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

Notes:  Duo gets some startling news.  Treize and Wufei talk.  And Heero gets help from a kind stranger.



Servitude, Retribution, and Enchantment



Part Fifteen


Duo stood on his balcony, his hands resting on the railing as he leaned forward and took in a deep breath of the fresh air.  He
smirked, watching the trees . . . the golds, reds, and browns of the autumn leaves falling from their branches to drift to the
ground.

Duo unscrewed the cap of his flask, bringing it to his lips and taking a swig.  He smiled as he looked up to the slowly darkening
evening sky, watching a flock of birds head south for the winter.  Duo remembered how much he had hated autumn when he
had lived on the streets, since it had just meant that winter was fast approaching . . . and winters were always so harsh to the
street kids, such as Duo and his older brother Solo.  Each year it had just gotten more and more difficult to survive until spring.

He took another swig of the alcohol from his flask, wincing at the harsh, burning sensation that washed down his throat after he
had swallowed.  The seasons weren’t so bad anymore, not now that he had a home to live in, to protect him from the cruel
climates that winter brought.  He had a home to keep him dry when it rained, to keep him warm in the winter.  Still, even though
he had this place, he would trade it all to live on the streets with his brother for one more day . . . just to see Solo alive again.

“Master?”  A timid voice called out, gaining Duo’s attention.

Duo turned, screwing the cap back onto flask and hooking it onto his belt once again.  “Hilde?  What’s wrong?”  Duo asked,
wondering why Hilde looked so concerned.  She never called him ‘master’ unless something was wrong or they had company.

Hilde approached and knelt in front of Duo.  “Master . . . I have been careless.”  Hilde said, a tear slowly making its way down
along her face, her eyes never raising from the ground in front of her.

“What do you mean?”  Duo asked, becoming increasingly worried.  There had to be a reason for Hilde to act this way.

Hilde didn’t speak right away, instead she took in a deep breath, exhaling before she finally did say anything.  “As a female
pleasure slave, I am supposed to take steps to prevent the conception of a child.  A pregnant pleasure slave is not a desired
thing.”  

“Hilde?”  Duo gasped, having a good idea as to where this conversation was heading.

“I have missed my last two cycles, and I suspect that I am with child.”  She finally looked up at Duo, her eyes glazed with
tears.  “I . . . I can drink a tea . . . that will abort . . .”

Duo stopped her, not wanting to hear any more of that.  “No!”  He shouted, then took a breath to calm himself when he saw
Hilde flinch at his tone.  “You will NOT drink any sort of tea that will abort a pregnancy!  How could you even THINK that I
would want a child of mine . . . any child of mine . . . to die before it has a chance to live?”  He knelt, gripping her shoulders as
he looked into her eyes.  “Hilde . . . you know that I’ve always wanted a large family.”

“But . . . you will have a bastard on your hands.”  Hilde stated.

Duo shook his head, wanting Hilde to understand.  “Do you think that matters to a bastard such as myself?  A child is a child.  
As for the inconvenience . . . I’ll just seek out another pleasure slave until you can resume your duties . . . or perhaps
permanently.”

“What?”  Hilde gasped, her hands grasping Duo’s arms.  “You wish to be rid of me?”

Duo smiled, raising his hand to cup Hilde’s cheek.  “No, of course not.  I was just thinking . . . maybe you’d like to be set free.  
I hear you’ve been spending a lot of time around Meiran’s healer while I’m away.  Perhaps you’d like to be his apprentice.”

Hilde smiled brightly.  “Do you really mean it, Master?  Freedom?”  She frowned, her hand sliding down to land over her
stomach.  “But what about the child?  How will I care for it?”

“Don’t worry, Hilde.  I’ll help you out.  I would never just abandon you or any child of mine.”  Duo said, stroking his hand
through her hair.  

Hilde nodded.  “I know you wouldn’t.”

Duo sighed, standing and helping Hilde up along with him.  “Now, if you’ll excuse me . . . I think I need a drink.”  Duo said,
turning and leaving Hilde to stand there on the balcony.  Time to go to the nearest tavern, he thought to himself.  He really
needed to get a drink after hearing this news . . . it was a shock to say the least.  


*****


Treize sighed as he walked through the corridors.  Meiran was resting in her chambers, tired out after another bout of crying for
her young friend, Quatre . . . not to mention the weariness that followed whenever Meiran cast so many spells in such a short
amount of time.  All these communication spells were wearing her thin.  She usually didn’t try to do so much, especially
combined with the other spells that she had up for protection of her kingdom . . . it was just too much for her to handle,
especially with the strain of worrying for her friends.

So here Treize was, heading for the gardens so that he could pick a bouquet of some of the rarer flowers from his gardens, in
the hopes that it would cheer Meiran’s spirits.  He'd ordered the hybrid orchid bulbs specifically for an occasion such as this . . .
for times when Meiran needed to be cheered up.  Or perhaps he could take her a cutting of a vine . . . a creeping ivy that
wouldn’t die within a few days but would continue to grow.  Treize nodded to himself as he smiled at the thought.  That might
make her feel better.

He opened the gilded doors to the garden, walking along the path that separated his garden from Meiran’s.  With a smile on his
face, he pushed open the gate to his garden and walked in.  He stopped short when he beheld the rarest and one of the most
lovely flowers that had ever graced his garden . . . Wufei.  The young Asian man was curled up on a bench, looking to be at
peace with the world around him.

Treize remembered the last time that Wufei had looked like that.  He slowly approached, being careful to be quiet, frowning at
the mostly healed wounds that marked Wufei’s skin, the numerous scars that were scattered over his body.  Treize removed his
jacket and settled it over Wufei’s body, just wanting to keep him warm.

Wufei blinked his eyes open, yawning as he slowly awakened.  “Hm?  Treize?”  He asked, his voice tired.

Treize’s eyes widened a little, hearing that Wufei hadn’t called him “Master.”  That was an improvement at least, he thought.  
Treize reached out and gently patted Wufei’s arm.  “I didn’t mean to awaken you.  The temperature in here goes from warm to
cold, and I didn’t want you getting sick.”  Treize said.

Wufei blinked and quickly sat up . . . as if suddenly remembering everything, his eyes going wide as fear seeped into them.  
“This is your garden?”  He asked, looking around.

Treize sighed, seeing Wufei’s distress, how unsure the young man had suddenly gotten.  He had known that it was too good to
last too long.  Wufei was only starting to adjust to the fact that he was no longer a slave and that he could go wherever he
wanted.  It was only natural for him to fall back on being unsure of himself from time to time.  He was making progress,
although he still refused to rid himself of the slave garb, Wufei had at least been convinced that he didn’t need to wear the veil at
all now.

“Yes . . . this is my garden.”  Treize replied.  “I grow a lot of different flowers here.  As much as you kept trying to talk me out
of it all those years ago, gardening has always been my favorite hobby.”

Wufei snorted with a ghost of a smile on his face, pulling Treize’s jacket a little more snugly around himself.  “I just thought that
a man was better served with learning how to fight than he was at growing roses.”

Treize returned the smile, glad that Wufei felt he could criticize.  “The women seemed to enjoy it.  And I don’t recall you doing
much fighting, scholar.”

Wufei nodded, shivering slightly as the enchanted garden turned chilly, bringing his legs up underneath him as he repeatedly
glanced between Treize and the floor.  “I hope I’m not in your way.”  Wufei whispered.

Treize shook his head.  “No, I just came in here to get something to cheer Meiran up.”

Wufei’s eyes widened in alarm, his breath hitching.  “What’s wrong?  Have I done something to upset her?”  The young man
asked, fear once again clear in his eyes.

Treize chuckled and went to get one of the vines he had been starting.  “No . . . she was talking to an ally of ours, and . . . well,
he hasn’t been doing too well lately.”  After collecting the plant, he returned to Wufei’s side, sitting beside him on the bench.

“Ah . . . I hope everything will turn out well soon.”  Wufei replied, his eyes cast downward, his hair falling to block his face
from view.

Treize smiled, reaching out and gently brushed those strands of silky, ebony hair back.  He tucked them back behind his ear, and
smirked at the blush he saw coloring Wufei’s cheeks.  “Is something wrong?”  Treize asked, wondering if the handsome young
man had ever had any feelings for him.

The blush on Wufei’s face deepened for a moment.  He looked away, rising to his feet slowly.  “N-no, I am fine.  Perhaps we
should leave . . . it is getting late.”

Treize nodded, seeing that Wufei wished to change the subject.  Well, he wouldn’t push Wufei, wouldn’t force him to make any
decisions.  “Yes, let us get back to Meiran.  She’s probably been wondering where you went . . . she still worries about you.”

Carrying the vine in his hand, Treize stood.  He silently followed Wufei out of the garden, still worried about the young man’s
health.  Sure, he was a good deal stronger than he had been when Meiran had first found him, but Wufei was still quite weak . .
. his body still recovering from five years of abuse, both physical and emotional.  

Treize could only hope that Wufei would be receptive to their love, to either of them.  Even if Treize wasn't the one that Wufei
chose to be with, he would be happy if he sought affections from Meiran, only wanting to see Wufei happy once again.


*****


Heero staggered along, his entire body throbbing in constant pain.  His feet and knees were raw and bloody, his legs feeling like
limp noodles beneath him.  At any moment he knew that he would fall, maybe this time not to get up again.

For the past few days, Edgar had been traveling, only stopping at night.  And while Edgar rode atop his horse, Heero was forced
to walk behind him, whether the horse walked or trotted.  Heero had fallen several times, only to be dragged until he had been
able to get himself back up again.  Edgar hadn’t stopped for him, or even slowed down . . . he just kept riding.  Because of this,
Heero’s body was a mass of pain, covered in deep scratches on his knees and upper body from being dragged, numerous
bruises from when he had repeatedly fallen.  The skin around his wrists had been rubbed raw and had begun to bleed, his
shackles digging into his skin almost constantly.

Heero swallowed as he tried to breathe, liking his dry, chapped lips.  He was so tired, hungry and in dire need of a drink of
water.  This man, Edgar, didn’t seem to care if Heero was fed or given water . . . he hadn’t done either in days.  

Heero took a chance and looked up, knowing that if he was caught raising his gaze he could be punished severely.  To his
delight, he saw torchlights burning not too far away, telling him that there was a village of somekind ahead of them.  Perhaps
Edgar would stop there for the night.  To rest for even a few precious moments would make Heero happy right now.

Heero looked down, smiling beneath his veil as he saw the tracks in the dirt below his feet.  Even in the darkness around him, he
could see the tracks in the ground.  This was obviously a well-traveled road.

Unfortunately, Edgar chose that moment to return his horse to a trot.  The sudden change in speed threw Heero off balance and
he collapsed.  Pain was harsh against his body as he was dragged across the rough earth, scraping open his skin, a few sharp
rocks cutting into him.  He gritted his teeth, grasping the rope that he was being dragged by in an attempt to lessen the pain in
his wrists and bring himself to his feet again.

“Get up, boy!”  Edgar yelled, yanking on the rope.  It only resulted in Heero losing what little footing he had gained and fall
again.  Heero closed his eyes and gave up, deciding to let himself be dragged to death.  It would be better than what Edgar had in
store for him . . . he was sure of that at least.

“Hey!”  Shouted out a loud, strange voice.  “Stop!”

The ground slowed its assault on Heero’s sore body, eventually stopping altogether.  Heero groaned, letting his aching body relax
against the cool ground.  Finally it dawned on him that it wasn’t the ground that stopped, but Heero himself . . . he wasn’t being
dragged anymore.

“What the Hell do you think you’re doing?”  That same strange voice shouted, undoubtedly talking to Heero’s owner.  “Can’t
you see he’s hurt?”

“Mind your own business, whelp.”  Edgar replied.  “He’s no concern of yours.”

Gentle hands fell upon Heero’s back.  Heero flinched, trying to move away, but not able to get very far.  “Are you okay?”  A
quiet voice asked, those hands moving around to his sides.

Heero said nothing as he was lifted.  He couldn’t speak . . . this wasn't his master.  This stranger helped Heero to stand, which
only caused Heero’s aching feet more pain.

Finally, Heero looked up at the person who had assisted him.  He gasped as his eyes met those of this kind stranger, staring deep
into hyacinth depths.  A slight tug on his rope alerted Heero to the fact that Edgar was moving again, and Heero reluctantly
began to walk, each step he took forcing him away from this young man.

“Thank you.”  Heero whispered in an almost inaudible voice, hoping that Edgar hadn’t heard.  He kept his eyes locked on the
stranger, even as he was led away, taking in everything about him.  From the jester’s outfit, to the length of braid that swung
behind him in the breeze . . . Heero was entranced with this vision.

He snapped out of his daydream however, frowning as he thought.  If the young man had cared at all, why hadn’t he bought
Heero from Edgar?  That would have been a kind thing to do, to take him away from the abuse that Edgar dealt to him.  Heero
turned away from the strange young man, sighing as he followed his master into the village.



To Be Continued . . .