Disclaimers:  I do not own Gundam Wing or any of its characters.

Notes:  Duo cares for Quatre.  Heero goes on an inspection of his lands.

Captive Hearts

Part Six

Duo stroked his fingers across the heated flesh of the slave’s cheek, hating that he had caused the young man’s condition to
worsen.  If he had just left Quatre in Heero’s bed, then perhaps the young slave wouldn’t be this bad.  Why hadn’t Duo been
able to just leave things be?  Look at all the suffering he had caused to the poor slave just by bringing him from Heero’s bed.

Reluctantly, Duo drew himself away from the bed, hastily moving over to his hearth.  He knelt before the cold wood, lighting the
fire as quickly as he could.  Until it was burning with an intensity, Duo sat there and stoked it with an iron poker, keeping the
fire going as he mentally berated himself for being such a fool.

Then Duo stood and crossed the room to sit at Quatre’s side again.  Once again he brushed his fingers along the feverish skin,
wondering how long it would be before someone came up with the compresses that Sally was supposed to be sending up.  

He glanced to his side, only to see the tray that Hilde had brought up earlier, his breakfast still on it.  Duo sighed and reached
over, taking the tray in hand.  He slowly ate, but didn’t enjoy it, still feeling that it was his own fault that Quatre had worsened.  
He stopped eating before he had even gotten halfway through the meal, his own self blame making him feel queasy.  He set the
tray aside.

Only moments later, Hilde walked into the room.  She set the tray that she had been carrying down on the bed.  Grabbing a
kettle from off the tray, she walked over to the fire and hooked the handle of the kettle on the metal hanger and swung it so that
the kettle was suspended over the fire.

Then she returned to the bed.  She lifted a basin of water from the tray and set it on the bedside table, removing the older tray
that contained the remainder of Duo’s breakfast before she set the basin down.  

Duo reached over and grabbed a cloth that he saw laying on the tray.  Turning slightly, he dipped the cloth into the basin,
soaking it then ringing it out.  Carefully, he folded it, setting it gently against Quatre’s feverish forehead, hoping the cool
compress would help him.

“I'm sure he’ll recover, Duo.”  Hilde said, laying a hand on Duo’s arm.

“I should never have moved him.”  Duo replied, hating himself for being a fool.  “I caused him to get worse.  It’s my fault.”

“No, don’t think that.  You did what you thought was best at the time.  I’m sure he won’t blame you.”  Hilde replied.  “I have
some errands to run, but if you want I can come back and keep you company later.”

Duo nodded.  “I-I’d like that.”  He whispered, grateful that she had offered.

“I’ll be back later then.”  Hilde sighed, picking up the two trays.

Duo said nothing, just watching the blonde.  He gently clasped the slave’s hand, holding it carefully, hoping that he wasn’t
causing him any discomfort.  No matter what Hilde said, Duo knew this was his own fault.  If he hadn’t been such an idiot, then
Quatre wouldn’t have suffered.


Heero sighed as he mounted his steed.  He never did like these excursions into the village and surrounding farms, although it all
did belong to him.  However, he did have to inspect his lands, make sure that his tenants paid their rents . . . to be sure there
was no trouble in the area.

“Sire, would you prefer that I perform the inspection myself this month?”  Zechs asked, walking his horse over beside Heero’s.

Heero rubbed his eyes, yawning as he did so.  He was tired, not to mention feeling dizzy and quite queasy.  Perhaps he should
take Zechs up on his offer.  Then he decided against it, knowing it was his own duty to do this.  “No, it is my duty to see to this
chore . . . I will not push this onto someone else when I am quite capable of doing it myself.”

“As you wish, my Lord.”  Zechs said.

Heero nodded, walking his horse for a moment before getting the steed into a trot.  He knew that Zechs and a few other guards
would be close behind.  This was just how things normally went on inspection day.  Heero was never without an escort when
he left his home.  As a noble it would just be considered unsafe for him to do such a thing.  Of course, he could defend himself,
but he had to keep up appearances.

The first home they stopped at was a small farm.  When no one greeted them outside, as was expected when Heero made his
rounds, Heero dismounted and strode over to the house, tying the reins of his horse to a nearby tree.  He walked over and
knocked sharply on the door, waiting impatiently, Zechs and Otto moving to stand behind him.  When no one came to the door,
Heero began to worry for his tenant.  A man named Howard ran this farm, and Howard had always greeted him cheerfully,
offering him food and drink whenever he passed.  

Heero, worried about the older man, opened the door and stepped into the small house.  He looked around, noticing how empty
the house seemed to be.  There was something wrong here, he was sure of it.  The beds of Howard’s children were empty, but
he heard no merriment, no sounds of play.  

Quickly, Heero crossed to the only other door in this house, the one that gave Howard and his lovely wife some privacy.  As he
grasped the door handle, he hesitated, wondering if this was something he really wanted to do.  Perhaps it would be a mistake to
just barge into their bedroom like this.  What if they were involved in activities that Heero just didn’t want to witness at the

He pushed his doubts aside and opened the door, knowing that he had to.  If Howard was in some kind of danger, he had to find
out.  The man was loyal, hardworking, all in all a good person.  It would be wrong to just turn around and leave without
knowing if he was well or not.

The sight before Heero, made him frown.  Here were the people that Heero had been searching for.  Howard was laying in bed,
his family surrounding him, looking down on him with worry and fear on their faces.  There was Clara, Howard’s lovely young
wife, her blonde hair pulled back into a bun as she silently wept into a handkerchief.  The children were on either side of her,
their ten-year-old son, Michael, their eight-year-old son, Steven, and their four-year-old daughter, Marie.  All three children were
crying, Marie’s face buried against Michael’s shoulder as she sobbed.

Clara turned, her eyes widening when she saw Heero.  “Oh, Lord Heero . . . I am sorry, I did not hear you knock.”  She said,
giving a small curtsey as she wiped her hand across her tear-streaked face.

Heero held up a hand.  “Don’t apologize.”  He said, calmly.  “What happened?”

“My husband has taken ill, Lord Heero.”  She reached into a pocket, pulling out a small pouch.  She stepped forward, holding it
out.  “I am afraid we do not have enough money for the rent this month, my Lord.  But please . . . take what we have.”  

Heero shook his head, pushing the coin purse back into her hand.  “No, it looks as if you need the money right now.”  Heero
said, frowning as he watched Howard take in labored breaths, his face pale and pasty as he slept unsoundly.  “How long has he
been ill?”

“Over a week.”  Clara replied sadly.  “The children and I have been trying to tend to the farm, but without Howard, we just can’
t seem to do it.  I-I’m sorry, my lord.”

Heero looked over his shoulder, knowing that he’d find Zechs standing behind him.  “Zechs, see to it that Sally pays a visit to
Howard as soon as she can.  I will pay the fee for the visit.  And send someone to help here at the farm until Howard is well
enough to work on his own.”  Heero said.  “I will pay for that individual’s services as well.”

“Yes, sir.”  Zechs nodded.

“Thank you, sire.”  Clara said, tears falling from her eyes.  “We will pay you back as soon as we can.”  She said, clasping one
of Heero’s hands and kissing it.  “Thank you.”

Heero let a small smile onto his face.  “You and your family have always been loyal to my household.”  He said.  “Take as much
time as you need.”

“Thank you, my lord.”  Clara replied once again, her smile bright.

Heero nodded and bowed to her, then turned on his heel and left the small farmhouse.  He had other homes to inspect today,
other tenants to see to.  As he swung up onto the saddle of his horse, Heero nearly faltered, the world around him beginning to

“Are you well, my lord?”  Zechs asked, concerned.

Heero nodded, keeping his eyes closed until his vision cleared and the dizziness stopped.  “I’m fine.”  He said, sighing.  Other
than a minor nauseous feeling, Heero did feel fine.  So it wasn’t a total lie.

Later that afternoon, Heero was still inspecting his lands.  His morning he had spent concerning himself with the affairs of the
farms.  Now, hours later, he was in the village.  Zechs had once again asked if he needed assistance, and so Heero had finally
given in, allowing Zechs and Otto to see to the majority of the homes and shops.  Heero only had two left to visit, the inn and the
local orphanage.

Heero left his horse tied to a hitching post, then walked the rest of the way to the orphanage, deciding to visit them first.  He
lifted the doorknocker and rapped a few times, before he took his hand away and waited patiently.  Only moments later, the
heavy, wooden door was pulled open.

“Good Morning, Sister Sylvia.”  Heero greeted, bowing out of respect to the nun who was no older than he was.

“Ah, Lord Heero . . . is it that time of the month already?”  She asked, moving aside and gesturing for Heero to enter.

Heero nodded.  “Yes, time for rents to be paid.  But I come here with other business as well.”  Heero said.  “Duo won’t be able
to make it here today, possibly not for a few days.”

“Oh my . . . is something wrong?  Has he taken ill?”  Sister Sylvia asked, her face concerned as she closed the door.

“No, Duo is well.  I have acquired a new slave . . . one I rescued from the dungeons of Queen Une’s castle . . . Duo has
decided to take care of him.”  Heero replied.

“This new slave is ill or hurt?”  Sister Sylvia asked.

Heero sighed.  “Both I am afraid.  Queen Une had ordered his execution.  It seems he was beaten severely and assaulted . . .
sexually . . . before I could reach him.  His fever is dangerously high according to Sally.”

“What is his name?”  She asked.

“His name is Quatre.  Why do you ask?”  Heero said, his brow furrowing as he wondered why she would want to know.

Sister Sylvia smiled.  “So that I may add him to my prayers this evening.”  

Heero nodded, sighing.  “He probably needs all the help he can get right now.”

Before anything else could be said, a number of happy voices called out, the room quickly filling with the laughter of children.  
Heero watched as children swarmed around him, several small hands reaching up to tug on his clothes.  Older children stood at
the back of the crowd, letting the younger ones stand in front.

“Children, please calm yourselves.”  Sister Sylvia laughed, picking up one young girl that was in danger of getting trampled by
her friends.

Slowly, the room became quiet once again.  Then one small boy reached up and pulled on Heero’s tunic.  “Lord Heero, sir . . .
Is Duo coming to see us today?”

Heero knelt down so that he would be at eye level with the child.  “No, not today.  Duo is taking care of a sick friend.”

“Okay.”  The child pouted.  “I hope his friend gets better.”  

Heero smiled, ruffling the child’s hair as he rose to his feet once again.  “I’ll make sure Duo visits you all soon.”

“Thank you.”  A number of young voices rang out.

Heero turned to Sister Sylvia, bowing to her.  “If you’ll excuse me, Sister . . . I must continue my inspection.”  He said.

“I understand.  Greet Duo for us.  And I will pray for Quatre tonight.”  Sister Sylvia said.

Heero nodded, then left, pulling the heavy door shut behind himself as he stepped out onto the street.  He paused once outside, a
headache stabbing through his skull very suddenly.  After pausing a moment, he thought it best to move on, and he walked the
distance to the inn, leaving his horse tied to the hitching post where he had left it.

He yawned as he stepped into the inn, weaving his way through the evening crowd as he headed over to the bar.  The local inn
also served as tavern.  Upon seeing Heero, the barmaid turned and ran to the backroom.  Moments later, the owner of the inn
stepped out, her young son trailing behind her, his hands clutched tightly in her skirt.

The widow Cavallaro curtsied to Heero, lowering her gaze to the floor.  “R-rent?”  She asked, one of the few words in English
she could understand.

Heero nodded.  “Yes, Meiran.”  He replied, looking over the young woman whose features didn’t match her last name.  She was
of Chinese descent, the fact that she only spoke Chinese most of the time assuring him of that.  She had married Antonio
Cavallaro, an Italian whose family had been running the inn for many generations.  Now Meiran owned and ran it, ever since her
husband’s death a few weeks back.

Heero couldn’t say that he was saddened by the man’s passing.  To be honest, Heero had never liked Mr. Cavallaro.  The man
was abusive and cruel.  He had kept Meiran from learning English, making her life more difficult and all but dependant on him.  
He had seemed intent on making sure that she was pregnant constantly, as she was now.  This was her sixth pregnancy.  Alas,
she only had the one child, her only son as of right now, all her other children had died shortly after birth except for the one
stillborn son.  Heero hoped that the one she carried now would be healthy.

Meiran’s son, Cesare, a boy only five years of age, stepped over to Heero and took hold of his hand, gently tugging him toward
the backroom.  Heero obliged by following both Meiran and her son into the room, trusting that this was how Meiran tended to
business.  This would be the first time that Heero would be collecting the rent from her . . . her husband had always dealt with it
himself before.

Heero took a seat in the chair in front of a small desk, waiting patiently as Meiran pulled out an old wooden box.  She opened it
and slowly began to count out the coins, setting them in neat little stacks on the surface of the desk.  After a few minutes, she
pushed the stacks of coins toward Heero’s side of the desk, looking unsurely between them and Heero’s face.  “Enough?”  She
asked quietly, wringing her hands together nervously.

Heero looked over the coins; silver, copper, and gold each in their own piles.  After looking at them, Heero knew that there was
way too much there.  He stood, frowning when Meiran bowed her head shamefully.  Shaking his head, he took the correct
amount of coins and pushed the rest back.  Meiran looked up at him, and he gestured to the coins he had left in front of him.  
“This is enough.”  He said slowly, hoping that she would understand.

Cesare looked up at his mother, and spoke in some strange language that Heero couldn’t quite understand.  It must be Chinese,
he thought.  When Meiran nodded and smiled to him, Heero knew that Cesare had just translated for him.

Heero picked up the coins, dropping them in a money pouch that hung from his belt.  He looked at Cesare, smiling.  “Will you
ask your mother something for me?”

“Yes, sir.”  The boy replied, biting his lip.

Heero nodded.  “Ask her if she would like to learn English.”

The boy smiled, then turned to his mother, hopefully repeating what Heero had asked him to although he couldn’t be sure since
he didn’t understand a word the boy had said.  Meiran stood quickly, then nodded eagerly at Heero.  “Yes . . . learn.”  She said,
smiling brightly.

“I’ll have a tutor sent in the morning.”  Heero said, waiting while the boy translated before he continued to speak.  “The two of
you will have to work out a schedule.”  He smiled as Meiran’s face lit up with happiness, as she nodded to him.  

She took his hand, shaking vigorously.  “Thank . . . Thank you.”  She said, apparently not sure if the words she had used were

Heero smiled, then turned, heading for the door.  “Good day to you, Mrs. Cavallaro.”  Heero said, opening the door, intending to
leave.  However, just as he took a step outward, a wave of nausea and dizziness suddenly crashed into him.  He stumbled,
grasping the doorframe as he closed his eyes, the world around him spinning.  He didn’t even realize he had fallen down until he
opened his eyes and saw the ceiling above him, Meiran’s worried face hovering over him until everything suddenly went black.

To Be Continued . . .