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

Notes:  Trowa is still traveling with Catherine.

Captive Hearts

Part Twenty-One

Trowa gazed out of the carriage window, watching the passing scenery but not really seeing it.  He had done the same thing
every day for the past three days.  His mind was still on the small slave that he had left behind.  He knew it was strange to be
missing the blonde after spending only one night with him, but Trowa had never felt so comfortable with anyone before, not
even with Catherine.  Quatre was quiet and shy, but had such an inner strength after surviving what he had been through and
retained his pure heart.  Not many slaves who had been abused as Quatre had would have made the offer that Quatre had made.

Trowa smiled warmly.  Quatre had actually offered himself.  That touched Trowa deeply.  He would await the day when he
could take Quatre up on that offer patiently, yet with a sense of deep longing.  For now, it was enough to have the memory of
how Quatre had felt in his arms, that pale beautiful body pressed against his own.

“A copper for your thoughts?”  Catherine was smiling gently, knowingly.  “Oh, wait . . . let me guess.  You’re thinking of
Quatre again?”

Trowa let out a soft snort.  “Catherine, I don’t know why, but . . . I feel like he belongs with me.  He’s the exact opposite of
Duo, and I once thought I’d be repelled by a slave who was as soft-spoken as I was.  But he . . . he’s so pure and beautiful.  He
steals my breath away even when I think of him.  It took every bit of willpower not to just take him on this trip with us.”  He
shook his head.  “But it was better that he stay behind with Heero and Duo.  Duo can teach him about some of my likes, instruct
him about my daily schedule, and tell him what to do on those occasions when I’m upset.”

Catherine nodded.  “Oh!  I never got to ask you.  How was he at chess?”

Trowa couldn’t help but laugh.  “He beat me.  Or at least he would have had his muscles not cramped up on him so suddenly.  
He learned how to play from his father . . .”  His smile fell at the memory of the conversation he had had with the gentle blonde.  
“Before his father died and his own sisters sold him into slavery that is.”  He scowled, not understanding how any sister could
do something so terrible to their own blood.  “I’d like to find the women that did that to their own brother!  He didn’t even care
about being heir, Catherine.  He was perfectly willing to let his sisters take it all.”  He had learned that tidbit from Quatre during
the game.  They had spoken openly while they had played.  For that moment, Quatre hadn’t been a slave anymore, just a young
man who couldn’t understand why his sisters had done such a horrible thing to him.

Catherine was silent for a moment.  “When we get home, should I send agents out to discover Quatre’s roots?”

Trowa shook his head.  “Not unless Quatre wants it.  He’s had enough control torn from him already.”  He looked up as the
carriage slowed to a stop.  “Why have we stopped?”

Catherine frowned, looking to the door of the carriage.  “I have no idea.  We haven’t reached a town yet and it isn’t nightfall.  
Let me get out and see.”

Trowa watched as Catherine got out and patiently awaited her return.  After a moment, he heard raised voices, so he decided to

As he stepped down from the carriage, Trowa heard Catherine’s outraged voice.  “You mean to tell me that you decide to block
the whole road in order to whip your slave just because you didn’t like that he was breathing?”  Catherine was obviously furious.

The man that Catherine was talking to was clearly drunk.  His features were flushed and his eyes seemed glazed over.  “Is not
‘cause he was breathing.  It’s the way he was breathing.”  He swayed where he stood, nearly toppling over for no apparent
reason.  “He was breathing too loudly.  Stupid slave never does anything right.”

Trowa walked over as calmly as he could.  He had seen, firsthand in Quatre, what harsh treatment could do to a person’s spirit.  
He couldn’t stand to see another hurt in such a manner.  He glanced at the form huddled on the ground and made a decision.  
“Then why keep him?  If you don’t want him, I’ll be glad to take him off your hands.”

The drunkard blinked as if the thought had never occurred to him.  “What?  Why would you want a slave as lazy and stupid as
this one?  He never does anything right.”

Trowa reached for his purse.  “Then I suppose you’d be willing to part with him for twenty silver pieces.”  Judging by the man’
s state, Trowa guessed that he was almost constantly drunk.  Twenty pieces of silver were enough to buy food and alcohol for
a week.  Most drunks couldn’t think past that.  Even now, Trowa could see that the man was doing a sloppy bit of math in his
head, probably thinking the money would last him a month.

The man snorted.  “You got yourself a slave.  You ask me, I’d think I was robbin’ ya or something.”

The young lord shrugged and handed the money over.  “That is my decision, sir.  Now, please move your cart so I can continue
on my way.”

Catherine was frowning, even as the drunkard did as ordered.  “Is this wise?” she asked Trowa.  “Didn’t you tell me that Quatre
would be afraid you’d find a replacement for him?”

Trowa smiled warmly at the thought of the sweet slave that was waiting for him in Heero’s home.  “Yes, but this one won’t be
serving me in that aspect, and I couldn’t just let that unsavory fellow beat him to death.”

With the drunken man gone, Trowa moved to kneel at the slave’s side.  A cascade of black hair surrounded his face, obscuring
his features from view.  The boy had golden skin, marked by dirt and sweat, by the blood that trickled along his sides from
fresh open sores.  Bruises were harsh and dark, marring his body in countless places.  He was clearly undernourished, his bones
showing through his skin.  His body trembled, though from fear or cold Trowa was not certain.  It wasn’t as if he wore much,
merely a plain brown loincloth and nothing more.

Trowa made sure to keep his tone soft and nonthreatening.  “Can you walk on your own, or do you need help?”

The slave drew in a shuddering breath and, without answering, moved to stand on his own.  When he spoke, it was with an
accent.  “I shall walk on my own, master.  I do not wish to burden you.”  Then he bowed deeply.  “Thank you for stopping my
former master from beating this worthless form.”

Trowa felt a liking for this slave, a feeling of friendship if nothing more.  “Please, even slaves have worth.”  He looked the slave
over again, judging that he wouldn’t be able to remain standing under his own strength for much longer.  He was obviously
starving, and probably thirsty.  It was highly likely that he would pass out within the next few minutes.  “Come now, let’s get
you out of the cold and someplace so that your wounds may be tended to.”

“Yes, master,” the slave said, his feet barely lifting from the ground as he shuffled toward the carriage.  He stood there beside
the door and reached out with a trembling hand, holding it open for Trowa.

Trowa shook his head.  This slave had been well-trained.  Despite his obvious weariness and pain, he was doing his duty and
seeing to it that Trowa was taken care of first.  “What is your name?”  Trowa asked, waving for Catherine to assist the slave.

“I am whatever you wish to call me,” the slave responded, looking confused as Catherine gripped his wrist and took his hand
away from the door handle.  “Have I done something to displease you, Master?” he questioned, looking at Trowa through the
thick curtain of hair, even as Catherine helped him up into the carriage.

Trowa got in after them, a slight chuckle escaping him.  “You did nothing wrong.  I assumed you were tired and would like to
rest.  Now, please tell me your name.  Your real name.”  The carriage rocked slightly as it began to move.

The slave slid from the seat Catherine had settled him into, moving to a traditional slave’s position next to Trowa’s feet.  “My
name . . . you wish to know my name, Master?”

Trowa nodded, reaching forward to brush aside the ebony hair, tucking it behind one of the slave’s ears.  “You could do with a
decent bath,” Trowa commented, a faint curl to his lips.

The slave blinked at him, shock clearly written on his features.  For the first time, Trowa could see that he was of Asian
descent, his eyes deep and black.  “I . . . I am Wufei,” the slave whispered, darting his eyes down to stare at the floor.  “Chang
Wufei of the Long Clan.”

“It is good to meet you, Wufei.  I am Trowa Barton.  The woman beside you is my personal guard, Catherine Bloom.  Until I
say otherwise, you are to follow any orders she gives you as if they are my own.”

“Yes, of course, Master,” Wufei nodded, his body bending forward a bit.  He was fighting his weaknesses, Trowa was certain
of that.  “Is there anything you wish of me?”

“No.  For now, I want you to rest.  When we reach the next village, we’ll stop and treat your injuries.”  His wounds were not
too serious, so it wasn’t dangerous to leave them be for a short while.  After all, they weren’t that far off from the next village
and he had given orders earlier that day for the driver to stop and find an inn.  Trowa felt thankful that he had done so now.  His
earlier intention had purely been for selfish reasons, a good bath, a hot meal and a warm bed.  But now he had an injured slave to
attend to.

Wufei nodded, a muted, “Yes, Master,” slipping from his lips as he moved to lie along the floor at Trowa’s feet.

Trowa didn’t argue, though he would have preferred it if the young man had chosen to lie on one of the seats.  However, he
saw that Wufei would do as trained.  Slaves were to remain on the floor, unless ordered otherwise.  Not many masters allowed
their property to sit alongside them.

“What a stubborn fellow,” Catherine commented, draping a soft fur across the slave’s beaten form.

“He’s a slave.  He’s only doing as he was trained,” Trowa said, watching the slumbering slave with curiosity.  “I wonder if he
was born into this.  I suppose I will find out in time.”

“It shouldn’t be much longer until we reach the village.  Then we can get him properly bathed and have a healer look him over,”
Catherine said, leaning back in her seat and crossing her arms over her chest.  “He’ll probably need to rest for a few days before
he can travel again.”

Trowa shrugged.  “That’s all right.  We’re already ahead of schedule.  We haven’t stopped since Heero’s lands.  A day or two
of rest won’t put Mariemaia into any further danger.  I did have the good sense of mind to send Celeste ahead of us.”  He was
certain that the Captain of his personal guard would be able to fully attend to Mariemaia’s well-being.  The woman was steadfast
and determined.  Trowa was confident that she could handle things until they arrived.  The only worry Trowa had now, was for
the poor slave lying at his feet.  He hoped that the injuries weren’t more severe than they appeared.

To Be Continued . . .