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

Notes:  Noin takes care of Milliardo.  Heero stays by Duo’s side and tries to help him.



Servitude, Retribution, and Enchantment



Part Forty-One


Noin bit into her bottom lip as she bathed Milliardo’s overheated forehead.  She refused to think of her betrothed by some other
name, no matter what he said.  To her, he would always be Milliardo Peacecraft.  Although she had obliged him during their first
meeting, she would not call him by that name again.  He was Milliardo and he would always be Milliardo to her.

The palace doctors had looked him over thoroughly and had stated that Milliardo was ill due to exhaustion and mistreatment.  
Noin’s one comfort at the moment was that Sylvia had managed to feed Milliardo some hot broth just before he had bathed.

Milliardo’s brow furrowed as he jerked his head to the side slightly.  “Mmmm . . . who?”  He groaned, parting his chapped lips.

Noin smiled gently as those beautiful ice-blue eyes opened a little and looked around the room in hazy apprehension.  “Sshh . . .
it’s all right now, Milliardo.”  She hushed, dabbing at his feverish face.

Milliardo’s eyes focused, then narrowed at her.  Slowly, he closed his eyes again, letting out a slow breath.  “Lucrezia.  Milliardo
Peacecraft . . . died a long time ago.  He was beaten and raped to death.  Zechs is all that remains now.”

Chuckling softly, Noin shook her head.  “No . . . because only Milliardo could make a cumbersome name like Lucrezia sound
like poetry.”  She held her hand to his chest, delicately rubbing her thumb across his bare skin.  “He’s still here, wounded and
tired, but he’s far from dead.”  She leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss to his forehead.  “And I have searched for him far
too long to lose him now.”

She drew back, a smile still on her face as she looked upon him.  He was pointedly avoiding eye contact.  At least he was as
stubborn as he had ever been.  She sighed as she ran her fingers through his hair and hit a tangle.  Sylvia hadn’t gotten to brush
his hair out before he had lost consciousness.

“Do you think you could sit up for a while so I can brush your hair?  I’d let you brush it yourself, but you should concentrate
on getting well.”  She brushed aside his bangs, stroking her fingers along his face.  “I could have some broth and bread brought
up if you’re hungry.  You should stick to light foods for a while.”

Milliardo nodded and accepted Noin’s help as she aided him into a sitting position.  She called for Sylvia and the young woman
readily agreed to fetch some food for Milliardo.  Noin was grateful for the woman’s assistance.

As she gently brushed out the knotted mass of hair, she could only hope that Milliardo would be well.  She hated to see him
suffer so.

Sylvia entered the room after a short while, carrying a tray, which she set on the bed between herself and where Milliardo was
sitting.  Smiling tenderly, she began feeding him the broth.  Noin heard Milliardo sigh, but he put up no arguments about the
treatment.  He remained silent throughout, letting the two women take care of him.

Noin wished he would make a fuss, like she often remembered him doing those few times he had been ill during one of her
visits.  He hated being pampered, hated being treated like a child.  This, the way he was acting now, it wasn’t the Milliardo she
remembered.  But she supposed she’d never know that carefree youth again.  Time and pain had changed him.  He would never
be the same, she knew that.

Still, deep in her heart it mattered little.  She still loved him, loved him for the way he had lived these past five years, loved that
he had kept hold of his strength, his spirit.  She still loved him.  And she knew that nothing in this world or the next would
change her feelings about him.

With a smile, she continued her work, until finally, the mass of knots and tangles were gone.  Left behind was the shimmering
strands of Milliardo’s blonde hair, long and silken, just as she had remembered them to be.  She traced her fingers through the
strands, reveling in the memories of how she had often sat with him and toyed with his hair.  She suspected her enjoyment of it
was the only reason he had ever kept it this length.  He had often complained about it being a nuisance to him.

Separating the hair into thirds, she easily began braiding it, thinking that this would be better than to allow it to become so
knotted again.  As she was finishing the braid, she wondered what she could use to tie it off with, only to blink as a length of
ribbon was held out to her.  Noin smiled at Sylvia, seeing that the woman had offered her the ribbon from her own hair, which
now hung loose, softly falling around her shoulders.

“Thank you.”  Noin said with a smile, taking the ribbon and using it to tie the end of the braid.

Sylvia nodded in reply.  “I think Milliardo could do with more rest.”  She spoke, easing her hand along his arm.  “He’s looking
quite weary.”

Noin moved around, until she could see her beloved’s face.  True to what Sylvia had said, Milliardo was looking tired.  His eyes
were very nearly closed, his head bowed.  Setting her hand against his face, she watched as his eyes flickered open for a
moment, only to close completely a few seconds later.

“Lie down, beloved.”  Noin soothed, easing Milliardo to lie back, with Sylvia’s help.  “Rest now.”

Milliardo muttered something under his breath, too low for Noin to hear.  Still, she smiled, easing her fingers along the contours
of his face, stroking his skin until he fell into an easy slumber.

Sylvia reached over, settling the back of her hand against his forehead.  “He’s still feeling awfully warm, milady.”  She spoke.  
“I’ll go fetch some fresh water to cool him.”  With that, she rose and gave a curtsey, taking the tray she had brought in with
her, along with the basin of water Noin had been using earlier.

“Thank you.”  Noin said with a whisper, her gaze focused entirely on Milliardo’s beaten form.  How she wished she could ring
Quinze’s neck herself.  But given her stature, she didn’t think such a thing would be allowed.  Her father would probably have a
fit if she should do such a thing anyway.

Speaking of her father, she smiled.  She had to write a letter, to inform him of the wonderful news.  At least now she no longer
had to marry a suitor of his choosing.  She had found her love, her betrothed, and despite his stubbornness, he would not leave
her again.

Smiling in happiness, she pulled the blankets to cover Milliardo.  Then she lay beside him, her head against his strong chest,
listening to the deep thrum of his heartbeat.  It was so good to have him with her again.  If only he would accept her.  She bit
back a whimper, throwing her arm over his body to hold him close.  There, she curled up, feeling safe and warm.  She could
only hope that Milliardo would want her, that he could love her again.


*****


Hilde carefully eased the bedchamber door open, feeling regretful that she hadn’t been able to come up with Heero’s breakfast
earlier in the day.  Her duties had left her no time, so she had sent another servant.  But now, she felt that she would make it up
to both Duo and Heero, by bringing their lunch personally.  It felt right that she should be the one to do so.  It hadn’t been all
that long ago that she had been Duo’s slave.  And even as a servant, she still felt the need to be of service to him, if not in the
bedchamber, then in some manner.

She frowned when she saw the table with the breakfast tray still on it.  She set the lunch tray next to the other.  She would
remove the breakfast tray when she left.  What concerned her though, was that there was no sign of breakfast having been
eaten.  Had Heero been feeling unwell, she wondered, then turned her attention to the bed, feeling worried for the pleasure slave.

Hilde walked to the bed, biting her lip.  She smiled a little when she approached because Heero looked up.  “Good afternoon,
Heero.  Are you unwell?  I haven’t known you to miss a meal.”  She asked, then turned her gaze to look at Duo, only to frown
deeply.

Duo was curled against Heero, his eyes clenched tightly.  The young lord was shivering even though he was covered by
blankets.  His face was bathed in sweat, his fingers griping at Heero’s skin.

“What happened?”  She asked, sweeping closer to the bed.  She reached out to Duo’s bangs, meaning to brush them aside.  She
gasped as her fingers brushed skin far too hot for her liking.

Heero sighed, looking down on Duo.  “He shouldn’t have been allowed to drink as much as he did.  He has an addiction to that .
. . horrible concoction now, and I am depriving him of the poison.”

Hilde blinked in shock.  She was surprised that Heero would care so much.  “You took his flask away, didn’t you?”  When
Heero nodded, she sighed in relief.  “Thank goodness.  Time and again I have TRIED to get him to stop, but he never did.  I
couldn’t force the issue because I was a slave, had always been a slave.”  She gazed at Duo in concern.  “Is there anything I
can do to help?”

Heero looked grateful.  “Yes, if there is any wine on that tray . . .”

Duo mumbled, his voice rough and difficult to hear since his face was currently pressed against Heero’s chest.  “Bring it to me.”

Heero shook his head.  “Dump it.”  Duo grumbled, a slight whimper coming from his throat and Heero sighed again.  “Master, I
am only trying to look out for your well-being.”

Duo pulled his face away from Heero, opening glassy eyes to look at the young man.  “Please . . . Please, give me something.  It
hurts . . . please, I can’t take this.  I can’t stand it.”

“No, you have already had far too much of that vile drink.  I won’t allow you to poison yourself further.  You promised you
wouldn’t drink, that you would not hurt me.  Did you lie to me?”

Duo blinked, a shudder coursing through his sweaty body.  “N-No, I n-never lie.”  He whispered, then proceeded to push at the
blankets, forcing them down so that they only covered the young men up to their waists.  “It’s so hot in here.”  He frowned, but
continued to clutch himself to Heero, as if Heero was the only thing keeping him from running out and finding another drink.  
And in all probability, that was just the case.

“I’ll come back with some cool water.  His fever should be tended to.”  Hilde spoke, easing her fingers through his dampened
hair.  She could only hope that he would recover from this.  “You stick to this, Duo.  Listen to what Heero says.  You should
not drink anymore.  It’s not good for you.”

Duo nodded.  “Y-Yes, I know.  I just . . . it’s better when I can’t remember.  I don’t want to remember.”  He sniffled, tears
filling his eyes.  He rubbed at his face with a shaking hand, tremors coursing through his weakened body.

Hilde backed away from the bed, giving Heero a kind smile.  “Take care of him.”  She said, then turned and gathered the
breakfast tray and the wine from the lunch tray.

As she left, she barely heard Heero’s reply.  “I will.”  He uttered quietly.

Hilde smiled as she left, knowing that he was telling the truth.  For some reason, she trusted Heero not to let Duo drink again,
that he would help the young lord get through this rough time.



To Be Continued . . .