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

Notes:  Meiran senses someone spying on her lands and investigates.  Heero awakens to a startling discovery and makes a few
decisions regarding Duo.



Servitude, Retribution, and Enchantment



Part Forty


Meiran frowned at a prickling she felt in the back of her neck.  It wasn’t due to her condition, and she knew that it wasn’t due
to a storm.  It was an odd sensation.  She felt as if she was being watched and she didn’t like it.  The thought caused her to
frown, as well as make the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.  ‘Someone is using magic to spy on someone in my
lands.’  She thought bitterly, rising from bed.  She strode to her mirror, pulling the dark cloth from the surface.

Treize and Wufei were nearby, their bodies silhouetted in the dark of this room.  It was before dawn, it was only right that there
was little illumination to see by.  Yet, Meiran saw well enough to do what she needed.

“Is something wrong?”  Wufei asked, his voice laced with weariness.  No doubt Meiran’s quick departure from the bed had
awakened her two lovers.

Meiran turned to give Wufei a wan smile.  “I don’t know.”  She replied honestly, then turned her attention back to the mirror.  
“Show me.”  She breathed, murmuring under her breath the words of her spell.

As if covered by a haze, an image of Duo and Heero appeared in the reflective surface.  Their forms were intertwined, their
bodies and minds at peace.  Meiran felt a brief sense of happiness that the slave was faring better than when she had last seen
him.  ‘That’s good.’  She nodded to herself, then she concentrated her energies.  “Who dares to spy on those under my
protection?”

She knew that this would give her a headache, but to defend her loyal subjects made it well worth the effort.  The mirror’s
image became a blur, its all-seeing eye sweeping out over the countryside at incredible speeds.  It flew across the lands, out over
the sea and to a place that Meiran had never seen before.  Yet, it seemed oddly familiar.

When the image became crisp and clear, there was the visage of a young woman Meiran had not seen since she had been
training to be a sorceress herself.  “Dorothy . . . that little . . . witch!  What does she want with Duo?”  Meiran frowned, not
liking this one little bit.  She had not seen Dorothy in a little over four years.  They had trained together for the most part,
although Dorothy’s skills had twisted to something far darker than Meiran had wanted for herself.  If she was spying on Duo,
there would only be trouble in the future.  “I will have to keep an eye on her.”  Meiran whispered to herself.

Now that she knew who had been looking in on her people, she allowed the image in the mirror to fade away and brought a
shaking hand to her throbbing temple.

Treize was at her side in an instant, his arms circling her weary body.  “Lie down, Meiran.  What did you do?  It’s never taken
you so much energy to look in on anyone.”  He guided her to the bed, laying her down.

Meiran smiled up at the two beautiful men that were doting attention on her.  Treize was kneeling on one side of her, Wufei on
the other.  Both looked so sincerely concerned that Meiran had no heart to lie to them.  “I wasn’t just looking in on someone.  
Duo and Heero were being spied upon, I had to trace the magic back to its source.  Many wizards and witches leave safeguards
against that . . . to tire out enemies before they can be discovered.  I do not tire so easily as that little witch assumes.”

Treize frowned in concern.  “Who was it?”

Meiran shook her head, closing her eyes.  “Dorothy.”

Treize blinked.  “Dorothy?  But why would my cousin want to spy on your lands?  As far as I know her grandfather already
rules an expansive kingdom . . . and she is living in the lands of the Peacecraft monarchy with the young Queen Relena.  As far
as I know, she wants for nothing.”

Meiran sat up and sighed.  “I wish I knew, but there has to be a reason.  She never wastes magic on simple peeping.”  She
frowned.  “There is something here I do not know . . . something I am missing.”

Wufei gently pushed Meiran back down.  “You promised to rest.  Please, Meiran . . . surely you can worry about this Dorothy
person some other time, can’t you?”

Meiran smiled lovingly up at Wufei, not wanting to frighten him.  “Of course.  I didn’t mean to worry you further.”  She said,
trailing her fingers across Wufei’s cheek, then doing the same with Treize.  “This matter can wait until later.  Come, back to bed
with us.  It is far too early to be worrying of such things.”

Wufei and Treize smiled down at her.  They lay down with her, one on either side of her body, Treize pulling the blankets up to
cover the three of them.  Letting out a sigh, Meiran allowed herself to fall to sleep, knowing that this Dorothy matter definitely
would need her attention soon.  It couldn’t wait too long.


*****


Heero stretched as he came to wakefulness, reaching his arm out to pat the bed beside him.  He had expected to find the warm
body of his master, but instead discovered nothing more than the cool bedding.  Heero felt amazed at the sadness he felt when
he found that he was alone.  Wasn’t being alone what he wanted?  Heero wasn’t so sure anymore, especially not since he had
fallen asleep feeling safe in Duo’s arms.

He was confused now, wondering once again what was wrong with him.  His attention was drawn from his musings when he
heard a low thud.  Heero blinked when he noticed that a tapestry that had been on the wall was now drawn aside and tied back,
revealing a door that Heero hadn’t ever noticed before.

Feeling a slight concern for Duo, Heero slid out of bed.  He found the loincloth and veil he had been wearing the previous day
and put them on.  He made sure that his veil was straight and that he was suitably covered before he approached the door.  He
wasn’t sure if he was allowed in there, but he figured that Duo wouldn’t get too angry since Heero was only going in to make
sure that Duo was unharmed.

Cautiously, he pushed open the door, peeking into the room.  He very nearly gasped as he found himself staring into a small
library.  Books of all sizes and shapes lined the walls.  And in the center of the room, stood a single desk, where surprisingly,
Heero saw Duo sitting.

Duo was hunched over the writing surface, his fingers twisted in his hair.  His forehead was resting on the desk.  It was
obvious that he was frustrated about something.  Howard was standing beside the jester, holding a book in the crook of his
arm.  A number of parchments were scattered about the floor around the desk, a book lying against one wall.  The book was
probably what had made that thumping sound that had attracted Heero’s attention in the first place.

“Duo . . . you will NEVER learn to read unless you apply yourself.”  The elder man chided, giving Heero insight into, not only
this situation, but Duo’s life as well.

Duo couldn’t read.  True, Heero knew that Duo was getting tutored, but he hadn’t known the severity of Duo’s problem.  Heero
frowned though.  Howard could be nicer about this.  Yelling at someone who was probably already embarrassed as it was, was
never a good idea in Heero’s honest opinion.

Duo let out a muffled groan.  “Please leave, Howard.”  He said, his fingers tightening in his hair.

“Pardon?”  Howard frowned.

“Granted . . . now, get out of here before I throw another book . . . at you this time.”  Duo muttered against the desk surface.

Howard sighed, yet obeyed.  He left the room, striding past Heero on his way out.  Heero fidgeted a moment, then stepped
further into the room.  He watched Duo briefly, viewing as the young lord shoved a number of other papers to the floor, his face
remaining buried.

Heero moved closer, bending enough to pick up a few of the parchments.  He looked at one, then another, seeing nothing more
than sloppy attempts at writing.  It looked more like a random bunch of scribbles.  Howard had rushed the teaching.  Why hadn’
t he helped Duo?

“Aren’t you gonna laugh?  Make some snide comment?”  Duo asked, his voice full of self-contempt as he pushed himself up,
sitting there with a bleak expression.  “Duo Maxwell . . . jester and trusted friend of Queen Meiran, is nothing more than a
stupid, illiterate boy who can’t even spell his own name and probably never will!”  With that, he stood up and started walking
away.

“Why should I laugh?  It isn’t your fault that someone is trying to force you to run a marathon before you’ve even learned to
walk.”  Heero stated, frowning at the chalkboard.  It was covered with loopy lettering, fancy script.  “The fault is with Howard’
s teaching method, not with you.”  He picked up a cloth and started wiping the board, pausing when he heard Duo sit.

“Would you . . . would you teach me?”

Heero froze and turned to face his master, for the first time seeing the vulnerable young man that Duo Maxwell really was.  
Then he nodded to his master, a smile coming to his face.  “You have taught me much of what I didn’t know.  It is only fair
that I return the favor.”  Then he handed Duo a quill that hadn’t been ruined.  “Would you draw a few things for me before we
begin?”

Duo nodded, looking eager.

Heero placed a clean sheet of parchment in front of Duo.  “Good . . . now I want you to draw these from left to right and try to
keep them in a straight line.  First . . . draw a simple picture of a bow with the string on the left.”  After Duo had done so, Heero
nodded.  “Now . . . draw a horseshoe pointing upwards for good luck right next to your bow.”  He ignored the look that Duo
gave him, turning to write on the chalkboard as his master did as he was told.  “Very good.  One more, and then we can really
begin.”

“I don’t see where this is going.”  Duo grumbled, looking frustrated.

Heero was quick to calm his master.  “Just . . . trust me.  The third one is easy.”  At Duo’s sigh and nod, Heero continued.  
“Final drawing.  A simple picture of the full moon.”

Duo scowled at the three pictures.  “Okay . . .”

Heero finished writing the alphabet on the board and underlined a few of the letters before he approached Duo.  
“Congratulations.”  At Duo’s stupefied look, Heero smiled and gestured to the parchment Duo held.  “You just wrote your first
name.”

“WHAT?  But . . . but . . . that was so EASY!”  Duo suddenly seemed to notice what Heero had been writing and compared his
doodles with the underlined letters on the board.  “Is that all writing is?”

Heero nodded.  “Ages ago, before a formal lettering system was invented, people used pictures to communicate ideas.”  He
motioned to the letters on the board.  “This, is just a simpler form of what Howard was trying to teach you.  He should not have
begun with script when the simpler form would be much easier to teach.”  He pointed to the letters, one at a time.  “This is a D .
. . U . . . O . . . together, they spell your name . . . Duo.”

Duo smiled widely.  “D . . . U . . . O.”  He was practically beaming, his face lit up with happiness.

Heero found himself pleased to see Duo so contented.  He opened his mouth, meaning to start a lesson when he heard a voice
speak up from the doorway.

“What’s going on in here?”  Hilde’s kind voice asked, a giggle to her tone.

Duo jumped from his seat, his braid flying behind him as he all but bounced in excitement.  “Look, Hilde!  I wrote my name!”  
He exclaimed, holding up the parchment, all the while acting like an exuberant child showing off an accomplishment to a parent.

“That is wonderful, Duo.”  Hilde said, raising her hand to stroke Duo’s cheek.  “I’m happy for you.  Now, why don’t you come
to breakfast?”

“Nah.  I’m not really hungry, Hilde.  I think I’ll stay up here.  Could you have something brought up for Heero though?”

“Of course.”  Hilde nodded.  “Don’t push yourself too much.”  She turned and strode away, leaving the library.

Heero watched as Duo returned to his seat.  However, a frown came to his face as Duo pulled a flask from one of his pockets.  
As Duo was lifting the flask to his lips, Heero grabbed it from him, spilling a few drops on Duo’s tunic.

“Hey!  Give that back!”  Duo glared, reaching for the liquor.

“If you drink this during your studies, it’s no wonder you don’t do well.”  Heero snapped.  “Perhaps I was too hasty in putting
all the blame on Howard’s teaching skills.”  Heero glared at his master, hating this vile drink that he held in his hand.  This was
what had caused Duo to touch him, to hurt him.  He didn’t want Duo becoming like that again.  “I thought I could trust you,
Duo.  I thought you weren’t going to drink again.”

Duo rose to his feet, trying to get the flask once more.  “Come on, I need that.”  Duo pleaded, holding out his hand.  “I tried.  I
really did try to stop.  It . . . It hurts when I don’t.  I couldn’t take it.  I don’t want it to hurt.”  He wrapped his arms about his
body, sinking to his knees.  

Heero moved back, out of Duo’s reach.  He looked down on Duo with pity.  Duo was in pain.  He couldn’t stop himself.  It was
obvious.  He was addicted to this drink, to this foul liquid.  A sudden urge to help the young man overcame Heero’s common
sense.  As much as he loathed the idea of being a slave, he would rather not watch Duo kill himself.  And he didn’t want to think
of what would happen to himself should Duo die.  Who knew what kind of monster he’d end up with if Duo was no longer able
to protect him.

Heero turned and headed out of the room.  “I won’t let you poison yourself.”  He said, carrying the flask to the balcony.  He
heard as Duo got up and scrambled behind him.  Hands grasped at his shoulders, one moving to grab at his waist.

“Stop . . . what are you going to do?”  Duo called, dragging his nails across Heero’s skin.  “Don’t do this . . . please!  I need
that!”

Heero pushed Duo’s hands away from himself.  He opened the door to the balcony, a shiver coursing through his frame as the
icy breath of winter swept around him.  Ignoring Duo’s pleas, Heero moved over to the railing and tipped the flask over, pouring
out the contents.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”  Duo practically screamed, lunging forward to grab the flask from Heero.

Heero had to wrap his arm around the young lord’s waist to keep him from toppling over the edge of the railing.  “I’m keeping
you from killing yourself.”  Heero growled, tossing the flask away.  He pulled Duo from the railing, dragging him down to the
floor.  Duo fell across his lap, pounding at his chest.

“Why?  I . . . I can’t take it without that stuff . . . I need it.”  Duo whispered, his strikes against Heero’s body growing less
harsh.

“You don’t need it.”  Heero stated.  “You just need help.  I . . . I’ll help you, if you wish it.”

Duo raised his gaze, hopelessness in his eyes.  “You’d . . . you’d help me?  Why?  I’ve done nothing but hurt you.”

Heero shrugged.  “Does it matter?”

Duo shook his head.  “I guess not.”  He replied quietly, laying his forehead against Heero’s shoulder.  “I suddenly feel tired . . .
very tired.”

Heero nodded.  He stood, picking Duo up along with him.  He held his master’s body close as he carried him back into the
bedchamber, using his elbow to push the door shut once again.  “Then you will rest.”  Heero said, moving over to the bed and
laying Duo down.

Without a further word, he stripped Duo of his tunic and boots, faltering for a moment when it came to taking off Duo’s
breeches.  Still, he would rather Duo be comfortable.  Duo turned over onto his side, clutching his fingers in the bedding, his
face buried against the pillows.

Heero frowned.  There was a hopeless sense about Duo, as if he had already given up.  He needed comfort.  Heero remembered
what that was like.  He remembered as a child when he had wished for someone to comfort him after nightmares.  It was at that
moment, that Heero made his decision.  He stripped off his veil and loincloth, sliding himself into bed behind Duo.  If Duo
needed consoling and reassurances, then Heero would give them to him.

Duo’s body shuddered as Heero pressed himself close, a pale whisper coming from the long-haired youth as he covered them
with the blankets.  “Heero?”

“Sshh . . . rest.”  Heero said, wrapping a hesitant arm around Duo’s body.  “I . . . I will stay here . . . for now.  You need my
help.”

Duo turned in his embrace, taking a shuddered breath as he pressed his cheek to Heero’s chest.  “Thank you, Heero.”  He
replied, cuddling closer.

Heero blinked, surprised by the familiarity, by the closeness.  Still, he would not push Duo away, not now.  Duo needed all the
help he could get if he was expected to recover his health.  He would not have an easy time getting over his dependance on that
vile drink.



To Be Continued . . .