit down on the bed.

“What are you doing?” Duo mumbled as Heero sank to his knees in front of him.

Heero smirked up at him. “Just relax. I’m going to take care of you for a change.” He began to remove the boots Duo was wearing, carefully setting them beside the bed.

Duo watched Heero through half lidded eyes, fighting to stay awake. He felt as if someone had suddenly drained all the energy from him.“That’s nice.”

Heero smiled as he stood up and began unbuttoning Duo’s shirt.

“Uh, Heero. I don’t think I’m….”

Heero placed a finger on Duo’s mouth. “I’m not looking for that tonight. Let me take care of you.” Carefully he slid the shirt from Duo’s body and turned his attention to removing the tight pants encasing Duo’s legs. When he was finished he gently pushed Duo back, reaching to draw the covers over him. Duo sighed as he leaned back against the thick pillows. It was nice to be pampered now and then.

“Before you go to sleep I want you to see something,” Heero whisped softly.

Duo looked at him sleepily. “What?”

Heero pulled a small package from beneath the pillows. “A gift.”

Duo took the carefully wrapped gift from Heero. Turning it over in his hand he could only stare at it.

Heero noted the odd sheen that had appeared in Duo’s eyes and was suddenly nervous. Had he done the right thing? “Duo?”

Duo looked up at Heero, fighting back the tears that threatened. It was a loosing battle.

Heero reached out and gently wiped away a tear. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry again.”

Duo smiled a little through his tears. “No one’s ever given me a present before.”

Heero cupped Duo’s cheek with his hand. “Then I’ll have to remember to buy you gifts more often. You deserve them.”

Duo blinked. How did I manage to get so lucky?

Heero gave him a small rare smile. “Open it.”

Looking down, Duo carefully opened the paper. Something made him want to savor the moment for as long as possible.

He suddenly gasped as the paper fell away and the gift was revealed. “Heero!”

“It’s the right one, isn’t it? It’s the one the man said you were looking at.”

Duo could only stare in stunned disbelief at the knife he held in his hands. He had never expected Heero to go and get it.

Heero touched Duo’s shoulder. “Duo? It’s all right, isn’t it?”

The uncertainty in Heero’s voice penetrated Duo’s stunned mind and he looked at him, a smile blossoming on his face. “Oh, Heero. It’s perfect.”

Heero sighed in relief. He hadn’t been sure about the gift at all, though the knife did seem to be the kind he thought Duo might like. “I want you to keep it with you. I want to know you have a way to defend yourself, should anyone try and hurt you.” He reached out and ran his finger down the symbols etched in the blade.

“I didn’t ask what this means.”

“I did,” Duo whispered. “Shinigaimi.”

Heero smiled. “Perfect. I know it will keep you safe.”

Duo sighed as he carefully set the blade on the nightstand. Then he leaned back into Heero’s arms. “Not as safe as you do.”

Heero laughed softly as he placed a kiss on the top of Duo’s head. “Go to sleep, my wild child. I’ll watch over you.”

Duo sighed again, but closed his eyes and burrowed his head under Heero’s chin. Within moments he was asleep.

Heero shifted carefully, getting more comfortable before closing his eyes. “I won’t let anyone take you from me,” he promised quietly, before sleep overtook him as well.


Quatre sat staring at the empty bed on the other side of his small room. Empty because Duo wasn’t sleeping in it anymore. He and Heero had quit pretending they were just slave and master and Duo had moved into Heero’s bed.

Quatre was happy for Duo. He had a feeling that this was just what Duo had been looking for.

Sighing, Quatre shifted on the bed. It was rather early and no one else seemed to be up yet. He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing, since Trowa had told him nothing before going to bed the night before. He did get the sense that theothers, all except Duo, were angry at him for some reason, but he didn’t know what it could be.

He still wondered about yesterday’s accident. It just seemed strange that that stall would happen to fall just as Heero walked past. Were they trying to get Heero or Duo, though? It could have been either one.

Quatre had thought a long time about the situation and had come to the unhappy conclusion that, somehow, Trowa’s cousin Michal was behind the incidents and that it was his fault. If he had just let Michal have what he had wanted that night, he wouldn’t be angry with Duo and Heero. Could it have really beenthat awful? Heero and Duo have sex all the time and both certainly seem to enjoy it.

Just then, with the barest of knocks, Trowa opened the door and walked into the room. “We’re meeting downstairs in five minutes. Be there.”

“Yes, master.”

Trowa looked at him for a minute, then turned on his heel and left.

Quatre sighed again, reaching for his shoes. Maybe it was just the town they were in, but Trowa had not corrected him once about addressing him as master. Quatre hadn’t tried to figure out why, though. It was just the strange ways of these strange people, perhaps.

Rising to his feet, he quietly made his way out of the room and headed for the stairs. He noticed that Wufei had already started down and he guessed the others were already waiting below.

He’d barely taken three of the stairs when he felt an abrupt pressure against his back. The unexpected shove caused him to loose his balance and he stumbled. Reaching out instinctively his hand came in contact with Wufei’s back.

Wufei, also caught off guard, lost his balance as well. He tried to catch himself, to no avail, and with a crash pitched the rest of the way down the stairs to land in a crumpled heap at the bottom.

Trowa had looked up at the noise, just in time to see Wufei fall down the stairs. Moving as quickly as he could he headed for stairs, hoping that Wufei was alright.

Wufei was moaning and attempting to sit up when Trowa reached him. At about that time Duo and Heero had appeared, coming out of the adjacent dining hall to see what the noise was.

Trowa knelt down beside Wufei. “Don’t try and move,” he said softly. “You could have broken something.”

Wufei slowly shook his head. “I’m fine,” he insisted, continuing his efforts to sit up. “Just bruised and….” He hissed in pain as he tried to put some weight on his left arm.

Trowa quickly helped him to sit up and lean against the wall. Carefully he felt along the arm. “It’s broken,” he announced quietly.

“What happened?” Heero demanded as he knelt down on the other side of Wufei.

Wufei glared up at Quatre, who was standing in stunned shock on the stairs. “He pushed me.”

Quatre gasped in surprise at the cold accusing tone of Wufei's voice. “It was an accident. I…”

Trowa looked up at him, his eyes blank. “Go back to your room and wait for me.”


“Now.” Trowa voice indicated that he was to be obeyed.

Quatre hung his head. “Yes, master.” Turning, he slowly made his way up the stairs.

Trowa looked at Heero. “I think you and Duo should take Wufei to a doctor and have him checked out. That arm needs to be set and you need to be sure they aren’t any more injuries.”

Wufei glared at the two of them. “Don’t talk like I can’t hear you. I’m fine. I sure don’t need to see….” He nearly bit his tongue as Heero reached out to feel his injured arm. “Damn it, Yuy! That hurt.”

“I though you said you were fine.”

Wufei sagged back against the wall. “All right. Let’s get this over and done with.”

Heero nodded. “Duo, get his other side. We’ll support you, so don’t try and do anything yourself.”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever.”

Heero glanced at Trowa, who had moved to one side to let Duo in. “What are you going to do?”

Trowa glanced at the stairs. “Get to the bottom of this.”

Heero nodded. “We’ll be back shortly.”

Trowa was quiet as he watched Duo and Heero help Wufei up and head towards the front of the inn. Then, with a sigh, he turned and head up the stairs.

Quatre jerked up as the door slammed open and Trowa walked into the room. “What did you think you were doing?” Trowa’s voice was flat and cold.

“It was an accident. Someone pushed me.”

“There was nobody on those stairs but you and Wufei.”


“Enough!” Trowa roared, suddenly furious. “I have had enough! I don’t know what you've hoped to accomplish with your little games, but they end here. “

Quatre blinked, uncertain as to what Trowa meant.

“Don’t give me that innocent look. You know damn well what I mean. I thought this trip would be good for you. Give you a chance to get to know me and me know you. But what do you do? Try and hurt or even kill the three people I consider my best friends. And why? I thought you liked Duo and I didn’t think you had anything against either Heero or Wufei.”

Quatre could only stare in shock. Trowa thought he was the cause of the attacks on the others? “But Master I…”


Quatre gasped in shock, his hand going to the cheek Trowa had just slapped, which was turning red from the force of the blow.

“Enough. I’m through coddling you. From now on, you speak only when spoken to, by me. I don’t want to hear any excuses. I tried to be understanding, but that obviously hasn’t worked. Stupidly enough, I actually wanted to be your friend, but you repay me with nasty acts of cruelty to my friends.

"I was half tempted to turn around and head back to Macir, but I’ve decided not to. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken any kind of trip and I intend to enjoy it. But we will be doing things my way from now on. I’m hiring someone to take over the cooking and supply duties, since I can’t trust you. From now on, your only duty is to wait on me. I don’t want you near anyone or anything without my express permission. You are not to go anywhere alone, not even to relieve yourself.

Trowa turned to leave. “You will sit on this bed until I call for you. And be glad your punishment wasn’t more than this. Next time you hurt one of my friends, I’ll have you beaten until you won’t be able to sit for a week. Is that understood?”

“Yes, master,” Quatre whispered, staring at the floor.

“Just so it’s clear.” With that Trowa turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Quatre sagged slowly to bed, struggling to hold his tears at bay. They thought he was behind the attacks. They thought he had tried to kill Duo, Heero and Wufei. But why? He had no reason to hurt them. He liked them.

And now Trowa hated him. Why did that hurt most of all? More so than the cutting words and the hit. He, too, had hoped to begin to get to know the young man that had bought him better during this trip. Now it didn’t seem as if that was going to be possible.

When did I stop hating him so much and start to like and respect him? And how can I prove that it wasn’t me that tried to hurt the others. Suddenly he wanted the Trowa he begun to know on this trip back. And somehow, he would find a way to clear himself and prove to the others that it hadn’t been him.

Is this another part of the test, Great One? What I am I supposed to do? What is this all leading to?


Two mornings later Quatre was carefully checking Trowa's room to make sure nothing had been left behind.

Trowa had made arrangements to meet up with a guide that afternoon at an inn several miles outside of town. Trowa had informed him he wanted all of his things packed and ready to go, but Quatre was not to put anything on any of the horses. He was going to get one of the stable hands to take care of the packing. It told Quatre just how little Trowa now trusted him. He was afraid that Trowa would decide he trusted him so little that he would sell him to one of those horrible men that Duo had talked about.

Quatre sighed sadly as he remembered the scene from two nights before.


Quatre had followed Trowa into the dining area of the inn. Trowa had told him that he was to stand behind his chair and do nothing. That he would get something to eat after the others were finished.

Duo had smiled in greeting as Trowa and Quatre had walked up to the table. "Hey, Quatre. How's it going? You all right."

Quatre had stared at the ground; not daring to even meet Duo's eyes for fear Trowa would disapprove.

Duo frowned. "Is everything all right? You're not mad at me are you?"

Trowa had turned to look calmly at Duo. "Don't bother talking to him. He has his orders and for once he's listening."

Duo had blinked at Trowa in surpries. "Orders?"

"He is not to talk or have anything to do with anyone but me. I will not put your lives at risk again."

Duo had frowned, but a warning glare from Heero had silenced the words he'd been about to say. Shooting another glance at Quatre, Duo had followed Heero to the table.

Trowa had paused beside one of the chairs at the table they had been led to, looking at it then at Quatre.

Quatre could read what Trowa was thinking as if he'd said the words out loud. Pull out my chair and you'd best not try anything. Quatre had immediately moved to help Trowa to sit down and then had taken up his place behind and slightly to the left of the chair.

He'd kept his eyes downcast, not wanting to see the anger in Heero's and Wufei's eyes nor the questions in Duo's.

The meal had seemed terrible long to Quatre, since he had nothing to do. The boredom combine with the fact that the smell of the food was making his stomach twist in complaint, had made Quatre feel as if it had taken three times as long as it really had.

Finally, the meal was finished and the others had gotten to their feet. Quatre had moved forward to assist Trowa as he had been told. He was suddenly determined to not give Trowa any more reason to be angry with him.

Trowa had nodded at the blonde's quick reaction. "Very good. You may take this plate to your room and eat." Trowa indicated the plate that remained on the table.

Quatre didn't even flinch as he got sight of the small bits of leftovers he'd been given. It was no more than most slaves would expect to get and it was apparent that Trowa had every intention of treating Quatre exactly like every other slave in his possession from now on.

Taking the plate, he had followed Trowa back up the stairs.


Quatre sighed again. Somehow he had to prove that he hadn't meant to cause Wufei to fall down those stairs. That he really had been pushed. And that he wasn't responsible for the other things that had happened. Is it just coincidence that I am being blamed for this? Or is this all part of his plan? Maybe he's hoping that Trowa will get so disgusted with me that he'll sell me and he'll be able to buy me.

Quatre silently vowed that he would get to the bottom of this. He agreed with Trowa on one thing. He did not want to see the others hurt anymore. And he knew that if, somehow, he ended up in Michal's possession, his second attempt at suicide would be his last. There was no way he would live with that man as his master. He was many times worse that Trowa could ever hope to be.


Duo watched in disbelief as Quatre followed Trowa out into the courtyard. The blonde had been quiet and subdued since the incident on the stairs. Duo had tried to get him to talk to him, but Quatre had simply stared at the floor and said nothing.

Duo still couldn't believe that they thought Quatre had deliberately pushed Wufei down the stairs. If he was really behind the accidents that had been happening lately, he certainly wouldn't have done any thing so blatant. But Heero had brushed Duo's arguments aside, calmly stating that it was between Trowa and Quatre and that he wasn't to interfere.

He watched as Quatre stood to one side, waiting silently for the horses to be brought out. I thought the purpose of this trip was to help Quatre get better. Now he looks worse than he did before we left. What little light that had finally begun to burn again the quiet boy's eyes was gone. Damn it! Why are they being so stubborn about this? If I was to pick someone to blame for what's going on, Quatre would be at the bottom of the list. He's more likely to do something to himself than to go after any one else. He just ain't got the personality to hurt another person. And I should know all about that. Hell, why aint' they accusin' me of doin' it? I'm the one with the reputation for killing owners. What makes them think I've changed? I have, but they don't really know that. Duo turned his attention to Heero, who was talking quietly with Trowa and Wufei. I'd slit my own throat before I'd do anything to hurt Heero. And hurtin' his friends would be the same as hurtin' him. And I sure don't understand how come Trowa dismissed the possibility of his cousin bein' behind all this. That is one fucked up guy.

Just then the sounds of horses' hoof beats interrupted Duo's musings. Swallowing hard, he walked carefully towards the big black horse that was his ride. He didn't want to admit it, but he was still more than a bit scared at riding the horse that had almost killed him.

"I'll be riding him," Heero said quietly, walking up behind Duo. "You take my horse."

Duo looked up at Heero in surprise. "Uuh?"

Heero smiled slightly as he guided Duo over to the white mare he'd been riding. He knew damn well that Duo wasn't completely over his fright. He had decided it was best to let Duo get comfortable riding again by giving him a different horse, one that hadn't scared the living daylights out of him.

Quatre walked silently up to Trowa. He'd been half afraid that Trowa would tell him he wasn't trustworthy enough to ride and would have to walk. But all five horses had their saddles in place, so maybe.

Trowa nodded to the stable hand, then turned to glance at Quatre. In his hands he held a lead rope. Without saying a word, he walked up to Quatre's horse and clipped it onto the bridle.

"Get on," Trowa said coldly.

Quatre blinked in surprise. He'd figured Trowa would expect him to help him mount first. "Master?"

Trowa stepped up to Quatre. "Don't think I'm going to give you the chance to bolt. Get on the horse, now. And just so you don't try anything, I'm keeping the lead rein on your horse from now on. You are to ride with your hands on the pommel or in your lap. You are not to touch the reins without my permission, for any reason."

Quatre swallowed, but nodded. "Yes, master." Moving quickly, he scrambled up onto the horse's back.

With a vague nod, Trowa turned and let one of the stable hands help him mount up as well.


It was late afternoon when they finally arrived at the inn where they were to meet their guide.

"I hope he hasn't left," Wufei grumbled, shifting his casted arm to a more comfortable position. He'd ridden the entire day with Quatre well in front of him. He wanted that blonde sneak where he could keep an eye on him from now on. He was still cursing himself for being so stupid as to turn his back on the slave.

Trowa said nothing as he stepped into the inn. He had been assured by the Guild that the guide was reliable and willing to agree to the terms he had laid out. Trowa wasn't exactly sure how they knew this, but he was willing to put his trust in them. They wouldn't last long if they couldn't keep their word.

Just then a slender figure extracted itself from the shadows and walked over. "You Lord Batona?"

Trowa blinked at the woman, but no hint of surprise showed on his face. "Yes."

"I'm the guide you asked for. The name's Salira, most just call me Sal."

Trowa looked the woman over. She was dressed in plain brown breeches and a green shirt. Her light brown hair was done in two twisted braids that came to just past shoulder length. There was a no nonsense manner about her that spoke of competence and experience.

"I was lead to understand you had agreed to the terms I requested."

Sal nodded. "I'm to show you and your party through the Carpathian Mountains to Kendil on the other side. You also want me to act as supplier and cook on the trip."

"That is correct."

"No problem. You got all the basic stuff?"

"Yes. We've been traveling for a couple of weeks now. I understand that the mountains are dangerous to those who are not familiar with them and felt that a guide would be the best idea."

Sal frowned. "Mind if I take a look. Earl here sells a lot of things and I'd like to take advantage of it while we're here."

"Go right on ahead."

"Thanks." With a nod, Sal headed out the door.

"I can't believe your going to hire that woman," Wufei sputtered as soon as the door closed.

Trowa looked over at him. "I don't see were there is a problem. She is in agreement and I was assured she know the mountains as well, if not better, than anyone. Plus, I understand she is skilled in healing, which is a bonus."

"She's a woman."

Trowa arched an eyebrow. "I did notice that."

"It is not a woman's place to do a man's job. Did you see how she was dressed?"

"Wufei." Heero said quietly.


"You sound like your father."

Wufei glared at Heero, snapping his mouth shut in anger.


A few minutes later Sal walked back into the inn. "I don't know who your outfitter was, but he sure knew what he was doing. I've not seen a better setup in a long time." She looked at Trowa. "So, do we have a deal?"

"If you are in agreement."

"Sounds good to me. I don't think I need to get to much."

"Then yes, we have a deal." Trowa extended his hand, which Sal shook firmly. "Do you want to leave know or in the morning?"

"Why don't you go ahead and spend the night here. We can start fresh in the morning."

"Fine. What time?"

"After breakfast. Around eight or so. I don't worry much about clocks, unless you're on a tight schedule."

"No. We don't have to any where at any certain time."

Sal nodded. "Good. See you in the morning."


With another handshake, Sal turned on her heel and headed back out the door.

Trowa glanced over at Wufei, who was still grumbling about women doing men's work. "Did you need your arm looked at?"

Wufei looked up sharply. "No. It's fine. If you don't mind, I'm going to get a room and get some food."

"That sounds like a good idea."

Quatre sighed as Trowa turned and walked towards the counter where a clerk waited to help them. He didn't even say anything when she said I did a good job. What am I going to have to do to make him not so cold anymore? And why do I care so much?


The crackle of the fire was about the only sound heard in the campsite. That and the sounds of people eating.

Duo sighed as he stared down at his plate. While Sal was a good cook, her choices in meals was getting.... boring. He wasn't sure if she'd actually made something new tonight or had just snuck last night's meal in on them.

He stole a glance across the fire, to where Quatre was sitting attentively at Trowa's feet. He still couldn't believe that the blonde had anything to do with the things that had happened a couple of weeks ago. When he had told Heero that, Heero had pointed out that there been no more incidents since then. As far as Heero was concerned, they had gotten the right person and no amount of arguing on Duo's part had changed his mind.

Duo smiled slightly. And he'd used some damn good arguments, too.

The smile melted away as he noticed Quatre slowly stand up and take Trowa's plate. He had thought that the original intent of this trip was to make Quatre feel better. But in the past two weeks, any good that had been done had been wiped out. Just as Quatre had begun to show signs of improving, this had happened and he'd retreated back into his silent shell. There was nothing golden about him anymore; even his hair seemed dull and lifeless. It was as if all the energy had been drained away.

Duo was afraid that Quatre would try and kill himself again. If not out right, then slowly, wasting away from lack of interest in living. And there was nothing he could do but sit and watch it happen.

Duo had tried on several occasions to talk to him, to find out what had really happened, but Quatre was following Trowa's orders to the letter. Duo had even tried yelling at him, but Quatre had simply stared at the ground and said nothing. It had been like banging his head against a wall.

As he sat wondering about what else he could do, Sal walked over and sat down next to Trowa. Duo noticed that Wufei, who had been sitting on the other side, immediately got up and headed toward the tent. The two had struck sparks off each other from the first morning. Wufei was determined to find fault in everything she did and Sal was determined to show him up. It had become quite a contest. Duo personally put his money on Sal. There was one woman who knew exactly what she was and what she wanted. A small part of him wondered if Wufei actually liked that, that he enjoyed the challenge that Sal represented.

"The trail tomorrow is going to be a bit rough," she told Trowa.

Trowa looked at her for minute. "How rough?"

"We'll have to ride pretty much single file. And there's always the chance of rockslides, so you have to be careful. Luckily, once we're past this part, it's clear sailing the rest of the way."

Trowa nodded. He'd been pleased with his choice of guides and with his decision to no longer allow Quatre to be involved in the trip. Sal was an excellent guide and there had been no more attacks on anyone in the group.

In fact, he'd berated himself for even trying to be friendly to the blonde slave. It was becoming apparent to him that there was only one way to treat any slave and that was with a firm hand. It had been foolish of him to even think of trying to make a friend of the boy.

He frowned as he looked over to where Quatre was quietly washing his dishes. He'd decided that, for the safety of the others, Quatre was no longer to sleep in a separate tent. He'd found the past two weeks of having Quatre sleeping at the end of his bed... enlightening.

Perhaps when we get back I'll get Hemlin to finish training him. I'm sure it wouldn't take much.


It was mid morning when they hit the strech of trail that Sal had warned them about. Quatre could understand why she had been concerned. The trail was not very wide, maybe seven feet from side to side, with a steep rise on one side and a long drop on the other. There were also loose rocks that testified to the area's history of rockslides.

After about an hour of riding Quatre noticed that his horse was walking oddly. He didn't want the horse to suffer needlessly, but he was afraid if he said anything Trowa would be angry.

Just as he was about to go ahead and say something Heero called out from behind him. "Trowa, I think that horse has a stone in its foot."

Trowa turned to look back and noticed that Quatre's horse was indeed limping. Brining both horse to a stop he looked calmly at Quatre. "You may dismount and see what is wrong."

Quatre nodded slightly then slid from the horse's back. Bending down, he carefully lifted its front left leg off the ground. Sure enough, a small rock had become lodged between the wall of the hoof and the soft area of the foot. Carefully, Quatre extracted the stone, relieved that there was no sign of swelling. Hopefully he'd gotten it out in time.

Just as he stood up, there was an odd rumbling sound and a rock landed on the path not two feet from him. More rapidly followed the first rock, until the air was full of flying rocks.

"Rockslide!" Sal called out. "Get out of here!"

There was a sudden squeal from Trowa's horse as it was hit in the rump by a rock. Shaking its head, the horse bolted down the path, intent on getting away from the falling rocks.

The other horses had the same idea and soon everyone found themselves clear of the slide.

Duo sagged in his saddle, relief making him limp. Casting his glance around in concern, he was relieved to find that Heero had also made it clear. After a minute he spotted Wufei, who had apparently had an arguement with his horse about stopping. The horse was shaking his head and trying to bolt down the trail, but Wufei was too stubborn to let it have its way.

Just then he realized that something was wrong. He'd spotted Quatre's horse, but there was no sign of Quatre. Twisting in his saddle, he looked back up the trail. The sight that met his eyes filled him with horror. Quatre was standing in the middle of the path, staring at the ground and making no move to escape the falling rocks.

"Damn it, Quatre!" Duo shouted. "Get you ass out of there!"

Quatre heard Duo's shouts, but didn't move. Trowa had been very specific in his orders and Quatre was determined to obey them. No matter what.


It had taken Trowa several minutes to bring his horse under control. The pain maddened animal had been determined to get as far away from the source of pain as quickly as possible.

Finally, he got it turned around and headed back up the trail. He hoped the others had managed to clear as well.

He was still around a bend and unable to see the others when he heard Duo shouting. "What the fuck are you waiting for?! Damn it, Quatre, quit standing there! Get you scrawny little ass over here!"

As he rounded the corner he saw something he would never forget.

Heero was physically restraining Duo, who was shouting and cursing at the still figure up the trail as well as at Heero. The braided boy was trying to escape Heero's grasp twisting and kicking in his efforts.

Heero didn't budge, even when Duo came close to punching him in the groin in his efforts to escape. There was no way he was going to risk losing Duo, not for any reason. He couldn't understand why the blonde had made no move to escape the falling rocks.

Trowa watched in horror as a rock glanced off Quatre's shoulder. Though it obviously staggered the boy, he made no move to evade it.

Duo suddenly realized Trowa had returned. "You stupid bastard, look what you did! Quite fucking standing there with you damn mouth hanging open and tell him to get his stupid ass out of there. You fucking told him not to do a damn thing without your permission and that's what the fuck he's doing. You didn't tell him to him to move so he's going to fucking get himself killed. God damn fucking stupid mother...." The rest of Duo's tirade was muffled as Heero clamped his hand over his mouth.

Trowa reeled in shock as he realized Duo was right. Quatre was obeying him, to the letter. And in obeying him, he was going to die. Because Trowa knew there was no way Quatre could move fast enough to escape the falling rocks.

With no thought, Trowa spurred his horse forward, praying that he wasn't too late. Although angry at the boy, he'd never wanted to see him hurt like this.

It seemed like forever before Trowa finally reached Quatre. He'd taken several hits from small rocks, but several very large rocks had narrowly missed him. He didn't even take the time to say anything to Quatre, he simply reached down and grabbed the boy, yanking him up in front of him as he turned the horse on the narrow trail and headed back the way he'd come.

He'd barely begun to move when a huge boulder slammed into the ground where Quatre had been standing. There were several more close calls, but Trowa managed to evade the worst as he made his way back to the others.

Bringing the horse to a stop he let Quatre slide to the ground. Almost flinging himself out of the saddle, he grabbed at Quatre's shoulders and gave him a hard shake. "Why didn't you get out of there?" he demanded angrily. He barely made note of the trickle of blood that ran down the right side of Quatre's face, evidence of another rock that hadn't missed.

Quatre slowly looked up into Trowa's angry green eyes. "You didn't tell me too, Master," he whispered, before the blackness rose up and engulfed him.

Trowa could only stand there with his mouth open as Quatre went limp.


Fortunately, Sal had known of an inn nearby and had led them directly there. She had also insisted that Trowa send for a doctor to examine the injured, especially Quatre.

Then she had offered to ride back and investigate the site of the fall. She had heard about the previous attempts on their lives and felt it would be wise to find out if this had been an accident or intentional.

Much to Trowa's surprise, Wufei had insisted on going with her.

Now Heero sat on the sofa in the sitting room of the suite Trowa had reserved, watching as Trowa paced back and forth.

Heero's fingers moved restlessly through Duo's hair as the longhaired boy slept, his head resting in Heero's lap. He had hoped this trip would help him come to an understanding on how he felt about his beautiful slave. This wasn't the way he had intended on going about it, though. For the third time he could have lost him. But it had also left him with no doubt at all. He was
going to make this man his life mate.

"If you keep that up you're going to wear a hole in the floor and the owners of this place will have to have it fixed," Heero finally said, when he noticed that Trowa's limp was growing more and more pronounced.

Trowa whirled around at the sound of Heero's voice. "I thought you had gone to your room."

Heero indicated Duo's sleeping form. "I didn't want to wake him yet." He paused. "Besides, I figured you'd need someone to talk to." He glanced at the bedroom door. "What did the doctor say?"

"I have to go wake him up in a few minutes and make sure he's all right."

Heero arched an eyebrow. "He's been awake?"

"When the doctor examined him."

"How bad is it?"

"Possible concussion. A lot of bruises and lacerations. A couple of the cuts needed stitches."

"Did he say anything?"

"Not much. Although he wouldn't answer, at first. I had to tell him to answer the doctor's questions." Trowa suddenly turned and walked over to the fireplace. "He could have been killed, standing out there waiting for me to tell him to move."

"That is what you told him, isn't it. To not do anything without your permission."

Trowa glared at him.

"He was following your orders." Heero pointed out. "You hadn't told him to move."

"But I didn't mean he was to just stand there and get himself killed."

Duo stirred restlessly at Trowa's angry voice, but Heero gently rubbed his hand across his shoulder and he settled back down.

"Then it wouldn't be his fault."


"If he died it wouldn't have been his doing. He was simply obeying your orders. His death would be your fault not his."

Trowa's shoulders sagged. "This is getting worse every time I turn around. I'm beginning to understand why my father turned it all over to Felix."

Heero had his own opinion on that subject, but said nothing.

Trowa sighed. "I'd best go see if he's wake up."

Heero watched him go. What was supposed to have been a relaxing vacation was turning into anything but.


Trowa leaned back against the door for a minute, looking at the small figure in the bed. This incident made him question himself all over again. Was he doing the right thing? Had he been right to punish Quatre on what was really just circumstantial evidence? Was the blonde behind what had happened or was it really someone else? And who exactly was the target?

With a sigh he moved away from the door and walked over to the bed. Sitting carefully on the edge, he reached over to gently shake Quatre.

"Quatre. Open your eyes for a minute and look at me." Trowa kept his voice low.

After a minute, Quatre slowly opened his eyes a little. "Master?" he whispered.

"I'm sorry I woke you up, but the doctor wants to make sure you're okay."

Quatre blinked. "Okay?"

"Does anything hurt?"

"Everything, Master."

"What hurts the worst?"

"My head, Master."

Trowa shifted forward a bit to check the bandage. He immediately realized that was the wrong move when all the color drained from Quatre's face and he proceeded to loose the contents of his stomach all over himself, the bed and Trowa.

Trowa sighed. The doctor did warn him that he might feel nauseous for a while...


Trowa had only been gone a few minutes when Heero heard Wufei's voice, ranting about something.

Suddenly the door burst open and Wufei stormed into the room. "Where's Trowa?" he snapped.

"He just went to check on Quatre."

Wufei glanced at Duo's sleeping form. "Is he all right?"

Heero nodded. "Just some bruises."

Giving a brisk nod Wufei moved over to the table on the far side of the room. "How long has this food been here?"

"Not very long."

"And Duo's still sleeping?"


Sal stood in the doorway, watching the exchange between the two men. She had learned al lot about them in the past few weeks simply by watching the way they interacted with each other. She could understand how any one of them had managed to get an enemy that would try and kill them. They were the kind of men that would inspire intense loyalty or intense hatred.

She did agree with Duo, though. There was no way the quiet blonde was behind the attacks. It simply wasn't in his nature. He would be much more likely to remove himself, not try and hurt others.

"Did you find out anything?" Heero asked as he watched Wufei place some food on a plate.

"The slide was deliberate," Sal told him.

"You're sure."

"There were signs that someone had been camping on the ledge above the area. I found traces of a fire."

Wufei glared at her. Heero sensed that Wufei had not been happy that it had apparently been Sal that had found the campsite.

"So it is doubtful that Quatre had anything to do with it."

"Unless he had accomplices," Wufei commented.

Sal threw up her hands in disgust. "I don't believe you. Next you'll be saying that Quatre must be telepathic, since that would be the only way he could have gotten in touch with anyone."

Wufei arched an eyebrow at her. "Meaning?"

"Meaning that Lord Trowa has had him on such a short leash that he's practically up his ass." She shook her head. "But what else should I expect? You're determined to find fault in everything he does."

"You do not know the whole story."

"I've heard enough to know that boy had nothing to do with it."

Wufei turned his back on her. "I will not listen to the foolish ramblings of a woman."

Sal shook her head again. She had expected something like that from him. He is cute when he gets a riled up like that.

Heero smirked at the exchange. Wufei was retreating into such responses more and more. I do believe he's met his match in our guide.

Suddenly Wufei jumped and spun around. "Woman! What do you think you're doing?"

Sal smiled at him. "I would think that would have been obvious, even to you."

"How dare you touch my butt!" Wufei drew himself up very straight. "Do you know who I am?"

Sal grinned. "No. Who are you?"

Wufei sputtered. "I am Wufei Chang, son of Mitsuma, Lord of the House of Dragon, Guardian of the Seventh Moon, Pro...."

Wufei's rant was suddenly cut off as Sal leaned over and kissed him.

Heero noted that she also got a good grope on his ass again.

When she pulled away, Wufei stood staring at her, his mouth opening and closing but no sounds emerging.

"Now you look like the King of Karp," she told him, before turning and walking out the door. "See you later, Heero."

Wufei stood there for a minute longer. Suddenly he lunged for the door. "Woman!" he bellowed. "Get back here!"

Much to Heero's surprise he realized that Duo's body was shaking with silent laughter.

"How long have you been awake?"

"Long enough."

Heero glanced down at him. "What are you doing?"

"Admiring the view."

Heero swallowed hard when he realized just what view Duo had. "You should be resting."

Duo looked up at him, humor dancing in his eyes. "I have been."

Heero swallowed again. "Are you hungry?"

Duo turned his head back, letting his mouth graze across Heero's groin. "Oh yes," he murmured. "But I have to unwrap it first."

"I meant a sandwich."

"All I want is the meat." Duo leaned forward and pressed an open mouth kiss against the growing swell in Heero's pants.

"Duo!" Heero groaned out, his hips arching into the kiss. He still couldn't believe how fast he reacted to Duo's touch.

Duo smiled at the sound of Heero's voice. He loved to hear him say his name in just that way. He danced his fingers across Heero's hip, tugging playfully at the waistband of his pants.

"You two do have a room to do that in," Wufei complained as he walked back into the room.

Duo laughed as he suddenly rolled to his feet. "Sounds good to me." He reached out a hand to Heero. "How about you?"

Heero looked at the hand then he looked at Duo. Suddenly he came to his feet, rising in such a way that Duo found himself draped over Heero's shoulder.

"I'll take that as a yes," Duo gasped as Heero headed for the door.

Heero lightly smacked his upturned rear, but said nothing.

Duo sighed as he let his body go limp. "At least the view is nice." He slid his hand down Heero's back and into his pants.

Heero smacked his butt again, harder this time. "Duo."

Duo laughed and let his other hand join the first.

"Don't bare my ass to everyone in the inn."

"Then move it."

Heero snorted, but fortunately chose not to respond. After another minute, he was opening the door to their room.

As soon as the door was closed Duo was forcing the pants downward to expose the creamy firm flesh of Heero's ass.

Suddenly he found himself upended and looking into Heero's face. He smiled at the fire he saw there, knowing he was the only one to ever see it.


Duo placed a finger on Heero's lips. "Let me." He leaned forward and replaced the finger with his lips.

At first the kisses were soft as he gently explored Heero's mouth with his own. Then he traced the full lips with his tongue, sighing at the sounds coming from Heero. Finally he pressed his mouth fully against Heero's, his tongue surging forward to demand entrance. With a moan, Heero opened his mouth, silently granting Duo full access to the warm cavern

Duo took full advantage of the silent invitation, exploring every nook and cranny, seeing just what touch brought moans of pleasure from Heero. Though he had done this many times before, every time seemed like the first.

Finally, reluctantly, Duo pulled away. Heero moaned in protest and tried to pull Duo back, but Duo would not be swayed from his goal. "No," he whispered. "Tonight is for you."

Using only his lips, he rained gentle kisses on Heero's neck, slowly tracing a path to the collar of Heero's shirt.

Heero moaned and arched his neck as he felt Duo pressing his lips to point where his neck and shoulder met. A shudder ran through him when Duo bit down gently, then loving lapped at the mark with his tongue. He reached up to run his hands through Duo's hair, urging him to linger.

Duo smiled against the side of Heero's neck. Sighing he slid his hands under Heero's shirt, sliding it up as he traced the flesh beneath with the fingers.

"Duo," Heero whispered again, moaning when Duo began to trace light circles across his nipples, brining them painfully erect. "Please,"

"Please what?" Duo murmured against his neck.

"The shirt. Take it off."

Duo smiled, but did as he was bid. Swiftly the shirt was flung off and Duo began to explore the newly exposed territory with his mouth.

Heero sighed and press Duo his hand against the back of Duo's head when he felt Duo's mouth slid across an aching nipple. Duo began to lap at it with his tongue, all the time running his fingers lightly across the other.

Heero arched his hips, his groin feeling constricted in the suddenly too tight pants. But he couldn't rub himself against Duo, since every time he tried Duo would dance just out of reach.

What he didn't know is that Duo was slowly but surely pressing him back towards the bed. Suddenly his knees met the edge of the bed and he fell backwards.

Duo smiled down at the sight of Heero sprawled across the bed, with his mouth slightly open as he panted and his arousal swelling the front of his pants.

Heero sat up when he felt Duo run his hand across his aching groin. He was surprised to find him kneeling on the floor in front of him. "Duo."

Duo smiled up at him. "Please. Let me." There was a hint of uncertainty in Duo's eyes.

Heero suddenly understood. With a slight nod he leaned back and spread his legs apart. Tonight he would let Duo set the pace.

Duo sighed as Heero leaned back and watched him through half lidded eyes. He had been a little worried that Heero would insist on taking over, but tonight Duo wanted to be the one who led. He wanted to show Heero he had learned how to be gentle too.

Reaching up he worked his fingers into the waistband of Heero's pants. With gentle tugs he urged the pants down over Heero's hips and past the swollen proof of his arousal. As soon as he had the pants off and tossed behind him, he ran his hands over Heero's legs, tracing the feel of the powerful muscles beneath.

Heero jumped a little when he felt the press of Duo's mouth against the inside of his thigh. Opening his legs more, he granted Duo access to all of him.

Duo smiled at the unexpected offering, knowing that Heero was silently giving him permission to do what ever he wanted. Tempting as the offer was, though, he had other things in mind for tonight. Perhaps some other time.

For the next several minutes, Duo trawled soft kisses across Heero's tight and stomach, purposely avoiding the swollen erection.

Heero groaned in frustration as Duo once again came so close to his aching arousal, only to dance away at the last moment. He was certain that Duo was trying to drive him mad.

Just when he was sure he was going to lose it completely, he found himself engulfed in the warmth of Duo's mouth. He arched his hips off the bed, groaning his pleasure when Duo took him clear to the root, his soft lips pressed into the flesh of his groin.

Suddenly two firm hands pressed against his hips, pinning him to the bed. He tried to arch his hips again, but Duo was having none of that. He pulled back until only the very tip of Heero's erection was in his mouth. Then he opened his mouth and blew lightly against the tip.

Heero twisted his head as he tried to thrust himself back into the warm moist haven he knew was hovering just above him. "Duo," he moaned.

Duo blew light on him again, smiling at the reaction it brought. Suddenly he leaned forward and took Heero completely into his mouth once more. Relaxing his throat muscles he let the thick hard shaft slid into his throat. Then he
began to work the muscles, massaging the end of Heero's erection as his tongue traced swirling patterns around the base.

Heero gasped as Duo's talented mouth brought him swiftly to the crest. Duo was using every trick he'd ever learned to give Heero the most pleasure he could. Bobbing his head he licked and sucked the entire length not following any set pattern or giving Heero a chance to do anything more than gasp his name.

When Duo sensed that Heero had reached his peak, he suddenly plunged his mouth back down as he once again swallowed him to the root. Swallowing hard, he felt Heero's erection jump inside his mouth before a surge of hot fluid was shot down his throat. Swallowing again and again he coaxed more of the fluid from Heero.

Heero cried out as his climax swept over him, thrusting himself deeper into the tight passage that surrounded him. Forgetting Duo need to breath, he pressed his hand hard against the back of Duo's head, holding him tight against his groin as shot after shot of liquid fire exploded from him.

After several minute he opened his eyes to look up into Duo's shining ones. "I'm sorry," he croaked, his lungs laboring to draw in air.

Duo smiled and shook his head. He knew his throat was going to get him back for the punishment he'd just put it through, but it had been worth it. He could feel Heero's essence as it settled in his belly and was glad that it didn't make him sick, as all the others that had done it to him had.

Slowly he began tracing Heero's form with his hands. He had learned from experience that Heero had great recuperative powers.

Sure enough, within only a few minutes Heero was once again hard and ready. He started to roll over Duo, but Duo pressed his shoulders back into the mattress. He then shifted himself, rising to straddle Heero's body.

Heero looked up at the beautiful boy above him and suddenly had to blink hard. How could he have gotten so lucky? "Duo?"

Duo smiled down at him. "Just lay back and enjoy the ride," he whispered. With a soft sigh, he pressed himself back against Heero's thick erection, moaning in pleasure as he felt it press into him.

Heero groaned as he felt Duo open to take him in, the tight passage cradling him in its delicious heat. Suddenly Duo leaned back and Heero found himself completely buried in the heat that was Duo.

Duo moaned again, loving the feeling of being so completely filled by his love. Slowly he drew himself off, almost sobbing at the empty feeling it brought, then plunging back down, letting the thick shaft fill him once more.

Heero ran his hands across Duo's hips as Duo continued to move on his shaft. Then he ran his hands across Duo's buttocks to the point where his body entered Duo's. He ran his fingers around the area, loving the feel of Duo as he took him deep into himself.

Duo moaned when he felt Heero's fingers exploring the edges of his hole. Hanging his head down, his mouth open as he gasped for breath, he looked between his legs to watch as he took Heero again and again. The sight and feeling of being taken by Heero made him arch his back and cry out.

He felt Heero's hands once more encircle his hips, urging him on. Gasping for breath he thrust himself franticly on Heero's erection, taking him a deep a he could with every downward motion.

Suddenly, Heero's hand was grasping as his neglected arousal and it sent him over the edge. With a cry of pure joy he arched his back again as he thrust downward one last time. He heard Heero groan his name and felt his erection spasm within him as Heero reached his own climax.

Duo sobbed as he twisted on Heero's erection, certain he was going to shot his belly out through his dick. With a low moan he collapsed on Heero, burying his face in Heero's neck as his body continued to jerk with the last of orgasm.

Heero pressed a hand to Duo's neck, holding him where he was. With a sigh, he shifted rolling them to their sides, but keeping himself buried in the warm of Duo's body.


Duo whimpered slightly and pressed his face tighter against Heero's neck. "I love you," he whispered. "I love you so much."

Heero smiled as he buried his nose in Duo's hair. "I love you, too," he whispered as he let the exhaustion he felt take him.

Duo sighed against his neck as he too slipped into slumber.


Onto Parts Twenty Six - Thirty