PART THIRTY ONE
balanced precariously on one foot as he tried to get his pants
on. He was still a little dizzy, but it was bearable now. It just
made maneuvers like getting dressed tricky.
Suddenly the door opened, startling Quatre and causing him to loose he balance. He gave a little cry as he braced himself for the pain of his body coming in hard contact with the floor.
But it didn't happen. He found himself being held upright by whoever had opened the door. Looking cautiously up, he found himself staring into a pair of emerald green eyes. I don't think I've ever seen both eyes.
He blinked when he realized Trowa's mouth was moving. "Huh?"
"I asked if you were okay. You shouldn't be out of bed just yet."
Quatre suddenly blushed. Something about the statement, and the fact that he was in Trowa's arms with very little clothing on made him very embarrassed.
Extracting himself from Trowa's embrace he leaned over to pick up his pants, which he had dropped. Trying not to reveal any more of his body than he already had, he moved across the room and sat down in the chair near the window. "I am fine, Master. You just startled me. The doctor says that as long as I am careful everything will be fine."
Trowa inwardly winced at the formal tone in which Quatre spoke. He was also a little disappointed that the blonde was quickly covering up his lovely body. He still didn't understand why Quatre was so ashamed of his figure. His skin was smooth and flawless, quite a sight to behold. Plus, he was loosing the last vestiges of baby fat and was beginning to gain the muscle definition that came with maturity. All of that, combined with his unusual coloring, made him a very beautiful sight indeed. Unlike Trowa's own scarred form.
"Since the doctor did say it was now all right for you to travel, we are planning to leave in the morning."
"As you wish, Master."
"I'm changing my orders. It's all right for you to talk to Duo or whomever you wish. Plus, I don't expect you to hover behind me constantly. Sal will continue to be in charge of the camp, but you can assist her in any way she wants."
Quatre blinked in surprise. "Why, Master?"
"There has been some things that have been brought to my attention that have made me realize I was much too hasty in accusing you of committing the attacks against the others. I apologize for that. I no longer believe that is the case. In fact, I would appreciate your input into who you think might be behind the attacks and why."
Quatre ducked his head and stared at his feet. Was what had happened the other day part of the reason for Trowa's change in attitude? "I.... I haven't really thought about it, Master. I would not presume to understand such things."
Trowa frowned slightly. "Quatre. I will not tolerate you playing the stupid fool. I expect you to be who you are. Is that understood?"
Quatre looked up in surprise. "Yes, Master."
"Good. We will be eating in the dining hall in an hour. Please be ready."
Trowa looked at him for a minute longer before turning on his heel and limping from the room.
Quatre shoulders sagged as soon as Trowa was gone. He is so confusing. I really don't know how to behave around him anymore.
Later Quatre could never be certain what had roused him from a sound sleep. All he knew was that one-minute he was asleep, the next wide-awake.
Sitting up he scanned the room. Nothing seemed out of place and yet....
Moving quietly, Quatre slipped from the bed and made his way over to the door. Opening it just a bit, he peered into the other room. Nothing.
He sighed. My imagination must be playing tricks on me. I could have sworn....
Just then an odd odor reached him. Wrinkling his nose in distaste, he frowned. There was something distinctly familiar about the smell.
Suddenly he realized what it was. It was a strange chemical that the Midori used for starting their campfires. He had smelt it one time when his father had taken him with him to visit with the head of the tribe, a man that his father was good friends with.
Moving quickly but silently he headed out into the hall, trying to find the source of the smell. There was no smell of smoke, so whatever fire the chemical was meant to start hadn't happened. Yet.
Just as he came around the corner, he spotted a flicker of movement ahead of him. It appeared to be coming from the direction of Duo and Heero's room. Breaking into a run, Quatre headed down the hall, hoping to grab the person before he could get away.
He was barely halfway down the hall when there was a flash of light and the door to Duo and Heero's room erupted in flames. "No!" he shouted.
The figure looked up in surprise at Quatre's shout and, in the light of the fire, Quatre was able to get a look a the person. The face was that of a female, with pale skin and nearly black hair. Glaring angrily at Quatre, she jumped to her feet and bolted down the hall.
Quatre was torn between chasing the woman and doing something about the fire. But his indecision only lasted a minute. The woman would have to wait for another time, his friends were more important.
As he raced down the hall he remembered that there was a bath across the hall from the room. Hopefully the last person to use it had been to lazy to dispose of the water.
Shoving the door open he heaved a sigh of relief to find the old wooden tub nearly full of water. Grabbing a bucket he scooped up as much water as he could and went back into the hall.
The door of the room was now totally engulfed in flames and a thick smoke was beginning to billow down the hall.
"Help!" Quatre shouted. "Fire!" Even as he shouted, he flung the water onto the door.
He couldn't hear any sound coming from the other side of the door and he reverently prayed that Duo and Heero were awake and had already managed to escape. He dreaded the thought that the fire had been set to quickly dispose of a couple of bodies.
Shoving that thought from his head, he returned to the bath to get more water. Thought he knew that his pitiful amount of water would do little, he was determined to do what he could.
He barely heard the shouts from the other people in the inn as they realized there was a fire. There were sounds of slamming doors and running footsteps as people quickly escaped.
Suddenly Quatre felt a hand on his shoulder. "Quatre." Trowa spoke firmly, trying to catch the frantic blonde's attention. He had been calling the boy's name from the moment he had rounded the corner and realized who was struggling to fight the fire. But Quatre was so focused on what he was doing he hadn't heard him.
Quatre tried to escape the tight grip. There was still some water left. He couldn't stop now. He had to save Duo and Heero.
"Quatre, come on. We have to get out."
Quatre shook his head, blinking back the tears the smoke was bringing to his eyes. Every breath burned his lungs, but he ignored it. "No," he gasped out, his voice raw. "Have to stop it."
"I'm sorry Quatre. I have to do this."
Suddenly, there was a strange stabbing sensation in Quatre's neck and the blackness rose up to engulf him. "Duo. Heero," he managed to croak out as he sank into Trowa's arms.
PART THIRTY TWO
Motion was what finally brought Quatre back to the world of consciousness. That and the warm feeling of a pair of arms holding him.
Slowly he opened his eyes, to find himself looking at the back of a horse's neck. "What?" he whispered, his throat raw and aching.
"It's okay," Trowa's voice came from above him.
Quatre blinked. Why was Trowa holding him and why was he apparently on a horse? Then memories of what had happened flashed through his head and Quatre stiffened. "Duo. Heero. I have to...."
Trowa tightened his hold on the boy. "Shhh. Don't move around. You'll fall off."
"I decided that staying in town was no longer an option. A lot of people could have been hurt tonight and a man almost lost his livelihood. If you hadn't given the alarm, the entire inn would have burned down."
"I know. Someone reported seeing a person running from the inn just before the alarm was given."
Quatre remembered the figure that had looked at him just before the door had erupted into flame. "Duo? Heero? Are they?"
"We're fine." The voice was familiar and yet sounded raw, as if talking hurt.
Quatre turned to find Heero riding on the horse next to them. Duo was riding behind Heero, his arms wrapped tightly around Heero's waist. It appeared that he was sleeping.
"Duo heard a noise and woke me up. Just as I went to find out what it was, the door burst into flames. We managed to get out through the window."
"He hurt his ankle, but otherwise he's fine."
"I saw a woman. She set the fire."
"I would like to know how a fire could get going that fast." The voice was Wufei's. He was apperently riding on the other side of Trowa, but Quatre couldn't turn to see him.
"Helmin. It's a chemical used by the Midori. They soak pieces of wood in it and then use them to start their campfires. It burns really hot and will catch anything on fire, even wet or new wood."
"And how do you know about that?"
"My father was a friend of the head of the Midori tribe. We went to visit him several times. I recognized the smell."
He felt Trowa gently rub his hand across his shoulder. "Enough for now. You sound like your throat hurts. We can talk more later."
Jus then Quatre heard the sound of a horse approaching. "I found a site not to far ahead that would be a good place to set up camp," Sal told them as she rode up. "It's about a half hour's slow ride ahead."
Quatre felt Trowa nod. "Take Wufei and the pack horses and go on ahead. We'll be there as soon as we can."
Though Quatre heard Wufei grumble something under his breath, he could tell that he followed Sal when she left.
"You sure you're all right?" Duo asked, looking over at Quatre. The two boys had been set down out of the way and told not to move.
"I'm fine. My throat's a little sore, is all."
"Yeah, you kinda sound like Heero. He said he swallowed some smoke when he was getting out. Though how come he's over there, helpin', and I'm stuck over here lookin' stupid is beyond me."
"Can you stand?"
Duo glared at Quatre. "Don't be logical."
Quatre smiled weakly. "Duo?"
"I'm glad you're okay."
"So am I. About you too. Trowa said he found you tryin' to put out that fire all by yourself, with this itty bitty bucket."
"He didn't say that."
"Well, not exactly, but close enough." Duo paused. "How come you didn't just get the hell out of there?"
"I didn't know if you and Heero were still in the room or not. I couldn't leave you there."
Duo was quiet for a minute. "Thanks."
"I saw someone."
"I don't know. A woman. She set the door on fire." Quatre sighed. "I was afraid...."
Duo reached over and laid his hand on Quatre's shoulder. "It takes more than a little fire to take out Shinigami."
Quatre smiled. "But he's lousy at jumping out windows."
Duo winced. "Yeah, well... It's like... You see..."
"I'm sure glad you do." Duo sighed. "I sure hope they don't try and blame you for this."
"Trowa said someone else saw the woman running away from the inn."
"So now what are we going to do?"
"Guess we're gonna have to catch this stupid bitch and find out why she's tryin' to kill us."
I have a feeling that is going to be easier said than done.
PART THIRTY THREE
Trowa sat quietly, watching Heero as he fussed over Duo. Of course, from the loud protests Duo was making, it didn't sound like the braided boy felt Heero was doing any fussing at all.
"Damn it, Heero, don't wrap the damn thing so tight. You're going to cut all the circulation to my foot off. Oww. That hurt."
Heero calmly finished wrapping the bandage around Duo's injured ankle. "Then next time you'll land better."
Duo glared, crossing his arms across his chest and pouting. "See who sleeps alone tonight."
"You," Heero calmly pointed out, rising to his feet. "Now sit there and rest." Giving Duo a pointed look, Heero turned and walked over to where Trowa was sitting.
"It's a good thing I wasn't planning on watching any wildlife," Trowa commented as Heero sat down beside him. "I think he scared it all away."
Heero smirked. "Probably," he replied. There were times when he was amazed at just how loud Duo could be. But the noise didn't bother him. It was the times when Duo was silent that bothered him. Those were the times when he knew Duo was lost in his memories, memories he'd rather not have his longhaired lover remember. He often wished there was some way to make the bad things go away, for good. But they were a part of what made Duo what he was and without them, there was no telling what Duo would become.
"Actually, if you could find Wufei and Sally, we need to talk," Trowa said softly.
Heero nodded. "I think they went down to the river. I'll get them." With the swift silence that was Heero's way, he was on his feet and disappearing into the woods.
"Where's he going?" Duo called out.
Trowa rose to his feet and crossed the campsite to where Duo was sitting on a log. "I asked him to go and get Wufei and Sally. We need to have a meeting."
Duo glanced at the tent. "You going to wake him up?"
Trowa sighed. He'd really rather let the blonde sleep, but... "Yes."
Duo nodded. He was glad that the others had apparently come to their senses, finally.
"What do you want?" Wufei asked as he walked into camp. He looked disgruntled about something. Sally was following behind, a slight grin on her faceTrowa indicated that he wanted them to sit down. "We need to talk."
Wufei nodded and took a seat, glancing around. Duo was sitting on the log he'd been left on earlier, his injured leg stretched out in front of him. Quatre was sitting on the ground, propped up against the log and blinking sleepily at everyone.
Heero walked over and sat down at Duo's feet. "About?"
"What happened tonight and what we are going to do about it." Trowa sighed a little as he, too, sat down. He glanced around the group. "Who ever is after us upped the ante tonight. A lot more people were threatened tonight."
"And we're still not completely certain which one of us they are after, " Duo commented.
"I think it's whoever they get lucky enough to get," Quatre whispered quietly.
Trowa glanced at the blonde and nodded. "I agree. I don't think there is one set target. Not really. But at least now we have an idea what the person looks like."
"I didn't get that good a look. Just dark hair and a woman's face." Quatre was looking at the ground as he spoke.
"Do you think you would know her if you saw her again?"
"I think so."
"Then it's more than we had before."
"But what are we going to do?" Duo asked. "Just knowing what she looks like isn't enough. Especially since she proved she's not adverse to taking out a few innocent bystanders in the process."
"I'd guess that her orders are probably to make sure one of you, or all of you, doesn't return from this trip," Sally spoke up. "So if it looks like you're going to head home, she's going to make another move."
"So you're saying we should turn around and head back?" Wufei demanded.
Sally shook her head. "The port town of Marinia is about three days east of here. It would be faster to head there and catch a ship back. I wouldn't be surprised if she tries something there."
"But that is putting a lot of people at risk. Marinia is also a big vacation area," Trowa pointed out.
"With a very big Guard presence. She wasn't really risking much last night by burning the inn. But that kind of a stunt won't work in Marinia."
Heero nodded. "She'll either have to go back to being subtle or...."
"Follow you on the ship and do something on the trip back, which would actually be less of a risk to her. She could make it look like an accident and there wouldn't be anyone to investigate what really happened."
"Especially since anything would be reported at the port of destination."
"And if Michal is really behind it, nothin' would be investigated," Duo finished. "And if she knows that Quatre actually saw her, she'll probably figure that none of the rest of us listened, figurin' he made it up or somethin'."
Trowa was quiet for a moment. He really didn't want to go into a big city and possibly risk even more people, but the logic of the argument was sound. Trying to kill them in Marinia and possibly hurting other people in the process would make the woman a target of the Guard, something she definitely wouldn't want. And everything she had done so far, if she was the one behind all of the attacks, indicated she didn't want to attract that kind of attention. The fire at the inn had been a calculated risk, but only a small one. There was little in the way of a police presence in the small town and thus little chance of being caught.
With a sigh, he nodded. "I do think it is time to go back and confront my cousin. I want to know what he hopes to accomplish by all this, besides getting back at Duo and Heero for the incident in the garden." He looked at each of them. "I just hope you're right."
"You're not the only one," Duo replied, looking grim.
"Then tomorrow we head for Marinia."
Every head in the group nodded in agreement. It was time to end this.
PART THIRTY FOUR
The sight that met Quatre's eyes as he topped the last rise before the city of Marinia caused him to gasp in shock.
Before and below him stretched the port city of Marinia. Not only was the size of the city itself astounding, but there were several building on the outskirts that towered many stories into the air. How can they make buildings that tall? And why would they?
As they descended to the main gate of the city, Quatre was kept busy looking around. There were more people in one place than he had ever seen. Even the great Jordina Festival did not draw so many people.
And the clothing! There were people dressed in wild colored clothing that would practically blind you if you looked too long at them. And others that had pictures and patterns that didn't seem possible. Even the most tame were covered with patterns of flowers in a multitude of colors.
"Are you sure we are going to find a place to stay?" Wufei asked, looking at the crowds.
"There is always places to stay in Marinia," Sally reassured him. "It would look bad for them to have to turn a guest away."
"Not to mention the loss of money."
Sally laughed. "So true."
Trowa looked up at one of the large buildings they were passing. "What are these?"
"Most large inns. There are a couple on the other side of town that are rented out for people who want to stay for the season."
Heero arched an eyebrow. "And they get enough people here to fill them?"
"All the time. This is the main destination of anyone going on a vacation. Some people have saved their whole lives to come here."
Sally shrugged. "Because someone made it sound like a good idea. You should walk the Boardwalk while you are here. There are a lot of wonderful shops that line one side of it and the on the other is the beach."
Quatre blinked at that bit of information. He'd never seen a beach before. He hoped Trowa would let him go.
"So where are we staying?" Wufei asked.
"I know of a small inn in the old part of town. The rooms are very well maintained and the food is excellent. Plus the owner is an old friend. He'll treat you right."
Quatre noticed that Duo was eyeing the large structures with no small measure of distress. "What's wrong?" he whispered.
Duo looked over at him, his eyes huge with unspoken fear. "What makes them stay up like that? Aren't they afraid they're going to...." Duo gulped as he looked back up. "Fall down?"
"I guess not. But don't worry. I don't think we'll be staying in any of these places."
"I hope not."
Quatre looked at Duo. "Duo, are you afraid of heights?"
Duo looked indignant for a moment, then shuddered. "Not heights, falling."
"But you weren't bothered by the trail over the mountains."
"Sure was. That's why I stayed as close to the inside as I could. That way I couldn't see how high we were."
Quatre blinked, realizing that what Duo said was true. He had not once gotten near the edge of any of the trails they had used. "I didn't..."
Duo shrugged. "It's not something I talk about."
"Is that why you hurt you ankle back at that inn?"
Duo nodded. "Heero had to literally throw me out. I was too scared to go out myself."
"Does he know how you feel?"
Duo shrugged again. "Don't know. He's never asked and I've never said anything."
Duo looked down. "Because it's a weakness. If you've paid any attention to Heero you know he has no patience for weakness of any kind. He'd get rid of me in an instant if he ever found out."
Quatre looked towards Heero, who was riding ahead of them as he talked to Trowa and the others. He couldn't believe that of the man. Though he did seem cold to him, Quatre knew that he cared very deeply for his manservant. "No, he wouldn't."
"Don't say anything," Duo hissed suddenly. "I won't take that chance. I won't risk losing him."
Quatre nodded, mostly to reassure his friend. He would never tell anyone something told in confidence.
"What are you two talking about?" Wufei's voice suddenly floated back to them.
"How they could build buildings this high," Duo told him, no trace of his fear in his voice.
How often is the face you show us just a mask? Quatre wondered, noting the transformation.
Wufei nodded as he glanced up. "It is impressive, isn't it? Though it seems like a great waste of time to me."
Sally laughed. "But they obviously don't feel the same, do they?"
"How much farther to this inn you have in mind?" Heero asked, glancing back at the others.
"Not too far."
"Duo, come join me up here," Heero said calmly, looking back at his manservant. "I want to talk to you."
"Yes, master," Duo muttered, urging his horse forward.
Heero suddenly laughed. "And don't you forget it."
Duo made a face as his horse came up beside Heero's. "And if I forget?"
Heero leaned over and grabbed a hold of the back of Duo's head. "I'll just have to remind you," he whispered, before pressing his lips to Duo's.
"Oh great," Wufei moaned. "Couldn't you wait until you were in your room to do that? You're hurting my eyes with you flagrant display of..."
Sally reached over and smacked the back of his head. "Be quiet. You're making more of a scene than they are."
Wufei glared as he rubbed the back of his head. "Woman, don't do that again."
"I will make you regret it."
Wufei sputtered before turning his back on her.
Quatre sighed as he watched the exchange. He really didn't think Duo had anything to fear about losing Heero. Especially if the man was willing to kiss him in front of all these strangers. And it would be nice if Wufei and Sally would quite beating around the bush and be honest to each other.
He sighed again as he looked at Trowa. And what was going on with him? Quatre was growing more confused about his feelings for his master and by the hot and cold way Trowa was treating him. He really wasn't sure where he stood right now.
Maybe I should be the one worried about being sold off. There are times when I feel like he really doesn't want anything more to do with me. Not that I blame him. I've caused him nothing but trouble.
But do I want anything to do with him? And how much? I always believed that any kind of relationship between two men was bad, but now I'm not so sure. Duo and Heero certainly seem happier than many of the 'normal' couples I've seen. And Duo certainly seemed to be enjoying what Heero was doing to him that day. I wonder what it would feel like. To have someone take me like that. Would it hurt or would it feel good? Do I even want to find out?
Oh Quatre you are so stupid. Why would he want to carry on any kind of relationship with a plain, weak slave like me anyway? I'm nothing special, not like he deserves. I'm small and weak and stupid and foolish and plain and a big crybaby. He needs someone who is strong and won't run at the first sign of trouble. I just stood there and let my own mother die and never did anything to help. He certainly doesn't need someone who wilts at the first sign of trouble or who expects everything to go his way. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
And besides, thanks to his kind I'm the last of my kind. I should wait until he will finally be able to let me go and then go back home to find myself a bride to bring back my people. I shouldn't even be thinking about such things as having sex with another man. Am I so bored and silly as to think such a thing could be good?
Oh, Great One, I'm even more confused than I was. What am I supposed to do? Is what I've been thinking about good or bad? Should I let Trowa take me, if that is what he wants? Or maybe I should ask Duo to show me what it is all about and what I should do. I trust Duo and..... Quatre closed his eyes. He really didn't know what he should do. All these feelings and thoughts were running through him and making him feel even more out of control than before. His head ached with the multitude of confusing thoughts rushing through him.
Trowa glanced back, a frown of concern on his face. Something wasn't right. Suddenly he noticed Quatre start to slip sideways in his saddle. "Catch him!" he shouted as Quatre slumped over and began to fall.
Fortunately, Wufei was able to react quickly enough and caught Quatre before he hit the ground.
Trowa had already turned his horse back to where they had stopped. "What happened? Is he all right?"
Wufei glanced up. "I don't know. He's out cold."
Trowa dismounted and hurried as fast as his leg would allow over to Wufei. "Give him to me."
Wufei did so, a perplexed look on his face.
Trowa carefully brushed the hair out of Quatre's eyes. "Little one, wake up," he whispered.
Quatre moaned softly, but otherwise remained still.
Trowa looked up. "We need to get him to that inn."
Sally nodded. "I'll fetch a doctor as soon as we're settled. It could have been because of the head injury."
Trowa nodded and looked at Wufei. "After I get back on my horse, hand him up to me."
Wufei looked at Trowa for a minute, but didn't argue. "Let's get going."
Trowa carefully handed Quatre back to Wufei before mounting his horse. After he had gotten the unconscious blond settled he nodded to Sally. "Let's go."
Without another word the small group headed out, each one concerned in their own way about Quatre's unexpected collapse.
Fingers were the first thing that registered to Quatre as he opened his eyes. Long slender fingers coming towards him. "What are you doing?" he whispered.
Suddenly the fingers were snatched away. "Quatre?"
Quatre opened his eyes fully, finding himself in the familiar position of staring up at Duo's concerned face. "Is this beginning to become a habit?" he whispered.
Duo smiled a little as he leaned back. "Looks that way. How are you feeling?"
Quatre blinked a couple of times, realizing that he was laying on a bed. "Confused," he replied. "Where are we?"
"I don't remember getting here."
"That's 'cause you were out cold when we got here."
Quatre looked at Duo with a bewildered look on his face. "Why?"
Duo shrugged. "Don't know. We were riding along when all the sudden you just passed out. Trowa had a doctor look you over but he couldn't find nothing wrong."
Quatre closed his eyes for a minute, trying to see what he could remember. "I was thinking about some things when I just got kinda dizzy. That's all I remember."
"This and that."
Duo arched an eyebrow at the evasion, but didn't press. "Well, I guess you'd best not be thinking so hard no more. It's not good for your head."
Quatre managed a slight smile as he tried to sit up. He frowned when Duo reached forward and gently pressed him back down into the bed. "I what to get up," he complained.
Duo shook his head. "Not for a while. Doc said to make you rest for today. That's why I'm still here. So you stay right where you are."
Quatre frowned again. "Where are the others?"
"Don't know where Wufei and Sally went. Trowa and Heero went to see about booking us passage on the next ship back to Macir."
Quatre noticed the odd look on Duo's face. "What's wrong?"
bit worried about them walking around the city with some killer
out there. What if that bitch decides it's worth the risk and
tries to take them out. I should have gone with them." Duo
suddenly shot to his feet and walked over to the window. "I
can protect Heero. I wouldn't let anyone get to him. Not now that
I know someone is after him. I'd make them rue the day they ever
came near Shinigami."
Quatre sat up and looked at his friend. "Duo?"
Duo turned and looked at him, a strange look in his eyes. "It's true, you know. What they say about me. I did kill my last two masters. They deserved it." He turned back to the window. "My first master was convinced everyone was out to kill him so he came up with the idea of training someone that no one would ever suspect to be his bodyguard. I knew more about killing people by the time I was seven than most people ever learn. The first person I ever killed was one of his compatriots. He was convinced the guy was plotting to take over his business so he had me kill him. I was only six at the time"
Duo closed his eyes. "I could have killed Michal that night. It wouldn't have been hard and it wouldn't have been the first time I've used my braid for that purpose." He gave a harsh laugh. "I even tried it on Heero once, right after he bought me. But he was stronger that I thought. He damn near ripped my hair right out of my scalp getting away.
"Now I'll use everything I ever learned to protect him. He is the most important thing in this world to me and I won't let some fucked up bastard that thinks he's god's gift to the world hurt him."
Quatre watched silently as Duo seemed to close in on himself. If I hadn't passed out then he wouldn't be so upset. "Duo. I'm sorry. I...."
Duo turned around and gave him a half smile. "It's not your fault." He walked back over to the bed. "I know Heero is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. I just worry about him."
Quatre reached out and placed his hand on Duo's arm. "And he worries about you. Which is probably why he left you here to play nursemaid to me. So that you'd be out of harm's way."
Duo smiled ruefully. "You're probably right." He watched Quatre for a minute. "It don't bother you?"
"Knowing you're friends with a killer."
Quatre tightened his grasp on Duo's arm. "You plan on killing me?"
"No. I don't do that stuff no more. Not unless I have to."
Quatre smiled. "Then I don't see anything wrong with us being friends. You are what you are. I can't hate you for that. I can hate the people that did this to you, made you into what you are. But even knowing it, it doesn't bother me. I come from a long line of people that could be called killers. They did what they had to. I just wish that people didn't see it as a necessary thing. And I can't understand the mentality of someone that would teach a child to kill."
Duo returned the smile. "Thanks."
"Anytime. I just hope there doesn't come a day when people make their children fight their wars for them."
Duo shrugged. "In this fucked up world, anything is possible."
"I know. That's the sad part."
"Okay so you take this card and lay it on this card. If the card you....."
Heero arched an eyebrow as he walked into the sitting area of the suite of rooms they had rented and heard Duo's voice through the slightly open door. "I thought Quatre was supposed to be resting."
Trowa frowned as he followed Heero in. "He is. Why?"
"Because it sounds like Duo is teaching him to play cards."
Trowa closed his eyes for a minute. "He is becoming a bad influence."
Heero snorted. "I could say the same about Quatre," he retorted as he moved across the room.
"So if this card is worth more than this card then...."
"Duo, what are you doing?"
Duo jumped about two feet in the air at the unexpected voice. Turning, he looked guiltily at Heero. "Nothing."
Heero eyed the cards spread across the bed in front of him. "Doesn't look like nothing to me."
"It's my fault," Quatre whispered looking down at his lap. "I was bored and asked him to show me a card game. Don't be mad at him."
"Duo, Quatre is supposed to be resting."
"He is. He hasn't moved from that spot once."
"I did go to the bathroom," Quatre reminded him.
"Okay, then once. But only that once, 'cause I sure didn't want him wetting the bed and he would have if I hadn't taken him but that really......."
Duo blinked at Heero. "Huh?"
"It's time to leave. Let Quatre get some rest now."
"Oh. Okay." Duo looked at Quatre. "I gotta go now."
Quatre smiled. Duo sounded just like a little boy that had been called home by his mother.
Duo stood up and began gathering up the cards. "I'll show you some more later."
Heero glanced at Quatre, quietly assessing the blonde's condition. He noticed that there was more color in the boy's cheeks than there had been earlier. Whatever had caused his collapse didn't seem to be anything too serious.
Duo waved slightly to Quatre as he left the room. He really hoped Trowa wasn't mad at him. He'd just wanted to keep the blonde from getting bored while they waited for news about what was going on. Besides showing Quatre the card game had kept him from worrying so much about Heero.
Trowa was sitting on the sofa when Duo entered the room. "I hope you're not teaching him how to gamble."
Duo managed a grin as he placed the cards on the side table. "Not yet."
"Duo." Heero came up behind him. "Just because you can beat just about anyone at card games doesn't mean you can drag someone new in."
Duo pouted at Heero. "You never let me have any fun. I can't help it if all your cronies are mad 'cause they can't beat one stupid slave at cards."
Trowa shook his head. He never could understand how Duo, who couldn't even read, always managed to win at card games. He was so good, in fact, most everyone refused to play with him anymore. "Maybe you should use the cards to teach Duo how to read."
Heero shook his head slightly as he walked over to Trowa and sat down. "Don't even go there."
Duo grinned as he took a seat on the floor next to Heero. Although Heero didn't expect such behavior from Duo, he liked being as close as he could. With a sigh he leaned against Heero's leg, sighing again when Heero immediately reached over and began rubbing his hand through Duo's hair.
Trowa looked over at the two. He could swear it sounded like Duo was purring.
Finally Duo looked up at Heero. "When are we leaving?"
"Day after tomorrow. "
Duo managed a weak grin. "Good."
Heero looked at him. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I've just.... never been on a boat before."
Trowa blinked. "You'll be fine. It's nothing to worry about."
Heero looked at him for a minute. "I'll hold you to that."
Duo looked up at Heero in surprise. "You've never....."
Heero shook his head. "Not that I remember. Never had a reason to get on one before. Guess there is a first time for everything."
Trowa looked at his friend. "We could still change plans and ride back."
Heero shook his head. "No. We need to get back the quickest way we can. And that's by ship. It will only be for a couple of days."
Duo blinked. "Really. That's all?"
"Macir is about two and half to three days sailing down the coast from here," Trowa informed him. "A straight ride is about ten days."
"Partially because a boat makes better time and you don't have to stop," Heero added.
Duo nodded. "True." He paused for a moment. "So we are going to be here all day tomorrow?"
Heero looked down at him. "Yes."
"With nothing to do but wait?"
Heero's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Yes."
"So, could we go to the Boardwalk and to the beach." He looked up at Heero with pleading eyes. "Please. I want to see what all the shops look like and Quatre's never been to the beach before and it would be really neat and I'll make sure no one can hurt us and....."
"Duo." There was a very clear warning in Heero's voice.
Duo lowered his eyes. "I just...."
Heero reached over and ran his finger across Duo's cheek. "Let's see what the doctor says and see how things are. Maybe we can walk around for a little while tomorrow."
Duo smiled up at him. "Thank you."
Heero looked over at Trowa. "If you don't mind."
Trowa shook his head. "Sounds like a plan to me." He rose to his feet. "I'm going to go in and see how Quatre is doing. Why don't you see about ordering us some dinner or finding out where a good place to eat might be."
Duo jumped to his feet. "Food. Good. I'm starved."
Heero laughed as he too stood up. "You're always starved."
Duo grinned. "Gotta keep my strength up."
Heero just shook his head. "Let's go see what we can find out."
Duo bound over to the door and opened it. "After you, Master."
Heero walked over. "Finally, you're starting to learn." As he walked through the door, Duo reached over and smacked his ass.
"Or not," Trowa commented as he watched the door shut.
Quatre blinked sleepily at the soft voice. "Who?"
"I just wanted to see how you were doing," Trowa's whispered softly as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
Quatre looked at him, eyes still foggy from sleep. "Master?"
Trowa bit back a sigh. "Do you feel up to eating?"
Slowly Quatre nodded. "Yes, Master. I..." He started to sit up, not noticing that Trowa had leaned closer to hear what he was saying.
He was startled when he realized how close Trowa was to him. "Master?"
Trowa looked at Quatre for a moment. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, Master. I just got a little dizzy. Probably from the sun. I'm fine now. I should..."
Trowa leaned in a little closer. "You should rest. I don't want a repeat of this afternoon. You could have hurt yourself."
"I know, Master. I'm sorry."
"You shouldn't be. Just be more careful. You scared me."
"I didn't mean to, Master. I..."
"Quatre?" Trowa's green eyes were looking calmly at him, a strange look in them.
"What is it going to take to get you to stop calling me Master?"
"Master?" Quatre licked his suddenly dry lips. He was so close they were practically breathing each other's air.
"Maybe this will work," Trowa whispered.
Quatre's eyes went wide when Trowa leaned that last little bit of distance and gently pressed his lips to Quatre's. Oh Great One, he's kissing me. What should I do?
Quatre felt Trowa's hand slid into his hair and gently press him forward, firming the kiss. So startled by the feeling, Quatre gasped, opening his mouth and letting Trowa's tongue in to explore.
For what seemed like an eternity, Trowa explored the warm cavern of Quatre's mouth, learning the unique taste and feel that was Quatre.
A low moan from Quatre finally brought Trowa back to the present. With a low muttered curse he pulled away, staring in shock at the small blonde. His lips were swollen from the force of the kiss and there was a strange look on his face.
With another silent curse Trowa jerked himself to his feet.
Quatre looked up at him, bewilderment plain on his face. "Master?" he whispered.
Trowa stepped away from the bed. "I'm sorry. I don't know what happened. I had no right to do that. I promise it won't happen again. I..." He turned and limped quickly from the room, his emotions in a turmoil. Oh god, what have I done. I kissed him. I can't believe I did such a thing. How could I have done such a thing?
Quatre slowly raised his hand to his lips. "But Master," he whispered. "I think I would like that to happen again."
Onto Parts Thirty Six - Forty
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