When the youth awakened in the darkness which arrived so early, he had been terribly frightened until Quatre had
come to speak to him.
"Who are you?" the blond had asked gently, trying to reassure the frightened young man who seemed to be far
too thin. "My name is Quatre. You are safe here, you know. This is the home of Lord Wufei. When you were hurt
by those horrible men, he did something amazing! He became enraged at the injustice of their actions and killed
them all, freeing not just yourself but all of the others they had captured, and then he returned everyone home."
A slight frown had crossed his face as he thought about his own experiences.
"But why am I not home, then? Am I a prisoner here, too?" The question left trembling lips and caused a vibration
of profound sadness within the heart of the youth attempting to comfort him. Quatre felt terrible for not getting
his point across better and did something impulsive, he wrapped the stranger in a hug, warm and reassuring.
"You aren't home, my friend, because we do not know where your family is," he answered simply as he stroked the
hair of the young man in his arms. He felt tension ease beneath his fingertips and knew that once again his
instincts had been correct. "Do you have a family nearby? Can you tell me your name so I know how to address
The other looked so sad, it nearly broke the gentle blond's heart. "My name is Duo, and I have no family. I live
near a spring, alone in the woods, it is peaceful there." He looked up then and smiled tentatively, "But tell me again
who brought me here? I believe I owe someone a debt."
Quatre was quite relieved when Duo smiled. "No, you owe nothing, Duo. You were brought here by Wufei, a
nobleman who feels very strongly about taking care of those in need. He is the one who killed your attackers,
"No, I don't remember, your language is new to me and it is difficult to understand at times, so if you told me and
I misunderstood, forgive my error." Duo looked tired, he had not been injured badly, but the blow to the head had
left a painful headache that would not ease off.
"Why don't you rest?" Quatre smiled. "His lordship is hosting a wonderful banquet tonight since his friend Treize is
visiting, and of course you'll be invited! Do you mind if I try to find you some fresh clothes for the party? After you
sleep, you can have a hot bath if you like, and something fresh to wear may make you feel better, too. Then when
you feel well enough, we can make certain you are escorted home safely. How's that?"
"Food?" The light of hope and hunger shone brightly in the violet eyes.
"Why, yes, I completely forgot to ask if you night be hungry," Quatre apologized feeling remiss. He had noticed
how thin the young man was and berated himself for not asking sooner. But before the conversation could
continue, there was a soft knock at the door.
"Quatre? May I come in?" a voice called.
Smiling, he responded, "Certainly, Wufei! He's awake, come in!" Standing to greet his friend, Quatre was surprised
seeing a young woman with him carrying a tray laden with a variety of foods for their injured guest.
"Welcome to my home," Wufei bowed formally to Duo. "I regret it is not under better circumstances that I have
the opportunity to make your acquaintance, um," he paused realizing he didn't know the boy's name.
"Wufei," Quatre intervened politely, "may I introduce Duo? We were talking and apparently he lives alone in the
woods, no wonder we didn't know where his family was! Duo, may I present my friend, Lord Wufei? This is the
man who saved your life today."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, my Lord," Duo tried to sit up too quickly and nearly blacked out again.
Wufei, seeing the pain on his visitor's face crossed the room quickly and sat beside him. "Relax, my new friend,
and please, it is not 'Lord' here, I am simply 'Wufei'. I am pleased you are not injured worse than you are. To
know such a thing even happened here makes me most displeased. There is no justice and even less honor
wherever men like that are allowed to do such things. It shall not happen again in Colonia if I can help it!"
"I thank you for your actions, Wufei. I do not believe I would have survived well in captivity," Duo remarked,
sorrow tingeing his words.
"Certainly, my friend," Wufei cast a questioning glance at Quatre who simply shrugged his shoulders since he had
no idea what was bothering Duo. "Now, let me leave you something to eat. I'm sure that Quatre will be back later,
but if you don't mind, I need to discuss music for tonight's banquet with him. Oh, and I hope you will feel well
enough to join us this evening. A dear friend of mine has just arrived for a visit and we are having a banquet
tonight in his honor. Kindly join us, wont you?"
"You are a kind and generous host, my Lord, um, Wufei. Yes, thank you, I shall plan to be there, but for now I
believe I might eat and rest." He smiled at Quatre. "You know, I believe a headache is a small price to pay for
gaining new friends such as you."
"Well, we're glad you are going to be okay," Quatre smiled as they went out the door, "Have a snack and then
rest. I'll ask someone to check on you later if that's okay?"
"Sure," Duo responded, looking hungrily at the tray. One thing he had gone without since going into exile had
been food and the smell of it nearby was driving him crazy.
Outside the closed door, Quatre held a finger to his lips listening. He heard Duo happily remarking to himself about
how good everything looked as he began eating rapidly. Finally, the blond smiled and he and the raven haired lord
of the manor walked away. "So, Wufei," Quatre teased gently, "I thought I was the one around here with the gift
Wufei smirked. "Indeed, you are, golden one, but I do have a limited ability to tell when someone has gone too
long without food. When I picked him up to carry him out of that disgusting place, I could feel his ribs beneath my
fingers, a sure sign of hunger if ever I knew one."
Both smiled as they had left their new friend behind.
The banquet that night had been delightful and Duo seemed to gain strength from not only eating everything he
had a chance to, but also from being around friendly people who demanded nothing more of him than that he eat,
rest, and feel better. He had never known humans could be this kind, experiences with the wish-takers had always
been unpleasant, and he felt much more satisfied with his new lot in life after that incident. When he left the manor
several days later, he did so with several new sets of warmer clothes as well as friendship and an open invitation to
visit any time he wished.
Heading back to his cavern home, he swore to himself that one day he would repay the kind souls who had taken
him in and cared for him even though he was a stranger.
Now it was nearly midsummer and Duo had become well-recognized if not still a mystery.
Most of the villagers knew he had been taken under Lord Wufei's protection the previous winter, but they knew
little more. He had occasionally been seen in the company of Quatre, the young slave that Wufei had purchased
and liberated five years ago, who was now a welcome member of the manor house family. A few times, even
Quatre' silent companion Trowa had been seen with the violet-eyed boy, but usually the two spent time together
briefly. Often the girls of the village would invite Duo to eat dinner with their families, but he always declined
politely. The only home he ever accepted hospitality from was Wufei's and that was his limit.
Shopping in the marketplace that afternoon was the most recent newcomer to the village, the cold and frightening
knight, Sir Heero. Clearly, shopping displeased the soldier, but he had need of new garments and sought what he
could find with the last of his savings.
"What color were you looking for, sir?" A merchant asked politely fearing the heavy broadsword hanging from the
knight's hip. It was strange, the man had done nothing to endanger anyone and yet the lost look in his eyes
brought warnings to people's minds just the same.
"Color?" the knight asked incredulously. "Why should color make any difference in the choice of clothing?"
Duo, standing nearby, couldn't keep the merriment from his voice. "Color matters to common folk, sir knight,
most likely since it appeals to them. You, for example, would never give a second thought to the fact that this
shade in particular would highlight your deep-blue eyes quite nicely, but a non-warrior would notice almost
"Ah, Duo!" The merchant smiled.
Something the merchant noticed, however, gave him pause. The gentle youth seemed flushed and over-heated,
most likely because of the heavy woolen garments he still wore. Perhaps all he had were the clothes given to him
while he had been under Wufei's care the previous winter? If this was the case, then indeed they were possibly
threatening his health, he seemed so fragile. "How have you been, lad? You do not look well. It has been a long
time since you visited my shop!"
"Don't worry about me, it's just a little hot today," Duo embraced the man warmly. "My apologies, Howard, but
there has not been enough trade in herbs lately to allow me money for clothes. I still do not have enough to buy a
new shirt for the warmer weather we've been having."
"Bah, my boy! Such foolishness!" Howard remonstrated. "If you had needed clothing why didn't you come to me?
You know you can always pay me later or trade or whatever! Never go without when you have friends who wish to
help you, Duo."
"Thank you, but no," Duo smiled warmly at the very thought he had made such a good friend in less than a year
among the humans. "I shall pay my way as I go, Howard. You never know when a debt may go unpaid, and I
prefer not to do so."
"I agree," the knight remarked coldly, "it is best not to leave debts unpaid. One does not live forever, after all, and
should not face eternity knowing there was something left undone behind oneself."
Gazing at him sadly, Duo answered, "You truly believe that, don't you? What a lonely existence you must lead."
"Come now, Duo," Howard intervened as both young men seemed to become suddenly solemn beyond their years,
"you, too, are living a lonely existence out in the woods. When are you going to move into the village with the rest
of us? You know you are welcome here. And don't say it's because you can't afford to, I've offered to hire you as
my apprentice several times. Granted that means living with a messy old bachelor, but it's better than living alone
out there, isn't it?"
"Howard, I thank you, but I'm not ready to move here yet," Duo's smile had faded and for some strange reason
the knight felt disappointed to see it vanish. "Well, perhaps I can purchase something next trip, Howard, I simply
dropped by to say 'hello' and see if you were well. But if I'm still short on coin, I may take you up on the offer to
trade, these winter clothes are too hot to wear now."
He inclined his head to Heero, "And good day to you, sir knight. Trust Howard to help you select new clothes,
despite his personal preference for brightly colored tunics, you will undoubtedly find something more reserved to
suit your tasted here. And may I recommend a dark green tunic for you? The color would indeed enhance your
eyes quite nicely."
Turning away, the long haired youth vanished into the shoppers leaving both men behind rather confused.
"Why would he seek to advise a stranger thusly?" Heero pondered aloud.
Howard smiled fondly, wishing he knew just where in the woods the boy had made his home so he could drop off
some clothes. The winter wear he still bore was clearly causing him to overheat, or was he flushed for some other
reason when he had left in such a hurry? "Well, sir, that is just Duo for you. He came into our lives here suddenly
and seems to be unaware of the fact that he has entered our hearts as well. Kind and generous, he shares what
he can with people even if it is just a smile or some friendly advice, but he won't let others help him in return. It's
sad, really, he seems so very lonely."
"Indeed." The knight was intrigued by the enigmatic stranger. He wondered to himself if perhaps he should use his
considerable tracking skills to locate this young man's hiding place just to make certain his solitude did not conceal
something more sinister.
Or at least that was what he told himself about why he might search out the fey creature who had brushed into
and back out of his life so quickly.