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

Notes:  Meiran congratulates Nataku and hears her voice for the first time in a long while.  Sensing trouble with Duo, she heads
out to visit her favorite jester.  While Dorothy sets off for her Grandfather’s lands.



Servitude, Retribution, and Enchantment



Part Forty-Two


Meiran stood on the balcony, one of her favorite places to reflect and think on things.  She took a careful breath, a headache
throbbing in her head as she looked out across the snow-covered hills, viewing the trees whose limbs were draped in the purity
of the fallen snow.  Flurries still fell, and she enjoyed it as the flakes touched her skin, melting after a few moments.

She held her hands to her stomach, feeling as it flipped yet again.  She could only hope that she would not be forced to expend
her breakfast, as she had been doing every morning so far.  Meiran closed her eyes, a sudden onset of dizziness threatening to
topple her.

Nataku’s head butted against her palm, steadying her, if only by sheer force of will.  Meiran smiled, whispering a silent thanks to
her ever-present friend.  Nataku was worried for her, she knew that.  She could clearly sense the large feline’s strong feelings,
could always sense what Nataku was feeling.  But beyond the worry, Meiran sensed the joy in her friend, and she smiled despite
the weariness in her own body.

“I am happy for you, my friend.”  Meiran said, petting the tigress.  “May your cubs grow strong and live long lives.”

Nataku purred deeply, pressing against Meiran’s palm as if in thanks for the blessing.  ~And you should lie down before you fall.
~  The tigress’ voice rumbled, speaking for the first time in a long time.  Meiran didn’t remember when Nataku had last used
their link in such a manner.

“Always worried for me, aren’t you?”  Meiran smiled, turning her focus back to the snow, to the hills in the distance.

~Of course I worry.  You are my mistress.  It is my duty to protect you.~  Nataku replied, nudging the sorceress in the side.

Meiran chuckled lightly, only to have her smile falter as she looked across her lands.  “I think I miss the hills of my homeland.”  
She said, remembering how it had looked when snow had fallen there.

~Do you want to return?~  Nataku inquired.

“No, that place no longer holds anything dear to me.  My memories of it are all that I cherish.”  Meiran sighed, closing her eyes
for a moment.  “My people are gone . . . the farmlands and homes were destroyed.  I have my loves, that is all I need . . . and
you of course.”  She said, stroking the fur of her familiar.

~Then do not dwell in the past.  The future is far more hopeful.~  She raised her paws onto the railing, sniffing as she looked
out on the lands.  ~There is something wrong.  The air smells dark.~

Meiran frowned, turning her attention to where Nataku was looking.  There was an odd sense, something disturbing in her
lands.  Her frown only deepened as she realized it was coming from the direction where Duo lived.  As if by some strange
coincidence, a cold gust of wind suddenly swept around her, chilling her to the bone and she knew that Duo was unwell.

“Come, Nataku . . . Duo is in need of us.”  Meiran said, turning to head back into the bedchamber, her regal garments swirling
about her as she moved.

However, as she stepped back into the room, she was halted by Wufei, who stood before her with crossed arms.  “Where do
you think you’re going?  You’re ill . . . you should be resting.”

Meiran sighed.  “I will be fine.  I can rest later, but now, there is something wrong in my lands and I must attend to it.”

Wufei’s expression turned to one of worry.  “Is it serious?”

“I do not know.”  Meiran honestly said, turning to close the doors to the balcony after Nataku was inside.  “Something is wrong
with Duo.  I only sensed it.  I must go and check on him.”

“Then I’m going with you.”  Wufei stated.

Meiran smiled, stepping toward Wufei.  She reached out, sliding her hand across his cheek, delving her fingers through his hair.  
“I had a feeling you’d say that.  Best get a warm cloak, the air is chill outside today.”

Wufei nodded, moving to fetch a cloak, not only for himself, but one for Meiran as well.  Helping the queen to don the garment,
and fastening the catch of his own, Wufei then escorted the young woman out of the castle, Nataku striding alongside them.  
Meiran found that she had to lean her weight on Wufei more than she’d like.  Her body was weary, her mind fogged by the pain
of her headache.  She hoped that she would be of help to Duo should he prove to need her assistance.


*****


Dorothy grumbled as she huddled herself under the blankets in her carriage.  She hated the cold, hated the biting sting of chill
air.  But her anger melted away as a warm body pressed against her side, a pair of strong, delicate arms surrounding her.  She
quirked a smile, turning to look at the petite blonde beside her.  Relena was a beauty.  No one would take her from Dorothy.  
She had stopped that brat of a prince from laying his filthy hands on the Queen.  And she would do the same to any man who
dared to even think of the same.

“How far is it?”  Relena asked softly, her head resting against Dorothy’s shoulder.

“A few days.  Grandfather’s lands border your own.”  Dorothy replied.  She raised her hand, ghosting her fingers down along
Relena’s face.  “Be silent . . . rest now.”

Relena nodded imperceptibly, a slight moan escaping her sweet lips as she succumbed to Dorothy’s influence and fell into a
slumber.  Dorothy didn’t want Relena stressing herself, didn’t want her to ask so many questions.  Besides, Relena would need
her rest for the nights to come.  Dorothy smiled, thinking of the delightfully wicked things she would do once she had Relena
alone in a warm bedchamber again.

“Milady?”  A voice called from outside the carriage, barely a moment before the door was pulled open slightly.

Dorothy sneered.  “What is it, Mueller?”  She asked, a bitter tinge to her voice.

“We are ready to leave.  Is there anything you need before we depart?”  The dark-haired youth asked, ducking his head.

The boy was a nuisance.  Dorothy honestly didn’t know why Alex felt the need to keep him around.  He was silent and shy, two
qualities Dorothy found no use for.  Though, as she looked upon the youth, she decided Alex’s reasons must lie only in the acts
they performed in the bedchamber.  Maybe Mueller fulfilled his purpose by pleasing Alex.  If Dorothy remembered correctly, he
was quite energetic if given proper motivation.  He was pleasing to the eyes.  Dorothy had taken him to her bed when she had
felt the need to.  Of course, she had also had Alex in her bed, and on some occasions the both of them at once.

There was nothing between them though, nothing more than pleasure for the sake of pleasure, and Dorothy liked it that way.  
They were her subordinates, loyal and fearful of her.  If they ever betrayed her, she would see to it they were skinned alive . . .
in the literal sense of course.

Dorothy waved her hand in a dismissive manner.  “No, let us get going.  The sooner we leave, the sooner we reach my
Grandfather.  I don’t want to be out in this cold for too long.”  She all but spat, waving her hand to drag the door shut with a
loud bang.

She had no urge to see Mueller’s face anymore this day.  She wanted only to get on her way.  Time was wasting and she had
matters to discuss with her employer.

The carriage jolted to a start.  Dorothy grabbed the fur blanket, dragging it further over her own body, covering Relena as well.  
She summoned a warming spell, snuggling closer to her young lover as the carriage sped across the countryside.

Time was of the essence and they had none to waste.  Meiran and her followers were endangering the plans that had already
been set in motion.


*****


Wufei watched the scenery pass by with a hint of trepidation.  In his memories, traveling had always meant going from a bad
situation to a worse one.  He had been sold so many times.  He didn’t remember being owned by anyone who was kind.  Plus,
being confined in this carriage, regardless of the company, reminded him of all the times when he had been locked in a small
room.

He tried to take a deep breath in order to calm himself, but it didn’t seem to work too well, and his breathing started to become
strained.  Even though he knew that he was being irrational, that nothing would happen to him while Meiran was here by his
side, that didn’t help ease his anxiety.

Nataku let out a little grunt as she looked up and then shifted her body so that most of her warmth was transferred to Wufei.  It
was as if she could tell that he was distressed and didn’t want to trouble Meiran.

Wufei smiled a little as he focused his attention on the tiger.  He stroked her fur and practically felt the tension drain out of him.  
“Thank you, friend.”  He said softly, letting out a chuckle as Nataku let out a huff of breath as if to say, ‘Anytime.’

“She worries for you almost as much as I do.”  Meiran’s weary voice spoke, her graceful fingers sliding across Wufei’s palm to
clasp his hand.  “I wish she had such affection toward Treize, but the two of them constantly seem to be at odds.”

Wufei smirked.  “That is because he is so stubborn.”

Meiran laughed at that.  “You are no less stubborn than he.”

“Ah, true . . . but then again, I do not call this magnificent creature a wretched beast as he does.”

“True . . . true.”  Meiran conceded.  “He only means it as teasing.  Just as she only nips at him to irritate.  There is no real
malice between them.”

Wufei smiled.  “I’m sure Nataku is fond of Treize, as he is of her.  They just do not show their feelings toward each other very
often.”

Meiran nodded, saying nothing further on the subject.  She sighed as she removed her crown and set it aside.  She leaned to the
side so that she could rest her head against Wufei’s shoulder.  “We should arrive at Duo’s home soon . . . but I fear I am too
tired to remain awake.”  She said, her voice sounding so weary that it worried Wufei.

“Then rest, love.  I will wake you when we arrive.”  Wufei replied, squeezing her hand gently.

Meiran grunted softly, nodding if only a little.  Then she was silent.  Wufei glanced over, only to find that her eyes were closed
in apparent slumber.  With a smile, he tenderly eased Meiran to lie down, her head resting on his lap.  She would be more
comfortable this way, he thought, stroking his fingers through the ebony hair of the only woman he had ever loved.


*****


Meiran awoke to the feel of warm fingers tenderly caressing her cheek.  She felt a smile come to her lips and she let out a soft
sigh, happy to be awakened in such a manner.  Opening her eyes, her smile only widened as she found Wufei gazing down at
her with adoration in his eyes.  She did so love to see such emotion in his eyes, so much better than the fear that had filled them
only a couple months ago.

“Time to awaken, beloved.”  Wufei spoke, his loose hair falling around his face.  “We have arrived at your jester’s home.”

Meiran raised her hand to Wufei’s face, simply relishing the feel of his warm skin.    She had lived without him in her life for far
too long.  She would relish each and every moment she had with him - and with Treize - for the rest of her life.

“I love you, you know that, right?”  She said, caressing his cheek affectionately.

Wufei chuckled and nodded.  “As I love you.  Though, there was a time when you would rather have been dragged behind a
wild horse than to admit it.”

Meiran laughed softly and sat up to kiss his cheek.  “You were just as stubborn, if I remember correctly.”  She stretched and
frowned in concern as she looked out of the carriage.  “Now I know that something is wrong.  Duo would have sent George,
his horseman, out to meet us even if he couldn’t come himself.”  She affixed her crown and was about to exit the carriage when
Wufei stopped her with a gentle hand to her arm.

“I’ll get out first.  After all . . . a gentleman should ensure that a lady doesn’t injure herself.”  With that, he got out and walked
around to assist her, wearing one of those smiles that Meiran had grown to love deeply.

As Meiran stepped out of the carriage, George came running toward them.  “Majesty . . . please forgive me.”  He said, almost
out of breath as he brushed his loose blonde hair back.  “I was not expecting any visitors today, and his lordship didn’t ring as
he usually does to inform me of approaching guests.”

Meiran held up her hand to stall George’s apology.  “That’s quite all right.  I had a feeling something was amiss with my heart’s
brother, which is the reason for my visit.  Is he in lessons?”

George bit his lip.  “I do not know, my Queen.  Howard was upset and frustrated yesterday due to his lordship’s lack of
progress.  I believe he also said something about an upstart slave taking all of Master Duo’s attention away from his studies.”

Meiran blinked, yet smiled kindly.  “Well . . . I really should see what’s wrong.  Will you let the cook know that I’m here?  She
probably has something for Nataku to eat.”

George smiled fondly at the tiger.  “Of course.  Only the best for this beautiful creature . . . who has the glow of an expectant
mother.”

Meiran smiled as Nataku rubbed against George’s leg like a big kitten.  The man had always been fond of her familiar, and it
showed Meiran that he was trustworthy and loyal.  Who better to work for one of her brothers?  “Yes . . . thank you, George.  
I’ll go see if I can find Duo now.”

George nodded, escorting Meiran and Wufei to the door and opening it for them.  As Meiran and Wufei headed for Duo’s
bedchamber, George and Nataku left in the direction of the kitchens.  Meiran had no qualms about this in the least.  Nataku was
at ease in this place . . . there was no danger for Meiran here.  She would not have left Meiran’s side otherwise.

When she arrived at Duo’s room, she frowned at the sounds of distress that she could hear.  For once, she ignored decorum
and entered without knocking.  Once inside, she headed straight for the source of the noise and brought both of her hands to her
mouth to stifle the cry that almost escaped.

Wufei was not too far behind her.  “What’s wrong?”  He asked, his strong hands settling on her shoulders.

Meiran shook her head.  “I don’t know.  I sensed something was amiss, but this . . .”  She longed to pull Duo into her arms and
erase his pain as she had when he had been ill all those years ago.

Duo was sitting in a chair, curled into a tight ball with his hands wrapped securely around his legs.  He was shivering as if he
were very cold, even though sweat was pouring down his pale face.  Every so often, his arms or legs would twitch as if he had
no control over them . . . and there were ominous red marks on his arms . . . as if he’d been scratching them a great deal.

Meiran placed a hand to his clammy forehead and whimpered in sympathy.  “What happened to make you so ill?”

Duo didn’t answer her query.  He simply began to rock back and forth, his hands moving to scratch at his skin once again.

Feeling nothing but worry for her good friend, her brother, Meiran asked Wufei to do her a favor . . . she needed to find out
why Duo was so ill.  “Please, Wufei . . . stay with him while I go find Hilde, or Heero.  I want to know why he was left alone
when in this state.  He should have someone looking after him.”

“Yes, of course.”  Wufei agreed, nodding his head.  Tenderly, he helped Duo to uncurl himself, then wrapped his arms around
the ill youth and helped him to his feet.  With great care, Wufei helped Duo over to the bed, where he lay down and curled in on
himself.

Meiran bit her bottom lip in worry.  She hated to see Duo in such a state.  She turned and left the bedroom without a moment of
hesitation.  She just had to know why Duo had been left in solitude, why Heero was not in the bedchamber where he belonged.  
He was Duo’s pleasure slave.  He should not have left the room.  And by the condition Duo looked to be in, she doubted he had
ordered Heero to do anything for him.

With a frown set on her face, she decided to seek out George in the kitchens.  Perhaps he could provide some answer, any
answer to this question.  However, as she walked into the kitchen, it was not George that she found, but Heero.

The slave was standing before one of the kitchen staff.  Meiran kept silent, watching the events as they unfolded before her.

“I . . . I would like some milk.”  He spoke with a distinct amount of uncertainty, though his eyes never lost contact with the
larger man before him.

Unfortunately, being a slave as he was, raising his gaze was not acceptable.  The servant, a low ranking one, but still higher in
status than Heero, looked positively furious.  He sneered at Heero, his eyes full of malice and loathing.  “How dare you speak to
me, you worthless piece of furniture!  Whores such as you should learn your place!  Just because you share Master Duo’s bed
gives you no right to ask for anything!”  With that, he spat at Heero, raising his hand as if meaning to strike the youth.

To his credit, Heero merely flinched as the man’s saliva hit his cheek.  He did not cower though, and stayed standing tall, his
gaze raised defiantly.  He had a strong spirit, one that Meiran feared would put him into danger, one that had already put him into
danger.

Meiran wouldn’t stand to see Heero be assaulted.  She flicked her wrist in the servant’s direction, causing an invisible force to
still his hand.  No one would strike a slave in front of her.  She did not abide cruelty.  “If you value your position in this house, I
suggest you control your temper.”  Meiran warned, moving further into the kitchen.

The man bowed, almost groveling before her.  “Forgive me, Majesty.  I meant no disrespect to you.  I was simply trying to put
this upstart slave in its place.  It is merely a hole to be fucked by Master Duo.  It should not be allowed to freely roam the house
or to speak in such a bold manner as it dared with me.”

“And I think you should learn to control your tongue in my presence!”  Meiran snapped, harshly releasing the magical grip she
had on his wrist.  “You are not lord of this house.  It is not your prerogative to enforce rules, nor are you or any man or woman
here allowed to manhandle the pleasure slave of my court jester.”  She smiled in satisfaction as the man averted his gaze.  Then
she turned to look at Heero.

“Heero . . . why did you ask this man for milk?”  She asked in curiosity.

Heero looked at her, then respectfully focused his gaze on her feet.  “For Master Duo . . . he was thirsty.  But I did not know
where the kitchen staff keeps the fresh milk, so I asked the first person I saw.”

Meiran nodded.  “I see.”  She glared at the servant once more.  “He was doing his duty to his master and you interfered.  I
suggest you learn manners, or you may find yourself out of a job.  When Duo is well again, I will inform him of your
insubordination.  How dare you try to stop Heero from completing his daily tasks as pleasure slave.  It is his duty to see to
EVERY need that Duo has, not only in the bedchamber!”

“Forgive me, Queen Meiran.  I . . . I will not make such a mistake again.”  The man backed away, fleeing from Meiran’s anger.  
No doubt he feared her powers, as many of the people of her lands did.

Once the man was out of sight, Meiran looked to Heero again.  “Now, tell me, Heero.  What has happened to Duo?  Why is he
so ill?”

Heero sighed deeply.  “Years of too much drink,” he answered.  “Is that why you came all this way . . . did someone tell you of
his illness?”

“Duo and I share a connection, the same connection I share with my other adopted brothers, Trowa and Quatre . . . with Treize
and Wufei . . . and now with you.”  She smiled, delicately brushing her fingers through his hair.  “I have used magic to help
each of them in the past.  I have shared with them a piece of my spirit and hold a piece of them in my own soul.  Because of
this, I know when they are suffering, but I can also sense their joys as well.  I can feel that you are more at ease now than you
were when you were first taken in by Duo . . . and I am happy for you.”

“Then why did you take so long to get here?”  Heero asked, raising his gaze.  “Duo has been off of alcohol for two days.  He
has steadily gotten worse since then.”

Meiran closed her eyes, resting her hand on a nearby counter.  “Honestly, I have been ill myself for some time now.  My powers
are . . . fluctuating.”

Heero raked his eyes across her features.  “You do seem pale.  Will you be well in time?”

Meiran smiled, deciding not to answer such a dire question.  “Now is not the time to dwell on what ails me.  Duo’s health is far
more important.  What say we find that milk you were in search of?  If you would be so kind as to lend your arm, I will lead
you to it.  I know this house almost as well as I know my own.”

Heero narrowed his eyes at her, yet did not argue.  “As you wish, Milady.”  He spoke, giving his arm for Meiran to lean on.  She
was feeling weary, but that was nothing new.  These past few days she had been growing increasingly tired.  It would only be a
matter of time before her conditioned worsened.  She dreaded the coming of that day, knowing that she would have to tell her
loved ones of the truth then.



To Be Continued . . .