The next morning, Heero found Duo sleeping soundly on the straw mat. He woke him and they packed up the tent before moving out. When they reached the gates of Rome, Heero had Duo take over driving his cart and led the way home on his horse. He rode beside Duo and briefed him on the Winner family.
"My father and younger brother, Quatre, are both senators. I have seven sisters, all older, married with children, but they are often around the house. Please memorize their names -"
"Does this mean you're not giving me away?" Duo interrupted.
"For the time being," Heero lied. "Now, my house is smaller and annexed to my father's, so is my brother's. Servile areas connect them all, this will all be shown to you by Baltus, my manservant, when we arrive. While your main duty is to me, you are expected to do anything my father or brother ask of you as well. My brother may allow you to call him Master Quatre, but you are to always call my father Master Winner or Sir, got it?" He waited for Duo to nod.
Heero wondered if he should get into why his entire family was blonde except for him and why he used the name Yuy. He did not tell most people these private things. He decided it would not be necessary to tell Duo.
"We will visit my father's house first, and then drop off this stuff. I will most likely dine there tonight. You will learn the house tonight, and I will introduce you to the city tomorrow. Oh, but there are a few errands we must run tonight..." Heero trailed off.
Heero thought of who else Duo might encounter around the house frequently. "Along with my sisters and their families, you will also meet Trowa, who is like my brother's family," Heero tried to explain. He gave Duo the abbreviated version of the story. "I fought Trowa five years ago in Gaul. I beat him, but I was so impressed with his skill I did not kill him, I brought him back here to be a gladiator. I don't know how much you know about Roman sports, but that was the best option for him, a way for him to gain respect, wealth, and his freedom. He bought his freedom three years later and now runs the local palestra. During his fighting years, I introduced him and my brother. They have remained very close friends, and he has become a trusted friend of mine."
"Maybe I could be a gladiator, too!" Duo suggested.
The captain just gave him a skeptical look as he eyed the pink dress.
"Hey, I was a soldier once!" Duo huffed in his defense.
Heero led them through the crowded, noisy, narrow streets of Rome and finally came to a stop. There was nothing special about the Winner House from the outside. There were a couple of store fronts around the entrance, which was not very grand. But Duo caught his breath when he stepped inside. The first room was a huge atrium, open to the sky, with a shallow rectangular pool and fountain in the center. There were plants here and there and richly colored frescoes adorning the walls. The room was lavishly decorated and crawling with people. They stopped their mingling and chatting when they spotted Heero.
"Captain Yuy!" several of them called to him.
A servant rushed up to him before the crowd could swallow him. "Welcome home, Captain!" she said. "Your father awaits you eagerly! Follow me."
"Thank you, Hilde," he answered, and beckoned for Duo to follow them. She led them to a private room, also splendidly decorated with paintings and expensive-looking furniture.
Duo was about to follow Heero into the room, when Hilde grabbed his arm. "Wait here," she whispered.
Heero entered the room and Duo observed his family with surprise. He was expecting a group of serious dark-haired people like Heero. On the contrary, they were all smiling blondes. .
A man with wheat-colored hair and a dashing moustache embraced Heero. "My son! We are so proud of you," he said, releasing the youth. "You're not going to refuse another promotion, are you?"
"Father!" a short youth with bright blonde hair chided. "Don't hassle him about that now! Brother!" he embraced Heero. "We are so grateful for your safe return!"
"Good to have you back," a tall man with deep green eyes placed a hand on Heero's shoulder.
"Thank you all I - " Heero started when a little girl ran up and jumped into his arms.
"Uncle Heero! What'd you bring me? Oh, I missed you so much!" she cried burying her face in his neck.
"Iria, when are you going to teach your daughter some manners?" Heero tried to say seriously, but a small smile crept onto his face.
"I'm sorry, Heero," his sister laughed, "she missed you terribly! She's been sword-fighting the same poor tree in the yard since you left!"
He dug into the purse on his belt and pulled out Duo's necklace. "I brought this for my favorite niece," he said, dangling it in front of her. She grabbed it with a squeal. He put her down and knelt to help her with the clasp.
"Oh, thank you, Uncle Heero! I love it! I'll never take it off!" she gushed.
"And when you get a little older," Heero said as he presented her with the matching earrings, "you can wear these too." More squealing was heard.
Duo smiled. He didn't mind at all that Heero had given his jewelry to his niece. She seemed like a sweet kid, he'd probably have done the same thing himself. And it wasn't like he was going to need them now.
Heero remembered Duo standing at the door and motioned for him to enter the room. "This is Duo. How he came to be here is a story for another time, but he's a new addition to my household. Please show him back to my house if he gets lost in here." The Winners chuckled.
The blonde youth who looked about Heero's age stepped forward. "I am Quatre Winner. Welcome," he said warmly. He introduced five of his sisters, little Quaterine, Trowa, and his father.
"Master Winner," Duo said respectfully bowing his head a bit. He was trying to make a good impression and he hoped no one noticed he was wearing a pink dress.
"Hey, pretty dress!" Quaterine exclaimed, touching the fabric.
Duo tried not to blush. "Thanks! You know," he said confidentially as he knelt to her level, "you can have it when your Uncle gets me something else to wear."
"Really? And, oh, your hair!" she cooed, walking around him to tug the braid. "It's so long! I wish my hair could be that long!"
A few Winners chuckled, and Duo tried not to be too embarrassed.
"Heero, please dine with us tonight, we're throwing you a Welcome Home party!" Quatre said.
"Of course," Heero replied, "but I have a few things to take care of first."
Heero and Duo took the cart and horses around the corner to a quieter side-street. Duo discovered that the Winner House took up an entire block.
"Some first impression I made!" Duo complained to Heero. "Wearing a pink dress!" He didn't dare ask why Heero didn't look anything like the rest of his family, or why he used the name Yuy, even though curiosity was eating him up.
"Don't worry about it. I'll explain it to them later. I think they'll find it quite amusing," Heero replied. He pointed out the main entrance to his home but they entered through the servant entrance. Baltus, a thin man with grey hair, greeted him.
"Welcome back, Sir!" he said as he took the horses.
"Thanks you, Baltus, it's good to be back." Heero answered. "But of course they're throwing me a party," he added dreadfully.
"Sir..." Baltus chided good-naturedly as he tied the cart horse, "I've always said you should try to be a little more- Well, what do we have here?" he changed the subject when he noticed Duo.
"Baltus, this is Duo, he's here to help you out a little," Heero replied, removing the saddle from his horse.
Baltus took the saddle from him and put it on the rack. "But sir, Mona and I are doing just fine! Are you displeased with us?"
"No, no," Heero reassured him, "I just want to relieve you a little bit. He'll be taking care of any errands around town."
"Right, Sir," Baltus took another look at Duo. "Welcome, young man."
Duo was about to thank him when a stout older woman rushed in and immediately started fussing over Heero. How was his trip back? Was he thirsty? Hungry? Did he want a bath or a change of clothes? Was he taking proper care of that cut on his arm? Heero finally halted her hovering.
"Mona. Please. I am fine, thank you. Yes, a bath would be nice, but I'm taking Duo here into town before dinner with my family," Heero said motioning to the braided boy.
"Oh!" she said embarrassedly, covering her mouth, "I didn't even see you there young man! I apologize!"
Duo saw her staring at his pink dress. "Sorry, I already promised it to Quaterine," he said with a smile. She laughed embarrassedly again.
"Mona, would you please find Duo some proper clothes?" Heero requested.
Mona led Duo into the main parts of the house and upstairs to the linen closet. Heero's house was spacious and simply decorated. It was not nearly as ornate or lavish as his father's. Mona found some fabric and gave it to Duo. She blushed lightly and averted her eyes as the handsome youth pulled off the yards of pink fabric and tied on the white cloth she handed him. She was helping him secure all the loose ends when Heero appeared. He scrutinized Duo's new attire. Now in proper clothes, Duo looked older and taller than Heero had originally taken him for.
"Hn. I don't want you mistaken for a girl," Heero stated as he approached. He pulled off the top so that Duo was bare-chested. The few thin layers of white cloth that hung from his hips reached down a few inches above his knees. Heero dug in the cupboard and pulled out a leather belt beaded with the Winner insignia. He handed it to Duo. Duo made sure to cinch it so his only piece of clothing wouldn't fall off.
"Uhh... I feel a little naked in this," he admitted.
"With that hair, you might otherwise be taken for a girl," Heero responded.
"Well, why don't I just cut it then?" Duo asked impatiently.
"No," was all Heero said.
Duo gritted his teeth. It was becoming obvious what Heero was getting at, here. He wanted to give Duo a constant reminder that he was a slave and couldn't even do what he wanted with his own hair.
"Duo, what size sandals do you wear?" Mona asked, trying to get the boy to stop glaring at their master. After they found him the right size sandals, Heero led him out of the house through the front door. Heero didn't tell him where they were going. He was taking Duo to be registered, and he didn't think Duo would like that very much. He would like their second stop even less.
"Welcome home, Captain Winner," the scribe in the office greeted Heero.
"It's good to be back, Magnus," Heero answered, "I've got a new slave to register."
"Ok..." the scribe said as he shuffled through some papers. "Name?"
"Duo," Heero answered for him.
Heero looked at Duo. "Nineteen," Duo answered. He didn't know his birth date on the Roman calendar, so that had to stay blank.
"Brown hair and blue eyes..." the scribe finished.
"He is to be registered to me, not my family," Heero reminded the man.
"Right... " he said still scribbling. "Heero Winner Yuy. All right, you're all set."
Heero thanked him and tried to ignore the numb look on Duo's face.
The next stop was at Howard's metal forge. Heero knocked loudly on the door. An apprentice greeted them and brought them back to the work rooms where a balding old man looked up from the bellows.
"Master Yuy!" he exclaimed. "What can I do for you?" he asked his former master. Howard was a skinny old man with strange gray hair and an easy-going manner.
"Howard, my family freed you ten years ago, ‘master' really isn't necessary," Heero reminded him.
"What ever you say, Sir. Well, what do you need?" he asked again.
"I need you to make a... ‘necklace' for my new slave here," Heero said carefully, knowing Howard would understand. Howard took a look at the long-haired youth standing behind Heero.
"Hello there, young fella! Where ya from?" he asked.
"The countryside, about two-days ride east of here," Duo answered.
"Know anything about metal?" Howard asked, noticing Duo's interest in the shop.
"Not much, but I know a bit about weapons," Duo said eyeing the inventory.
"Well, go ahead and look around then, my friend!" the older man invited him.
Howard frowned. The new kid seemed friendly and competent. It was really too bad...
"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked Heero quietly as Duo poked around the store.
"Yes," Heero answered just as quietly, "I just got him, and he's a bit roguish. I'm afraid he'll run away."
"All right," Howard said unsurely as he grabbed a measuring string, "but you know this is never good for morale."
"Yes, I realize that. Make it the smallest you've got, and not too tight," Heero said ruefully.
Howard approached Duo carefully, "Ok now, kid, I just need to measure you."
"Sure," Duo replied, "go for it." Howard gently placed the string around the base of Duo's neck.
"You've got so much hair, here," he remarked with a chuckle, working around the thick braid.
"Yeah, The Captain over there won't let me cut it," Duo replied sarcastically.
Howard chuckled, he could see what Heero meant about the boy's attitude. He finished measuring and felt Duo's collar bones with his fingers. He felt bad for the boy, and he wanted to make this as comfortable as he could.
After having his neck measured and his collarbones felt, Duo was getting a little suspicious. He frowned, wondering what kind of ‘necklace' this was going to be. He watched with interest as Howard chose the right metal, heated it, cut to size and bent it to fit. He arranged letters on a stamp and stamped the still red hot metal, then dipped it into a waiting bucket of water.
Duo got a good look at it while Howard fixed the clasp on. It looked a little small... "HEY! Wait a minute!" Duo gasped and turned to Heero. "It's a COLLAR! You're gonna make me wear a fucking COLLAR!?" he fumed.
Heero stared at him a minute, shocked by his nerve and his foul language. "It's just for a little while, I don't want you - "
"HELL NO!" Duo snarled, backing away.
Heero was now angry. He did not like being spoken to this way. He took control of the situation. "Get back here," he seethed. "You will wear it. Don't make me hold you down."
Howard watched in alarm. This kid was in for it. Most people in town knew better than to face off with Heero Winner Yuy. He figured he'd better try and do something.
"Listen kid," Howard placated, "just do what he says and save yourself a lot of trouble."
"You ever worn one, old man?" Duo spat spitefully. "I sure as hell ain't gonna!" he glared as he inched toward the door.
Heero was furious now. While Duo's attention was still on Howard, he stormed over and slammed him face first into a wall and held him there easily. "Don't you talk to him like that!" Heero growled. "Howard!" he called, pressing Duo harder against the wall.
Howard came over to put the collar on. Duo struggled in vain. He could read the collar as Howard prepared to put it on him. It said "Property of Captain Heero Winner Yuy, please return if gone astray." ‘Property of,' Duo thought as his stomach tied up in knots, making him feel sick. Gods, no, this couldn't really be happening! Desperately, he wondered if he should beg.
"No!" he cried frantically as he struggled. "No, Master, I'm sorry! Please! I'll do anything! I'd rather wear women's clothes! Anything! PLEASE! I -"
Heero nodded to Howard, and Duo went limp when the metal ring encircled his neck and Howard turned the lock. Heero was glad he couldn't see Duo's face.
Heero let go and backed off. "It's only temporary," he said, his feathers still ruffled. "But if I see any evidence you've been trying to get it off, I'll have you beaten. Do you understand?" Heero asked as he dropped the little key into his purse.
Duo didn't take his eyes off the floor. "Yes," he whispered.
Heero started to feel a slight prickle of regret. He knew there was little difference between himself and the boy now wearing a collar. "When you prove that you are trust-worthy, I'll take it off. So, the amount of time you have to wear it is up to you," he added. He apologized to Howard and paid him extra.
"Take care!" Howard called as he watched them go. He wasn't mad at Duo at all. In fact he felt bad for him. Someone like that wasn't meant to be a slave, but he wasn't going to get anywhere with that attitude.
Duo followed Heero home wordlessly. He was feeling a confusing mixture of emotions. Angry, hurt, sad, a little betrayed, and cripplingly humiliated. Not only for yelling at poor Howard who tried to help him, but for being so easily defeated and calling that man ‘master.' He was thoroughly disgusted with himself, there was nothing more degrading than that. One thing was for sure: Heero Yuy was the strongest person he'd ever met.
 palestra - like an outdoor gym where men go to exercise, spar, and show off how manly they are. Usually done naked, correct me if I'm wrong.