Wufei had found himself at odds over how to keep his end of the bargain with the knight since gundanium
horseshoes were unavailable anywhere in the village or nearby.
Quatre came in, clearly distressed. "What is wrong, my friend?" Wufei asked.
"Wufei, Duo has just been brought to us by a merchant from the village. Apparently Duo had come in to trade
herbs, but he collapsed," the blond was concerned, feeling the elfling's silent pain through his gift of sight.
"Then by all means, we must care for him. Have the physician called," the nobleman quickly forgot his own
concerns in favor of focusing on what had befallen their friend. "Who has brought him to us that I may thank them
for this kindness?"
"The doctor is with Duo now," the blond empath assured him. "A tailor named Howard brought Duo here. He
wishes to speak with you."
"Hmm, undoubtedly the man seeks a reward for his services," Wufei frowned. He disliked those who wished to
profit from the misfortunes of others, but if the man had been forced to forego business in favor of seeking help
for Duo, it was understandable. "Send him in and then check on Duo, won't you please, Quatre?"
"Certainly," the young man smiled, then rushed off.
Howard, however, surprised the man. "No, I do not wish compensation," he looked worried as he turned away the
gold coins being offered to him. "Even though he has been here but a short time, Lord Wufei, I feel as if young
Duo is like a son to me. It disturbs me to see him ill and I had hoped perhaps you could care for him better than I.
Will this be possible or should I take him back with me?"
The nobleman was pleased. "You truly do not seek payment? It is excellent to meet a man of honor, Howard! You
may be assured that Duo will be cared for here. But pray tell, how did you know to bring him to me instead of
"Your home is the only one from which he will accept hospitality, Lord Wufei," Howard was uncomfortable, but he
wanted to be sure he had done the best he could for the elfling. "Hence when I was told that he was ill, I brought
him here, assuming he felt comfortable here and knowing how much you had done for him in the past. Frankly, my
lord, you care for many people like him. Those whom society has closed their eyes to such as young Quatre. They
are both lucky to have found a benefactor such as yourself."
Wufei smiled sardonically as he denied the praise, "No, I am but doing as it seems best. Do not elevate me beyond
the level of any other man simply because I seek to do what is right."
At this point, the doctor came in and told both men that the youth had been overcome by the heat and that he
needed rest and fluids. A simple enough thing to achieve, Howard bid farewell to the manor's master promising to
return if needed.
"So, Wufei," Quatre asked softly, "shall we find some way to keep Duo here for a while? You know he will try to
leave before he recovers if we don't."
"You are right, but that is not our decision," Wufei remarked ruefully. "We shall invite him to remain, but that is all.
I have never forced anyone to stay against their will and I will not begin now."
"Ah, you are right. I shall remain available as you need me, but for now allow me to continue to prepare for the
Midsummer's Night Festival," the blond smiled again and left.
Wufei sighed sadly, "Prepare, my friend, but do not be surprised if we can not attend. I wish I could get those
shoes for the knight's steed, but it seems impossible now."
In the darkened room where the elfling lay sleeping, an unexpected visitor had magically appeared.
Trowa, the tall, quiet acrobat had stood beside the bed where he rested. Speaking softly in a language unknown to
men, Trowa conjured a small sphere of energy and placed the pulsing orb of healing green light upon the other's
brow. As the light seemed to sink in, the elfling moaned softly and opened his eyes.
"Trowa? What are you doing here?" He asked in confusion, not realizing fully where he himself was at the moment.
"I live here," Trowa responded quietly. "But I did not always live here any more than you were always the height
you are now."
Eyes widened with fear as Duo suddenly realized that his secret apparently had been discovered by a human. He
had nearly forgotten his fear of discovery by the evil wish-takers and now it all came rushing back to him. "What
are you saying, Trowa?"
The tall youth looked at Duo with eyes which displayed none of his emotions. "You, Duo, are an elf. You were
obviously never this tall to begin with, or am I lying?"
Fear dominant in his mind, Duo tried to rise to escape yet fell back at a simple wave of the other's hand. "I am
*so* dead!" he groaned melodramatically. "Yes, I am an elf. What do you demand of me, wish-taker?" He felt it
best to face the man honestly and get the inevitable over with as quickly as possible.
Shaking his head in negation, Trowa simply muttered something softly and his own true appearance was revealed.
He was a sorcerer himself, one whose face carried years of pain and sorrow. "I am of the elven clan as well, Duo,
you have nothing to fear from me." Duo looked shocked. "Years ago I left the court of evil Queen Relena when I
discovered how intolerant and prejudiced her rule was. Spending my time disguised in human form, I met Quatre
and came here by invitation. I had heard rumors that you were the banished elfling, but chose to ignore them.
Perhaps I made a mistake in leaving you to yourself, you obviously were unprepared for life outside the clan."
Confusion and amazement warred upon the young elf's face as Duo tried to understand this. "You know my
secret, then," Duo remarked, worried about his own future now that he had been discovered. "What will become of
me now? Will you tell them what I am?"
"Of course not," Trowa looked perplexed. "I have no desire to break your secret to them, but perhaps you yourself
"What? Are you crazy? I don't want to be reduced to a mere tool to grant wishes for the humans again!" He
became agitated. "It was a stupid *wish* made by a human which left me in the state that I am in now! I never
wanted to leave the elf clan! My life is there, not here!"
"Truly?" Trowa looked doubtful. "Consider this, then, who has saved your life twice when you had otherwise
forfeited it through your own foolishness, young one? Did you think to reward them for their kindness?"
Duo felt saddened by the realization that he had been able to thank his new friends all along and had failed to do
so. "Well, I guess that I could. But why haven't you helped them?"
Trowa looked annoyed at such an obvious issue. "They never had to save my life, Duo. You can see that I am
much older than you thought. I left the elves of my own choosing and have no desire to return. You, however,
seem to want to leave and go back. Give them their wishes and perhaps someone will grant you yours as well and
you can return. That is, if you really wish to do so."
Violet eyes sank thoughtfully, "I don't know, Trowa. This is all so sudden, I never even suspected we were both
elves. You always seemed so cold, so distant. Why have you avoided me?"
"Because I feared you would recognize me for what I am instead of what I pretend to be. However I realized that
was not going to happen and that unless I made you realize what you are doing you might continue to fumble
your way along bringing sorrow and worry to those who have granted you comfort and care." Trowa frowned,
reminding Duo of one of his tutors back at the clan. "Besides, this is my home and these people mean a great deal
to me. If you wish to stay, you need to treat them with more respect and courtesy. They are not here simply to
help you out when you are hungry or in trouble."
"I know they aren't here just to help me!" Duo snapped, angry that perhaps he had taken his new friends for
Just then, there was a knock at the door. "Duo? Are you awake? May I come in?" Quatre's voice called.
Before Duo could say a word, Trowa called out, "Come in, Quatre, I am with him." Glancing over quickly, Duo
noticed that gone were the robes and signs of age as Trowa had resumed his appearance as a young human
standing beside him.
"Trowa!" Quatre smiled entering the room quickly. "I wondered where you were! But how is---Duo! You're awake
again! How are you?" Concern was eased on the earnest face as Quatre rushed to check on his ailing friend.
Duo glanced up with uncertainty at the disguised sorcerer who simply stood impassive once more. "Um, I'm better,
Quatre, I didn't mean to worry you like that. I'm sorry."
"No, no, that's all right, Duo!" The smile of relief nearly broke the elfling's heart. He just couldn't bring himself to
tell Quatre his secret, he'd worked so hard to conceal it. "I'm so glad that you are better, we were worried when
Howard arrived and you looked so terribly pale! Why were you still wearing those old clothes from winter? You are
lucky that you were found in the village instead of out in the woods."
"Why? What difference would that make?" Duo was confused by the young empath's concern.
"Don't be ridiculous!" Quatre reprimanded him. "I sensed you were in trouble, I don't know why, but you seem to
carry into my gift of sight so strongly. If you had become ill anywhere else, well, I would have been frantic being
unable to locate you! Maybe now you'll tell us where you live!"
"Yes, Duo," Trowa quietly remarked, "you should not cause your friends such pain. Perhaps this would be a good
time to tell us where you live or perhaps even consider moving elsewhere so Quatre does not need to fear for your
"Trowa! What a cruel thing to say!" Quatre interjected angrily, coming to the defense of the frightened young
elfling. "Now, Duo, don't worry, everything will be all right. Wufei wants to see you, are you up to some company?"
Sitting up easily, Duo discovered that the lightweight tunic he wore now was much more appropriate to the
summer heat; he made a crucial decision. "Actually, Quatre, I feel much better now. Maybe I could meet with Wufei
in the gardens? I need some fresh air."
"That would be fine," Quatre smiled. "I'll go tell Wufei and we'll meet you there shortly. Trowa, I'd like to speak to
you, why don't you come with me?" Frowning at the acrobat, Quatre made it clear the last was less of a request
than a command; he was angry at the way Duo had been treated by him, but wasn't sure what to do about it.
Disinterested in letting the younger elf free from the responsibilities he wished to press upon him, Trowa relented
and left with his companion.
Sighing sadly, Duo lay back down to think; he was lost in thought when he heard a noise outside his window.
Peeking out cautiously, he noticed the knight had returned from the village looking tired and displeased. He
watched as the soldier unsaddled the horse he had borrowed from the stables and began to brush it down before
returning it to the care of the stablemaster.
"Odd that he is so feared by the townspeople yet seems so concerned for animals," the elfling thought aloud.
"He's sort of like me, an outsider who doesn't quite fit in. I wonder if he really is as lonely as I am?"
As he stared out the window, the knight suddenly glanced directly at him as if feeling his eyes and thoughts upon
him. Duo, startled, didn't pull away from the window quickly enough to escape notice.
"Why is *he* here?" the knight wondered aloud. "What is it about him that seems so strange? There seems to be
something sad about him, something very much like myself. Perhaps he, too, has been an outcast?" He turned his
attention away from the empty window above and focused on his care of the horse.
Wufei walked alone among the roses and herbs which grew in the gardens. His hands clasped behind his back and
his brow furrowed in thought, he failed to hear Duo approach.
"Wufei?" Duo asked quietly, his conscience bothering him deeply.
"Ah, Duo!" Wufei turned smiling. "Are you feeling better? What happened to you, my friend?"
"I'm sorry, Wufei," Duo looked a bit pale as he summoned up his courage to speak of his secret. "I'm doing better.
Guess I'm not very good at taking care of myself and I didn't think about what could happen if I wore clothes that
were too hot for the weather." He shrugged helplessly. "But there is something else I need to talk to you about
that's more important."
"Really?" Wufei was curious. The young man standing before him seemed so serious and yet uncertain. Before Duo
could answer, however, Quatre and Trowa joined them in the gardens. "Quatre, so glad you and Trowa could join
us. Something seems to be bothering out friend, perhaps we can help him."
"Perhaps, *he* can help *you*, Wufei," Trowa remarked softly.
"What do you mean, Trowa? Such an odd thing to say," Wufei was perplexed to put it mildly.
Even Quatre had grown annoyed at his friend's rudeness to the violet-eyed young man. "Trowa, just what is it
that Duo has done to annoy you? You were quite impolite to him earlier, too."
Before the discussion could spin out of control, Duo calmly stated, "Tell me, Wufei, is there anything you wish
By now the lord of the manor was thoroughly confused and answered with a laugh, "Well, Duo, now that you
mention it, yes. I wish I had a set of gundanium horseshoes for Sir Heero's mount, Wing."
Duo smiled sadly, then looked at Trowa who simply nodded in understanding as well as command. It was now or
never for the elfling to be honest with his friends.
Closing his eyes and mumbling in a soft voice, strange shivers of purple light formed around Duo's hands and
suddenly there was a perfect set of shoes for the pegasus glimmering and twinkling brightly in his hands.
"Will these do?" He asked softly.
Wufei and Quatre stared in wonderment as Trowa reached out a warm hand and touched the eflling's shoulder in
"Are those real?" Quatre asked, looking wide-eyed at the shining metal in the youth's hands.
"How did you do that?" Wufei asked, there was no fear in the man's voice and that reassured Duo a great deal.
"Are you a magician or a sorcerer?"
Duo sighed and told the truth. "I, Lord Wufei, have failed to be honest with you and I'm sorry. I am an outcast elf.
My clan banished me when a human's uncaring wish-taking left me this height, I am much too tall now to remain
with the others and so I was sent away."
"An *elf*!" Quatre breathed in wonder. "You mean you grant wishes and everything? That isn't just a fairy tale?"
Trowa chuckled softly and Duo covered for the older elf's possible error. "Yes, I can grant wishes, and, no, it's not
a 'fairy tale'! Besides," he grinned, "fairies rarely tell stories worth remembering anyway. Pixies do a much better
job of that!"
"I don't really know what to say, but thank you for these," Wufei smiled as Duo handed him the heavy
horseshoes. "But what made you choose to reveal your secret to us now? You were welcome already, this makes
no difference to me, whether elf or human, you are my friend and I am glad to call you that."
Such kindness was overwhelming for the elfling who never imagined they would possibly accept him as he was and
not press for wishes immediately upon finding out the truth. He glanced at the sorcerer in hiding beside him and
simply saw a slight smile. He wondered why Trowa had never told his own secret, but realized he had no right to
"I felt I was being deceitful, taking advantage of your kindness and could not go on. My conscience, among other
things, would not allow it." Duo gained confidence as the moments passed and nothing terrible happened.
Quatre, however, seemed troubled. "Duo? Is there any chance that *I* could ask for a wish, too? It may be too
hard, though, so maybe I don't want to ask after all."
Duo smiled at his friend and suddenly felt a lightness in his heart, it never occurred to him that granting wishes
could be a happy thing for both him and the human who made a wish. "What is it, Quatre? You've been such a
good friend, I'd be happy to grant you a wish!"
"Well, like I said, this might be too much to ask, but is there any chance you could help me get back home? I know
it was a long time ago, and maybe they've forgotten me, but I miss my family." Quatre's pale blue eyes seemed to
shimmer with hope and fear at the same time.
Before Duo could answer, Trowa caught his eye and slowly shook his head "no". Puzzled, the elfling followed the
older elf's unspoken advice as best he could, "I'm not sure, Quatre. That really is a very large wish and I am only a
young elf, my powers are not very great. But let me work on it, okay? It might take a little while to figure out a
way, but I can try."
"Thank you," the blond answered smiling. "I'm actually glad it will take some time. Now that I've got a chance to
think about it, I may not wish to do that anyway. But what about Trowa? Doesn't he get a wish, too?"
Duo eyed the elven mage warily and again saw the indication not to do anything. Caught between lying again and
exposing another's secret which he had no right to expose, he felt torn. But his problem was solved by a strange
uproar in the courtyard.
"Halt!" A strong voice called out over the usual noise of the area.
"Captain Zechs?" Wufei remarked, concerned. "What brings the Baron's Captain of the Guards here, I wonder?
Excuse me, friends, but something must be wrong for him to have come." He handed the gundanium horseshoes
to Trowa without a second thought and the acrobat simply held them as if the heavy metal weighed nothing.
In a rustle of silken robes, the man strode away to find out what had happened.