Reperio: (Latin) to find again/discover
Captain Heero Yuy had just finished cleaning his sword and was putting it away when two lieutenants dragged a girl into his tent. She was bound and gagged but still causing them quite a bit of trouble.
"I told you I didn't want - " the captain started.
"Sorry, sir," the soldiers said as they dumped the girl on the floor and hurried away.
The captain sighed and locked his trunk. The girl on the floor was struggling against her ropes and trying to shout at him.
Heero was exhausted after the siege. It had been a success, and now he just wanted some peace and quiet. His armor was polished and resting on stand in the corner; he had changed out of his uniform, he just wanted to get some rest.
"Be quiet," he told the girl. She could just stay there on the floor as long as she was quiet. He usually rejected these prizes. After a long battle, he had no interest in trying to force himself on a terrified girl who had probably seen her family slaughtered in front of her. Though, he was beginning to see why they'd stuck him with this one. She seemed more mad than scared. She was still shouting at him through her gag and making a small ruckus although bound at the ankles and wrists. He'd have to find out who was responsible for this little prank. A few prime candidates came immediately to mind.
"Would you be quiet?" he snapped at the girl. Her indigo eyes flashed at him and she retorted something in a defiant tone. One cheek was red, probably from the soldiers slapping her around to get her to behave. "I won't hurt you if you just sit there and shut up. I'll warn you, it's a better offer then most of your friends are going to get," the captain said.
She rolled her eyes in frustration. She stayed quiet but kept struggling. Something about her caught Heero's attention. It was her arms. The muscles flexed and rippled as she strained against the ropes. He narrowed his eyes and looked closer. His suspicions were all but confirmed when he noticed her strong jawline and broad shoulders. He quickly knelt next to her and stuck his hand under the folds of fabric over her chest. Sure enough, he felt a hard muscle instead of a soft breast.
"You're not a woman!" he accused. "Explain," he demanded, pulling the gag down.
"That's what I've been trying to tell you!" the newly-discovered boy sputtered. He had to smirk at the dark-haired captain's expression of shock and confusion. "I figured you'd find out one way or another!"
"Why are you wearing women's clothes?" Heero interrogated the one in the dress.
"Long version or short version?" the bound boy asked.
Heero frowned, "Just answer the question."
"Well, I used to be a mercenary, a soldier just like you and your troops, but I was caught and given to a very eccentric woman. She promised to free me in two years if I dressed up like a girl and acted like one if her handmaidens."
"You agreed to do this?" Heero asked, appalled.
"Hey, next to death, torture, hard labor, and whatever else they make captives do, this was a pretty sweet deal! Easy work, good food, and let me tell you, there's some definite advantages to sleeping in the women's quarters, if you know what I mean!" the boy in the earrings said with a wink.
Heero stood up and shook his head, still a little baffled. He grabbed a dagger off the table. "Give me your word that you won't attack me, and I'll cut you loose to wash off that make-up and remove the jewelry. You're male, you should at least look like it."
The boy on the floor looked thoughtful, "No can do. Sorry, no promises I won't try to kill you or get away."
Heero smirked. So despite the dress, the kid had a little dignity after all.
"All right, then," the captain said, putting the dagger down and watching the boy stare at it longingly. Really, he did want to get the make-up off and look like a man for once, but he also wanted to escape
"Wait, I can't promise I won't try to kill you if you untie me, but what if you untied me just long enough to fix myself up, and then retied me?" the bound boy asked. He figured he could just escape later without breaking his word. He thought he'd spare the soldier though, he seemed half-way decent.
Heero reasoned that the boy couldn't kill him if he tried. The captain rechecked the lock on his weapons chest. "Agreed," he said, picking up the dagger. He cut the boy free but kept the dagger in hand to remind him not to try anything.
The boy sighed and stretched. "Much better!" he said and went about removing the necklace and earrings.
"There's a wash basin over there," Heero told him.
"I suppose these belong to you now?" the boy asked, offering Heero the jewelry. Heero shrugged and took them. He inspected them and found that they were of fairly high quality.
"Bracelets too, and for god's sake, take off that ridiculous wig," Heero said.
"Hey!" the boy sounded offended. "This is my real hair!"
"It is?" Heero asked in surprised.
"Yeah," the boy said as he scrubbed his face, "the Mistress made me grow it long like the girls so I could wear their hairstyles. You'll have me crop it, I hope."
"Hnn. Perhaps. Take it down," the captain replied. When the boy finished his face, he did as he was told, removing pins and bands. He released a mane of chestnut-colored hair that hung a few inches above his waist, and strange, fringy bangs in front.
"Hideous, isn't it?" the boy laughed embarrassedly as he combed his fingers through it.
The soldier cocked his head. "Leave it for now," he said.
The boy frowned. He'd been hoping to get rid of this mop. "Well, what am I supposed to do with it then? I can't leave it down like this!"
Heero narrowed his eyes. "How should I know? Just think of something. And no womanish styles."
"Ha ha. I wouldn't even think of it," the boy griped. All he could think of was to plait it and wrap it up.
"That's fine," Heero said suddenly, before the boy could wrap the long rope into a bun.
The boy made a look of distaste, "Leave it like this?" he asked, the braid dangling down his back.
"Yes, and fix your clothes too. You should look like a boy."
"It's going to be kind of difficult in this," the boy motioned to the light pink fabric.
Heero plopped onto his cot, "Just do something about it." All this fussing bored and exhausted him. The boy ripped at some of the fabric until it looked more like a man's outfit. As much as pink, gauzy fabric could, anyway.
"Well, this'll have to do. You better tie me back up now before I kill you and escape," the long-haired boy declared.
Heero got up to retied the ropes at the boy's ankles and wrists. "Ow! Not so tight!" the boy whined, knowing he wouldn't be able to escape if the binding was so tight.
"Too bad," Heero grunted. "I don't want you running away. You might get hurt. Trust me, to a bored night guardsman, it won't matter that you're not a girl."
The boy scowled. Heero stood up and headed for his bed. "Try to get some rest. The troops are staying here to start occupancy and rebuild, but we are heading home to Rome."
The boy's blue eyes went wide. "What's to become of me there?" he asked.
"I haven't decided yet. I may give you to someone. Can you read and write?" Heero asked.
"Passably," the boy answered.
"You'll probably become a domestic servant," Heero told him.
"Hey, you know, I'd be free in just a couple weeks if you and your army hadn't come through," the boy grumbled.
"You have your king to thank for that. Paying his proper taxes to Rome didn't seem to be high on his priority list," Heero replied tiredly and moved to blow out the lamps.
The lamps went out and the boy on the floor worried in the dark. Not only was he headed for the biggest city ever built, which was terrifying in itself, he was going to be a slave. Again. He absolutely couldn't let that happen. He strained and scuffled with all his might, but the captain had tied the ropes too tight. He swore under his breath and tried even harder.
"You better cut that out," Heero's warning pierced the dark tent.
The boy resigned himself temporarily. Well, at least he wouldn't have to dress like a woman anymore.
"Well, look who's still here," Heero mused, lightly slapping the sleeping boy's cheek. His eyes flickered open.
"Wha-?" he blinked. He tried to rub his eyes, forgetting his bound wrists.
Heero stood and crossed his arms over his chest, clearly amused. "And you managed to move a whole three feet towards the door. Very impressive," he smirked.
The boy grumbled threats and yawned sleepily. The captain was already dressed and half the tent packed up.
"Time to get moving. We leave in half an hour," he informed the boy on the floor.
"Are you going to free my legs or carry me? And hey, how about some breakfast?" the boy asked.
Heero shot him a warning glare but answered, "I'll have them give you something to eat." He grabbed the dagger and knelt by the boy. "Kick me, and you lose a finger. Got it?" he asked, his menacing tone making it clear that it wasn't an empty threat.
"Yeah," the boy answered. He could tell the soldier wasn't joking around now. Heero cut the ropes at his ankles and pulled him to his feet.
"Hands too? I promise not to be any trouble," the boy offered.
Heero narrowed his eyes. "Can I trust your word?" he asked. He looked straight into the boy's eyes and decided that he could. He cut the rope and holstered the dagger.
"Ahhhhh..." the boy breathed as he stretched his arms. It had been an uncomfortable night.
"Follow me," the captain ordered as he ducked out of the tent. The boy in the ripped-up pink dress quickly followed. Outside the tent was a world of activity. Soldiers marching, shouting, cutting trees, moving crates. The captain got the boy some breakfast, which he happily ate while the captain gave orders to soldiers about what to do with his belongings. When they were finished, the captain brought the boy to another tent.
"Stay here with the other captives going to Rome. Move out with them. Do not cause any trouble, you gave your word," he said as he turned to leave.
"Wait!" the boy called. The dark-haired soldier turned back. "Uhhhh, my name is Duo," the boy blurted out.
The captain smirked again. "I think I'll be able to pick you out," he drawled before mounting a waiting horse. "I am Captain Heero Winner Yuy. Tell them you belong to me if anything should happen." With that he trotted away.
Belong, Duo thought with disgust. He didn't like the sound of that. He entered the tent with a scowl.
"Duo!" a tearful voice cried. Inside the tent he found several girls he knew. They all looked ragged and petrified. Duo sat with them and comforted them as they cried, even the girls he didn't know. He didn't need to ask what had happened to them. He wished he could tell them ‘it'll be ok' but he wasn't so sure himself. So he told them to be strong and survive, to make the best of whatever new circumstances they found themselves in. They nodded and sniffled.
Duo's countryside kingdom was a two-day march east of the capital. Rome had taken over the entire countryside long ago, but there were still skirmishes. It was nothing as serious as the far north, Gaul, where Heero had made a name for himself five years ago. As a legionnaire of only 15, he had fought and beaten the Gaul Barbarian, Trowa, given that name because he was reputed to have the size and strength of three men. Heero's old friend Milliardo Peacecraft had been a legionnaire then too, and they had moved up the ranks together. Heero trotted up to Milliardo's horse.
"Zechs," Heero called him by his familiar name, "are you behind the little stunt pulled last night?"
"Why whatever do you mean, Captain Yuy?" the other young man asked innocently.
"About my captive girl being a boy?" Heero continued.
Zechs didn't bother to stifle the chuckling. "She was a boy? No, I was not behind that! They told me they had a troublemaker, so I told them to give her to you. That's all I had to do with it. I honestly had no idea she was a he."
"I thought I told you I didn't want any captives," Heero reminded his friend.
"Yes, that's why I told them to give the trouble maker to you!" Zechs laughed heartily. "Have a sense of humor, old friend. I'm only trying to help you. Look how happy Lucrezia and I are."
Zechs had conquered the female warrior Lucrezia Noin on the island of Sicily. However, instead of taking her captive and making her a slave, the two had fallen in love married. She was an excellent match for Zechs and a genius battle strategist herself. She was one of the most respected women in Rome and the couple were close friends of Emperor Trieze and his wife, Lady Une.
"You and Lucrezia are different. But that's beside the point. No more captives! I'm running out of people to give them to," Heero complained.
Zechs rolled his eyes. "Gods forbid you keep one for yourself."
Heero gave no reply.
"Well, what do you plan to do with this youth?" Zechs asked. "Giving him away too?"
"Hn. I don't know yet. I may keep him, Baltus is slowing down a bit these days," Heero answered, speaking of his servant at home. "I'm just not sure how he's going to take to being a slave. I fear he will be disobedient. Perhaps I should get rid of him before he causes trouble."
Zechs smiled, "Well, your household could stand to be shaken up a bit."
Heero gave him a skeptical look, "Honestly, Zechs, sometimes you make no sense."
Zechs laughed as Heero spurred his horse galloped ahead to survey the caravan. Officers saluted him as he rode past. He returned the salutes and kept riding. The men rode in front and slaves and other properties were in carts at the back of the group. The Roman Legion did not fear attacks by bandits.
Captain Yuy rode to the back of the caravan to make sure everything was in order. He approached and saluted the lieutenant who drove the cart of his belongings. When he was sure everything was going smoothly, he rode past the slave wagon to make sure Duo had gotten in it. Sure enough, he was there, surrounded by puffy-eyed women. Duo was holding their hands and talking to them and trying to make them laugh. Heero nodded to himself and galloped back up to the front of the pack. His horse was the fastest and bravest. He could be home tonight if he went alone, but he stayed with the group.
At sunset, the caravan set up a small camp. Heero had Duo set up a small tent for the two of them and moved some stuff in. These were tasks he would usually have done himself, but he wanted to test Duo. Duo did it all in good spirits, chatting idly at the captain as he did it. He talked about the trip, how surprised the guards were to find a boy in with female slaves, and about other things of no consequence.
"The women seem comforted by your presence," Heero noted.
Duo didn't say anything for a minute. He chose his words carefully. "I do what I can, this has been difficult for them." Duo could not express his true feelings of rage to the captain; Duo didn't want to risk angering him. He knew that really, if he had been thrown in some other tent, he could suffer the same way his female friends did. Heero Yuy seemed like a genuinely decent person and Duo considered himself lucky.
"Yes," Heero agreed solemnly, "it's a vulgar practice."
Duo was surprised and maybe a little relieved to hear him say this. Heero himself was surprised to have divulged his true feelings. He did not usually speak against anything the Legion did, whether he agreed with it or not.
The captain ate with the officers and Duo with the slave women. Soon after, it was time to retire. Heero pulled a small pallet out of a trunk and laid it on the ground.
"That is for you. Now, do I have to tie you up?" he asked.
"No, I'm too exhausted to kill you or run away tonight," Duo yawned, settling onto the straw pad.
Heero wasn't so sure. "Remember, this place is crawling with guards, and they all know you belong to me. Don't do anything stupid."
Duo didn't even answer. He wasn't sure if he should try to run away or not. On one hand, this would probably be his last chance. On the other hand, if he were caught, he would be in big trouble. He didn't know anybody in Rome, and wasn't thrilled about the idea of being sold or given away. Well, he wasn't thrilled about the idea of being a slave at all, but judging by what the girls were saying, Heero Winner Yuy didn't seem so bad. He had advised his friends to try to make the best of whatever situations they found themselves in and he was beginning to think that maybe that's what he should do, too.
Heero's mind was already formulating what role he wanted Duo to play. The boy seemed to be friendly, good-looking, humorous, good-tempered, sensitive, and he was strangely easy to talk to, even for someone like himself. Only a short time ago, he had found himself talking about his feelings, which was a rare occurrence. Heero planned to use Duo as his public face. Duo would run his errands and take care of any small business he had around town. He would also make an excellent server at parties. But it remained to be seen whether he would he try to run away.
-Dressing like a woman would be appalling to any self-respecting Roman man, however, a few mythological characters have done it. Plus, Duo is not Roman.
-I think it was actually the Romans who started the tradition of men having short, cropped hair so it couldn't be yanked in battle. That is where our western perception of 'short hair = masculine' and 'long hair = feminine' comes from, although that has relaxed somewhat. However, I let Zechs keep his long hair for this story, we just don't mention it...
-'Gaul' is ancient France and near-by areas.