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

Notes:  Quatre finds his way to Duo’s bedchamber and gets a pleasant surprise.



Servitude, Retribution, and Enchantment



Part Forty-Four


Quatre staggered to a wavering halt in one of the corridors.  He closed his eyes, a sudden dizziness overcoming his senses.  He
fumbled to reach a hand out, only to groan as he found no wall to grasp.  He had thought he was closer to one, but his hand
merely brushed air.  With his other hand, he reached down to Nataku, bearing his weight on the tiger’s back.  He hated to be a
bother, but he truly did not want to fall over.

“Are you all right?” a strange, yet sweetly comforting voice asked.

Quatre opened his eyes, only to find the world around him spinning in a nauseating fashion.  He bit his lip, his knees buckling
beneath him.  He braced himself for the pain of a fall, yet sighed in relief when gentle arms circled his weary body.

“T-Thank you,” Quatre whispered, then realized that he had spoken.  He clapped a hand over his mouth, a shiver coursing
through his body as he feared a violent reprisal.  Slaves were not supposed to speak freely.  They were to remain silent and
obedient.

“Do not fear,” the voice said, and Quatre saw for the first time that it was a young woman who had spoken to him.  She wore
the garb of a servant and her dark hair was cut short.

Quatre blinked, looking at her curiously.  “Y-You are not mad that I speak?” he asked with a cautious whisper.

“Of course not.  Up until a short while ago, I was a slave myself,” the young woman said.  “My name is Hilde.  And you are?”

“I . . . I am Nadir,” Quatre said, knowing better than to give his own name.  Trowa had given him a new name for protection,
so he would use it.  “Slave to Lord Trowa Barton.”

Hilde’s eyes lit up.  “Trowa’s here?  Oh, that is so wonderful.  Perhaps his visit will ease Duo’s mind . . . help him to relax and
recover.”

“Then Duo is the one who is ill,” Quatre whispered, more to himself than anything.

“You know of Duo’s illness?  You know of Duo?”  Hilde inquired.

“I only know of Duo by reputation.  Master Trowa has talked of him during the journey here.  And Meiran spoke of him when
she visited me years ago,” he said quickly, ignoring the first half of her question.  He was not ready to confess to a stranger that
he had prophetic dreams sometimes, that he had sensed darkness in this house which had taken the shape of illness in the lord of
the manor.  He wouldn’t be very smart if he were to go around advertising the fact that he had such powers.

Hilde smiled, glancing down at Nataku who had never strayed from Quatre’s side.  “Ah, that explains why Nataku enjoys your
company so much.  You are a friend to Meiran.  No one else would gain her attention like this.”

Quatre blushed slightly, though he didn’t think Hilde could see it.  “Please, can you tell me where Lord Duo is?  Master Trowa
went in search of him and Nataku was leading me there.  But I would like to know the way.”

Hilde’s face paled.  “You say Trowa went ahead?”  At Quatre’s nod, Hilde sighed deeply and shook her head.  “Come, I will lead
you there myself.  If I know Trowa, then he will have burst into the room . . . and Heero will not have liked such a thing.”  She
smiled at Quatre.  “Heero is Duo’s new pleasure slave . . . my replacement.  He is . . . skittish . . . of strangers.  No doubt
Trowa’s mere presence would frighten him.”

“Yes, Trowa can be intimidating,” Quatre agreed.  “Please . . . lead on.”

Hilde smiled, wrapping an arm about his body as she began to walk.  Nataku once again followed as they walked through the
corridors, her silent presence a great comfort to Quatre’s mind.

As they reached the bedchamber, Quatre noticed that the doors were already open.  With a frown set on his face, he entered the
room.  He settled his eyes on Trowa, who was sitting at the bedside of a slender youth.  Quatre assumed the ill young man to be
Duo.

Quatre opened his mouth to greet Trowa, but it was Hilde who spoke up first.  “Trowa, it is so good to see you again.”  Hilde
smiled, helping Quatre over to the bed.

Trowa turned, a gentle smile crossing his face.  “Hilde, you’re looking as wonderful as ever,” Trowa said, rising to give the
young girl a polite bow.  “I see Duo has given you your freedom.  I’m happy for you.”  He turned his smile toward Quatre.  
“Please, come closer, Quatre, I would like to introduce you to Duo.”

Hilde gasped.  “This is Quatre?” she asked, her eyes going wide.  “The young prince that Meiran thinks of as a brother?”

Quatre ducked his head, even as Hilde led him closer to Trowa.  “Forgive me, Trowa.  I told her my name is Nadir.”

Trowa’s fingers curled beneath his chin.  “No, it is I who must apologize.  I told you to use that name when not in my
presence.  In my enthusiasm, I forgot.”  He turned his attention to Hilde, addressing the young woman.  “Please, do not utter his
true name when others are present.  As much as I trust you and Duo, I know there are some less than trustworthy people under
Duo’s employment.  I mean to keep Quatre from harm.”

Hilde nodded.  “I understand perfectly, and you have my word that I’ll keep his secret.”  She smiled.

Trowa eased Quatre to sit on the bed.  “Now . . . Quatre, this is Duo.  Duo, I would like you to meet Quatre.”

Duo’s hazy eyes barely focused on Quatre, his breath coming out labored.  “I . . . I’d greet you p-properly . . . but I can’t seem
to g-get up at the moment.”  Duo spoke with broken words, sweat lingering on his skin.

“It is an honor to finally meet you.”  Quatre said, reaching his hand out to set it against Duo’s feverish face.  In his mind’s eye,
he caught a glimpse of a healthy youth with flowing hair, and knew at once that it was Duo, that this illness would not linger in
his body for too much longer.  “Trust in your caretakers, I see that good health and happiness will find you in time.”

A wan smile came to Duo’s chapped lips.  “That’s good to hear.”

“Hey, Trowa?”  Hilde asked, gaining the attention of everyone in the room.  “You haven’t seen a slave in here, have you?  He
should be here, but I don’t see him.”

Trowa looked down, fiddling with the blankets on Duo’s bed.  “I . . . there was a slave in here when I arrived . . . but . . .”

“Don’t tell me, you came running in here and scared the hell out of him, didn’t you?”  Hilde frowned, shaking her head.  
“Trowa, he’s just beginning to become at ease with things here.  Where did he go?”

“The bathing room,” Trowa answered.  “I did not follow him.  I fear my approach would only scare him further.”

Hilde nodded and turned toward the curtain that separated the rooms.  However, before she could move, Quatre reached out to
grasp her arm.  He had a feeling that he could be of help here.  He didn’t know why, but he felt needed.  “Please, allow me?”  
Quatre asked.

“But Heero doesn’t know you.  I do not think he will take kindly to a stranger.”  Hilde sighed sadly, her kind eyes full of worry.

Trowa helped Quatre to rise from his seat.  “Trust him, Hilde.  He has a calming air about him and a gentle nature that soothes
the pains of the heart.”

Quatre felt his cheeks burning at the praise.  He had no words to convey how touched he was by Trowa’s kind words.  In the
back of his mind there was a twinge of familiarity though.  He thought he should know that name - Heero - he had heard it
somewhere before.

“As you wish, Trowa.”  She smiled, setting a careful hand on Quatre’s shoulder.  “Do you need my help?”

Quatre shook his head.  “No, I think I can manage,” he said, slowly and carefully beginning to walk toward the thick curtain.

As he entered the bathing room, Quatre looked around, finding himself amazed by how beautiful the tiling was.  The gems set in
the stones simply made the room seem to glitter.  This must be one of Meiran’s gifts to Duo.  It certainly looked as if it had been
created by a sorceress’ talents.

His awe over the room faded as he saw the slave though.  The young man was cowering in a corner, his arms wrapped around
his knees, his hands so tightly gripping to himself that his knuckles were turning white.  Water dripped from his hair and body,
his form shaking terribly from a mix of cold and fear.  Quatre could very well sense the tangled emotions coming from the dark-
haired youth, and it made his heart ache.

The moment he was near enough, Quatre dropped to his knees, reaching out a tender hand to lightly graze one of the slave’s
knees.  “You are Heero, are you not?”  Quatre asked.  “My name is Nadir, slave to Lord Trowa.  I fear I must apologize for my
master frightening you, and I assure you he means no harm.”

The slave lifted his head, though his body jerked away from the contact.  “Y-Yes, I’m Heero.”  He frowned.  “He won’t hurt
me?  You’re not just saying that because you have to, are you?”

Quatre reached up, removing his own veil, despite the fact that he was not truly permitted to do so without Trowa’s
permission.  “I swear to you, he is a kind man.  He is a friend to Lord Duo, and only meant to see to his friend’s health.  I am
sorry that he frightened you in his hurry.”

Heero’s eyes narrowed, a curious look in his eyes.  “I know your face from somewhere,”  he said.

Quatre frowned, a shiver coursing through his body.  Perhaps removing his veil had been a mistake.  He had only meant to calm
Heero though.  “N-No.  I . . . I am no one, m-merely a slave.”  Quatre said, fumbling to cover his face once more.

Heero’s hand gripped his wrist, pulling it down and away from his features.  “No, I am certain that I know you,”  Heero said.  
He reached to his own veil, slipping it down around his neck.

Quatre’s eyes widened, his hand flying up to cover his mouth.  That wild hair, those piercing blue eyes.  Heero’s features were
etched into Quatre’s mind.  He knew this man.  “Oh, I did not know it was you!”  he announced, happily throwing his arms
around Heero’s body.  “I have not seen you in so many years!”

A shuddered breath left Heero’s body as his arms wound around Quatre’s form.  “Quatre . . .”  He whispered, setting his
forehead against the blonde’s shoulder.  “I did not think I would ever see a familiar face again.”

Quatre dearly remembered the childhood days he had spent in Heero’s homeland, during the years when his father had been
making alliances with various nations to secure peace.  Though he had never seen the sun when in Heero’s company - a rule he
had often found most unjust - he remembered them as some of the happiest days of his life.  The years had changed them both
so much, but Quatre would never forget the young prince who had been one of his best friends for a time.

“It seems the years have changed us both in so many ways.”  Quatre commented, pulling himself from the gentle embrace.  
“You are looking strong and healthy.”

A sad look entered Heero’s eyes as he grazed his attention over Quatre’s frail body.  “And you are not, my friend.”  He reached
up, brushing the back of his hand across Quatre’s gaunt face.  “You are looking quite ill.”

Quatre smiled.  “Always worrying for me.”  He shook his head.  “I will be well.  Trowa has brought me here so that Meiran can
help me.”

“I hope that she will.”  Heero sighed.

Quatre found himself curious to know how Heero had been enslaved and bit his lip in worry, hoping that he would not be chided
for his curiosity.  “Heero, what happened?  The last I saw you, your father was keeping you locked away until your marriage to
the Princess Relena.  I know that was many years ago . . .”

“Relena is a Queen now, Quatre,”  Heero said with a slight voice.  “Five years ago, her elder brother vanished and she took the
throne in his stead.  And just a few months ago, I was kidnapped.”  He closed his eyes.  “The Lady Dorothy - Relena’s
companion - she . . . she sold me.”  He suddenly looked up, his eyes wide.  “But you . . . how . . . you are a slave now, too.”

Quatre’s heart twinged with grief.  “Yes.  That Barton King . . . he overthrew my lands.  My sisters . . . my father . . . my
people . . . they are all dead.  The Winner Empire is in ruins.  There is nothing left.”  A tear escaped his eye.

“I suppose fate has been cruel to the both of us.”  Heero commented, his words barely a whisper.

Quatre shook his head.  “At first, but I am happy now, Heero.  Trowa saved me.  He has taken care of me for the past two
months.  Though I fear my happiness may only be the result of a curse placed against me, I do feel happy.  Even a false
happiness is pleasant, if only for a time.”

Heero nodded, but said nothing.

Quatre held out his hand.  “Will you come out of here with me?  I daresay sitting on the floor when you are dripping wet will not
do your health good.  And I think there are quite enough sick people in this house already.”

Heero nodded again.  “I trust you when you say this Trowa is a good man.  But if he touches me, I will defend myself.”

Quatre chuckled.  “If he touches you, I’ll be amazed.  Trowa is not fond of physical contact.”

Heero smiled.  “I am happy to see you, Quatre.  Despite the troubles, it is good to see a familiar face.”

“Yes,”  Quatre agreed.  “Come now, our masters are waiting.”  He paused though, his smile fading somewhat.  “Though I must
ask you not to use my true name in the company of strangers.  Though Duo and Hilde are fine, Trowa seems insistent on
keeping me safe and has provided a false name for me.  When in public, I am merely Nadir.”

“I understand.”  Heero said.  With a tender hand, he reached up and helped Quatre to cover his face with the veil again, then
covered his own face.  “I suppose we are too far from my father’s lands for Duo to do the same for me.  After all, a sea lies
between us.”  He shook his head.  “My name and face are not so well known as yours.”  Heero forced a smile on his face,
hooking his arm around Quatre’s slim waist.  “It is no matter though.  I will probably never see my father or my former home
again.”

Quatre frowned.  He did not like hearing such things from Heero.  But since Heero didn’t appear to want to talk about it, Quatre
could do nothing.  The two of them slowly began to walk out of the bathing room, Quatre’s body weak and weary, and Heero
moving with a slight limp.


*****


Trowa looked up as the curtain was pulled aside.  He let out a sigh of relief when both slaves walked out of the bathing room,
though he was a bit disturbed by the fact that Heero was dripping wet.  That explained the splash he had heard earlier.  He stood
and winced when Heero seemed to start at the movement.

“I’m truly sorry for frightening you,”  Trowa said, holding up his hands.  “It’s just . . . Duo has been like a brother to me for so
long, that my concern for him overrode my common sense.  Please, forgive me.”

Duo’s tired voice spoke from the bed.  “He . . . Heero?”

Trowa watched as the youth approached with a slight limp, and his heart was gladdened when he saw genuine concern for Duo
in the slave’s blue eyes.

“Do you need something, Master?”

Duo chuckled softly and then whimpered as if the laughter taxed him.  He clenched his hands in the blankets, looking as if he
were fighting off the trembling in his body.  “No, I don’t want anything . . . except a drink.”  He swallowed, shaking his head
before Heero could say anything.  “But I know you won’t get me one.”  He took a breath, a faint smile coming to his lips.  “You
okay?”

Heero’s features softened.  “I think I twisted my ankle a little, but otherwise I’m fine.”

Trowa approached, moving slowly.  “May I?”  He gestured to the slave’s ankle.  “If it’s sprained, it’s my responsibility to tend
to it since it was my fault you got injured in the first place.”

Heero backed away, his eyes narrowing.  “No, just leave me be.”

“Heero . . .”  Quatre began, moving to lean his weight on the foot of the bed.  “I told you that Trowa will not harm you.  Do you
not trust me?”

The dark-haired slave let out a long breath.  “Of course I trust you, Quatre.  How could I not trust one of my oldest friends?  I
just . . . would rather not be touched, least of all by someone I do not know.”

Trowa sighed and nodded.  He knew the feeling well.  He looked to Quatre in askance.  “Do you know how to tend to a sprain if
it is one?”

Quatre nodded.  “Yes, but I don’t think it is.  His ankle doesn’t look swollen,”  Quatre said, giving Heero a kind smile.  Trowa
had to wonder how the two of them knew each other, but then decided that such a question could wait until later.

Shaking his head, Trowa looked between Quatre and Duo for a moment, then nodded.  “Duo, would it be all right if Heero looks
after Quatre while I take care of you for a while?”  He saw the two slaves look at each other.  He would definitely have to ask
about their familiarity later.  Right now, he simply wanted Quatre to bathe and rest until dinner.

Duo nodded a little.  “Yeah, if Heero’s foot hurts, I don’t want him walking around on it too much.”

Hilde spoke up.  “Milk helps Duo’s stomach pains and chamomile aids his aching head.  Little can be done about the muscles
spasms, nor the shakes he has.  If he scratches his arms, use the aloe in the bowl on the table.  If he still scratches, cover his
hands with those gloves he seems to have shed yet again.  Tie them on if you have to.”  She smiled as Duo stuck his tongue out
at her.  “If his fever rises, use the mint oil in some water and bathe his skin.  He seems to enjoy that and it helps cool him.  
There’s a pitcher of drinking water brought in every so often, so that he doesn’t lose too much body water.”

Trowa ignored Duo’s snort and glanced at Quatre, knowing that he had some experience when dealing with someone with such
an addiction.  “Is there anything else I should be doing?”

The blonde blinked.  “Umm . . . I’m not really sure.  My sister never mentioned how she cared for her husband, and . . . and we
can’t ask her anymore.”  He lowered his head in obvious pain.

Trowa felt horrible and ignored everyone else as he walked over to take Quatre in his arms.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause
you sorrow.”

Quatre snuggled close for a moment.  “It is all right.  I know you wouldn’t intentionally hurt me in any way.”

Hilde cleared her throat, gaining Trowa’s attention.  “Do you want me to guide Quatre and Heero to your usual guest room?” she
asked, smiling gently.

Trowa kissed Quatre’s forehead and nodded.  “Yes, thank you.”  He looked down into Quatre’s pale and slightly gaunt features.  
“Now, the guest room has a bathing chamber attached to it . . . not as big as Duo’s, but adequate.  I want you to have a nice
soak and then rest until dinnertime.  Maybe a small snack can be brought while you bathe.”  He caressed Quatre’s cheek.  “It
worries me that you don’t eat.”

Quatre smiled up at him and nodded.  “I am certain Heero will make sure I eat.”

Trowa looked over at the dark-haired youth and nodded.  “Since you say that you’re a friend of Quatre’s, I’ll entrust his safety
to you.  And try to stay off that foot.  Too much walking can turn a strain into a sprain.”

Heero said nothing.  He merely nodded.

“I think Duo will say the same for Heero, but so there are no misunderstandings . . .”  Trowa smiled, stroking a finger along
Quatre’s cheek.  “You have my permission to remove that veil as you see fit.  I trust Hilde not to try and steal you away from
me after seeing your beauty.”

“Yeah . . . ‘course, Hilde’s already seen Heero’s face,”  Duo said in agreement.  “Go on, Heero . . . take care of the pretty
blonde.”  He smiled, though the expression never reached his eyes.  “Trowa can keep me company.  It’ll be nice to catch up on
things.”

“That it will be.”  Trowa nodded, removing his arms from around the ill blonde.  He worried for Quatre.  Yet, he believed that
Heero would see to him properly.  Besides, perhaps Quatre would like to be away from him for a time.  They had just spent a
month in each other’s company.  Perhaps Quatre tired of seeing Trowa’s face.

With a sigh, Trowa watched as Quatre slowly left the bedchamber, his hand firm on Nataku’s back as he walked.  Hilde
wrapped her arm about Heero, giving the young man assistance as they also left.  It had been a long time since Trowa had been
without Quatre by his side.  He was not sure he liked not having the beauty near to him.

As Hilde closed the door behind herself and the two slaves, Trowa returned his attention to Duo.  “Now, what have you been up
to since I last saw you?” he asked, a sly smile on his face as he moved to sit at Duo’s side.

Duo used his shaking arms to push himself to a near-sitting position.  He reclined back against the pillows, though his upper
body was slightly elevated.  “I’ll tell you all about it later.  What say you . . . g-get me a drink first?”  Duo whimpered, wrapping
his arms around himself.

Trowa shook his head.  “Duo, you know that I can’t do that.”

“Come on, one drink!”  Duo pleaded, reaching out to grasp Trowa’s tunic.  “You can’t believe how much this hurts!”

Trowa wrenched Duo’s hands from his clothes, holding his wrists tightly.  “No, Duo!  This is just what I was worried about
the last time we spoke.  I told you that your drinking was dangerous.  You consume too much of it!  But no, you would not
listen to me.  ‘Don’t worry,’  you said.  ‘It’s no big deal.’”

“It isn’t a big deal!”  Duo insisted, shaking his head.

“Duo, that’s a lie.”  Trowa frowned.  “The sad part is, you don’t realize just how bad off you are.  I see it, Duo.  You’re
begging for a drink for goodness sakes!  You’re lying there, bathed in sweat . . . pale, shaking like a carriage over rough roads,
and you’re begging for the very filth that put you here in this condition!  I am NOT going to help you kill yourself.”  With that,
he let go of Duo’s wrists.

Duo blinked, shuddered, but didn’t seem to be able to think of a retort.  After a moment, he finally dragged sound from his raw
throat.  “Help me . . . please.  I can’t do this.”

Trowa leaned forward, pressing his forehead to Duo’s.  “Of course you can, Duo,” he said, holding one hand to Duo’s sweaty
cheek while his other hand held Duo’s shoulder.  “You are stronger than you think.  But the reason I know for certain that you
will get through this, is because you are not alone.  You have Hilde, and Heero, Meiran and who knows how many others who
are willing to die to help you.  And you have me, Duo.  I may leave in the morning to tend to Quatre’s ails, but I will return to
your side in an instant if you should need me.  You know I would.”

Duo nodded, grasping lightly at Trowa’s arms.  “Yes, thank you.”  He whimpered, tears dripping along his face.

“Now, lie back and rest.  I’ll take care of you, Duo.”  Trowa smiled, pulling himself away from his friend.  With the utmost
care, he began to dab at Duo’s feverish face with a cool cloth, wiping away his tears.  “Just like you did for me the countless
times I was ill.”



To Be Continued . . .