Quatre drew back the bowstring and let the arrow fly. It hit the very outside of the bull's eye. He frowned. He was agitated, so his marksmanship was off. He was still winning, with Heero in second, followed by Wu Fei, then Duo, and finally Zechs and Trowa were tied for last.
He just didn't like what was going on. His brother had brought Duo to the palestra almost everyday for a week, smiling and looking on like a proud owner as Duo competed with other people. Quatre didn't like the looks of it. Heero was treating him like a favorite pet doing tricks and Quatre was going to have a talk with him about it. He considered Duo a good friend and he wasn't about to let Heero treat him like this. On the way home, he asked Heero to come to house for a chat after he'd gotten a bath.
"Quatre, you were a little off today, something bothering you?" Heero asked later when he entered Quatre's study. Quatre had still hit the bull's eye every time, but the arrows hit to the outside a few times.
"Yes, Heero, it's the way you've been treating Duo," Quatre told him, cutting right to the chase.
"What about it?" Heero asked. He sat down but didn't feel comfortable.
"It's the same thing you did with Trowa!" Quatre accused. "It took me a little while to figure it out because I didn't think you'd do it again - and to Duo!"
"Quatre, what are you talking about?" Heero asked. He was starting to become offended.
"Your power plays Heero! You used Trowa to move ahead, to improve your status among the citizens, and now you're using Duo! He performs for the most important people in the city and you've got them all babbling with jealousy. Now, you're parading him around the palestra, showing him off. All this time, Heero," Quatre shook his head, "the collar, the clothes you have him wear, especially that outfit at the Emperor's celebration! You just want to make sure everyone sees how attractive and talented he is, because it's just one more thing you have that they can't have! Duo is a very special person, Heero! You shouldn't be using him this way, he cares about you!"
Heero was taken aback by his brother's accusations. He felt his natural defensiveness stir, but he snuffed it out. Quatre was just trying to protect Duo from a perceived threat, he could understand that impulse. He figured some of this outburst was residual anger from when he'd put Trowa in so much danger.
"Quatre, please listen," Heero started, "you are a good friend to Duo, I'm glad he has another person who looks after him." He paused. "I admit that I used Trowa, for all the reasons you said, but on the other hand, fighting was a skill he possessed that would allow him to earn freedom relatively quickly.
"It is the same with Duo! Believe me, if I had my way, he'd be locked in my house and no one else would be allowed to look at him. Why do you think I don't allow him to perform except in our home? He is very talented, and that is his means of acquiring his freedom." Heero paused again, wondering briefly if was ready to admit this.
"I suppose at first, I did recognize how attractive he was, and wanted everyone to know he belonged to me, but it isn't like that now. About the palestra recently... I'm just damned proud of him! I want everyone to see that he isn't just some erotic performer. He is a person, a very strong person capable of taking care of himself. Duo is making a name for himself, and it will help him when he is free. Do you see what I'm saying?"
Quatre thought about it and most of what Heero had said seemed to be true. Could Heero really care that much for Duo? It was an exciting prospect.
"Brother, I am sorry I misjudged your intention," he apologized.
"Don't think on it again, I know Duo has a good friend in you," Heero replied. "Oh, and that outfit at the awards ceremony was Treize's idea. I was appalled. It was actually much worse, but Duo refused to wear the rest of it."
Quatre broke into a smile. "What did Treize offer you for him?" he asked knowingly.
"Titles, land, money, anything I wanted," Heero answered calmly. "There were subtle threats and manipulations as well. He had me nearly convinced that Duo would be better of with him, performing for important guests, but I asked Duo what he wanted, and he said he didn't want to be sold, so I refused."
He had asked Duo? Quatre could scarcely believe this. "Good for you, Heero!" he said firmly. Heero was probably one of the only people in the world who could stand up to the Emperor and get away with it.
"So, you won't let your concerns about Duo get in the way of your archery game again?" Heero asked.
"I know there's no need," Quatre smiled.
Heero left then and was met by Baltus as soon as he entered his house.
"Sir, there's a man here to see you," Baltus told him, "I didn't recognize him, but he insisted on waiting for you."
Heero noted that Baltus sounded nervous, but he often got like that with strangers and Ms. Dorothy.
"He's waiting in your office, sir," Baltus continued, leading the way. Heero thanked him and opened the door.
"General," the man said graciously as he stood and bowed, "it is an honor." When the man stood upright again, Heero recognized him. The man was a Greek, with dark curly hair, clean-shaven cheeks, and a closely-cropped beard along his jaw line. Very few if any Romans wore beards these days.
"You are Domiodes, or am I mistaken?" Heero greeted him respectfully. The Greek was a famous artist greatly admired in Rome. Even a Greek barbarian could become famous and well-respected in such a cosmopolitan place as Rome was. Heero knew he had been visiting the capitol, he'd seen him at the palace.
"I am, Sir," the man responded with a disarming smile.
"What brings you calling on me?" Heero asked.
"I've come, Sir, to inquire about you're very talented performing slave," he said as neutrally as he could. So far, the General didn't seem nearly as abrasive as the Emperor made him sound. "I saw him at the recent ceremony and at the palestra a few days this week. I must say I'm very impressed with him-"
"He is not for sale," Heero interrupted in a tone that conveyed his finality.
"Ah, the Emperor said as much, but if you'd let me continue sir," the Greek artist placated the General, "I have come to ask whether I may use him as a model."
Heero thought about this as he sat down at his desk. Domiodes sat when he did. "You will be paying him?" Heero asked.
"I am prepared to pay ridiculous amounts," Domiodes promised.
"What are you thinking of using him for?" Heero asked.
"Right now, a statue of Mercury commissioned by patrons to the south. For a summer vacation home in Stabiae I believe," was the artist's answer.
"What would this require?"
"I have a studio set up here in town, he just has to come pose for a few hours while I carve a small version. I'm perfectly willing to split the time up over a few days, depending on how long you're willing to spare him. I will use the mock-up as a model for the actual statue, but I may require a little time from him as I'm carving the larger version," Domiodes told him.
Heero thought again. "If I agree, I want your oath that you will seek my permission before using his likeness on any other project.," Heero insisted.
The artist looked surprised, but he smiled. "Very shrewd of you, sir. You have my word."
"Shall I call him in so you can discuss a price?" Heero asked.
"Please!" the other man exclaimed.
Heero asked Baltus, who was hanging around outside the door like Heero knew he would be, to summon Duo.
"Am I interrupting?" Duo asked, poking his head around the door.
"Duo, this gentleman would like to speak with you," Heero said, beckoning him in.
"Oh, hi," Duo said as the man stood.
"Even more stunning up close," the man muttered approvingly as he looked Duo up and down. "Clearly, you wear no make-up on stage."
"Uh, no," Duo said wearily. He looked over at Heero, a little panicked. Heero just smiled back complacently.
"Where are my manners?" the man exclaimed. "Domiodes. It is a great pleasure to meet you, Duo."
"No shit!" Duo blurted out.
"Duo!" Heero said crossly.
"No, sir, the pleasure is all mine!" Duo insisted, "I'm a big fan! Your painting of Pomona and Vertumnus in the baths by the palace is one of my favorites!"
"Excellent!" the artist beamed. "Duo, I would like to use you as a model for a commissioned statue of Mercury. What would you say to this?"
"Me?" he asked in complete shock. "You want me? Well, hell yeah I'll do it!"
"Duo!" Heero groaned. He was never going to learn.
"It will require just a few hours in my studio," Domiodes told him. "The General said I should confer with you for a price."
Duo thought for a minute. "For each day in the studio, I want what ever price Heero charges for a regular performance, and I want painting lessons while you're in town," Duo finally replied.
The artist laughed. "Done!" he agreed and they set a time for Duo to come into the studio the following day. Heero agreed as long as Duo finished all his duties, which was what Duo knew he would say. Really, he knew Heero probably wouldn't ask him to do much that day so he could go on time.
Duo was floating on air the rest of the day. "I can't believe you are going to let me do this!" he gushed to Heero when Domiodes had left.
"As long as he pays you, and you agree," Heero shrugged.
Duo crossed his arms and smirked knowingly. "The statue isn't staying in the city, is it?" he asked.
Heero had to smile a little at Duo's deductive powers. "No," he conceded.
The day of the first posing, Duo ran around like a crazy man getting his chores done. As he'd guessed, Heero had not asked him to do anything extra that day. Heero waited out side his door as Duo got ready to go.
"Mind if I accompany you?" he asked, catching Duo on the way out.
Duo grinned. "Going to make sure Treize isn't waiting in the studio with golden wrist cuffs and a cage?" he joked.
Heero smiled just a little. "No," he said, "I just want to see the studio, and make sure he lives up to his end of the deal."
"Let's go then!" Duo exclaimed. Heero had to hurry to keep up with him as Duo practically ran to the studio.
"Duo! Wonderful to see you!" Domiodes greeted him at the door. "And I see you've brought the General as well," he smiled at Heero.
Heero nodded at the man, and they were let in. Heero wandered around the spacious room. It had many large windows that let in plenty of natural light. There were carving materials and tools all over the place, and one corner was devoted solely to paints and plaster. He looked through a sketchbook and barely registered Duo getting into costume until he asked, "Heero, can I be naked?"
Heero turned around. Duo was wearing the winged helmet and sandals, and a loincloth. It did look a little silly. "Yes, you can be naked for art, Duo," he answered. Then he made sure, "As long as you want to be naked."
"Well, it is for art," Duo answered bravely.
"Well, then I see no reason not to," Heero told him. Heero also knew the artist wouldn't use what Duo's genitals actually looked like. He turned back around before Duo removed the last article of clothing.
He was really in a situation now. He wanted to look, by the gods he wanted to see Duo without that damned skirt, but he stopped himself. A little voice asked what could possibly be the harm. The artist would get to see him! The artist would get to stare at him for the next few hours! Heero was his owner, he should at least get a glimpse.
Any voice that told Heero he owned Duo was to be ignored. Heero decided to leave. Naked Duo stood between him and the door, so he just glanced sideways and hurriedly crossed the room.
"See you at home, Duo," he muttered as he slipped out the door.
Artist and model observed his exit, puzzled. Domiodes looked at Duo, who shrugged.
"See this?" Domiodes asked Duo, gesturing to a block of stone one foot square and three feet tall. "This is going to be you!" Domiodes exclaimed as he began posing him. He got to work then, but it was not silent for long.
"Apollo's son," he observed of Mercury. "You could be Apollo himself, Duo, you are very beautiful."
"Thanks!" Duo chirped nervously. He began to wish Heero hadn't left.
"Perhaps I will use you as him next time," the artist mused. "So tell me, you were a mercenary before becoming a handmaiden? What a change!"
"Yeah," Duo answered, relieved to be talking about safer topics. "My band got captured when we tried to take on a big city. Well, I thought it was big - I'd never seen Rome! I escaped torture and probably death by being a handmaiden. You were a slave once too, weren't you?"
"That is right. I was already famous in Athens, and taken prisoner in whatever skirmish was going on at the time. It was about 10 years ago, I think," he answered, positioning the chisel. "You know how the Romans like to make slaves of the talented and put them to work."
"Yeah!" Duo snorted.
"I earned my way out of slavery in a few years. I had a relatively fair master, but I paid my worth. I'm sure you've been assigned a worth as well. Isn't it odd to think of yourself has having a monetary value?" he mused as he chiseled.
"It is," Duo agreed, "although, I'm not even sure what mine is."
Domiodes raised his eyebrows elegantly.
"I've got a few years left, though," Duo sighed.
"Duo, no looking sad while you're posing," the artist reminded him.
"Oh, right," Duo chuckled.
They chatted on as Domiodes worked, but Duo could only pose for so long before he got sore, so they broke for a painting lesson. Duo pulled on his skirt and joined his new friend by the paints.
"Yet another talent!" Domiodes exclaimed after coaching Duo for a while. Duo beamed.
They wrapped up the lesson and Duo got home in time to serve dinner and tell Heero how much fun he'd had and everything he'd learned.
"Are you going back tomorrow?" Heero asked.
"Yes, that's ok right?" Duo asked.
"As long as you finish things here," Heero nodded.
"Wanna come again? You could stick around this time! Domiodes is a really good guy," Duo offered.
"No, I have a few things to attend to tomorrow," Heero answered.
The next day, Duo finished his chores in a hurry again and got to the studio as soon as he could. The posing went well as long as Duo could stand it, then he dressed again for another painting lesson.
Today, Domiodes instructed Duo on correct shading and shadowing. "Very good," he appraised as Duo shaded a face.
"Yeah, I think I'm getting the hang of this," Duo nodded, continuing, "the light in here is really good."
Domiodes watched for a while longer before speaking again. "Duo, I like you very much," Domiodes admitted, "perhaps you and I could develop a deeper relationship?"
Duo recognized the artist's gentle proposition. It was not really legal to sleep with someone else's slave without permission, since it was a matter of property, but Domiodes was saying ‘I won't tell if you won't tell.' Duo was actually quite flattered, this was the first time someone had actually asked him what he wanted instead of treating him like a slave who had to obey. Duo understood that he could agree, or kindly refuse by hiding behind the law. He like Domiodes a lot, but not like that.
"I don't think Heero would like that very much," Duo said as kindly as he could.
"Ah," Domiodes said, and smiled in a bittersweet kind of way.
"But painting lessons would be ok!" Duo reminded him with a grin.
Domiodes laughed. After a moment, he observed, "General Winner seems quite protective of you, has you in a collar, and I noticed you have such a relaxed demeanor around him. Perhaps you already have a special relationship. I apologize for my effrontery."
"With Heero?" Duo nearly laughed. "No, no, he's Winner to the core. We're just friends."
The Greek artist paused to think about this with his hands clasped behind his back. "But you like him very much. Perhaps you would like such a special relationship," he suggested with a knowing smirk.
Duo's eyes bugged. "What? No! I - I've never been with a man, I don't think that's for me! Besides, Heero isn't interested." Duo's mind spun. The Greek was off his rocker for sure. Heero wasn't interested in him, and he certainly didn't want it to be like that with Heero. Sure, he was gorgeous, and Duo liked being around him, and he had a great body, and Duo had watched him take a bath... Shit! Ok, so maybe Duo realized that he was an attractive man, but that didn't mean he wanted to sleep with him, right? Duo frowned. He'd never seriously considered having sex with another man before; the sexual relations confused him. There were too many options! At least with a woman, it was clear who was penetrated - unless some creativity was involved, but Duo had never gone there. But with two men... Duo knew how it was decided in this society, the less powerful partner got fucked. He wasn't sure he wanted that kind of thing. Would he want Heero to do that to him?
"Stop thinking about your inexperience with anal sex and get back to painting!" Domiodes exclaimed exasperatedly.
Duo froze and turned beet red.
The Greek laughed at his model's expression. "Sorry," he apologized without any hint of actual contrition, "slipped out."
Duo shot him a half-hearted glare as he tried to collect himself. He put brush to paint again, and when he had managed to cease all thought of confusing sexual relations, Domiodes leaned into his ear and whispered, "It's not as bad as you think, you'll probably like it."
Duo turned to him, holding the brush like he was going to stab him with it. "I'm trying to concentrate," Duo growled.
Domiodes managed to stifle his laughter this time. "Ok, ok, I won't do it again," he promised, and Duo got back to work. "Today," the artist added.
Duo rolled his eyes. God, this was worse than being around Zechs.
-I made the name Domiodes up, I modified the word "Dolmades," a Greek dish I had at a restaurant recently!! ^_^ Dolmades are beef and rice wrapped in grape leaves. lol FYI: greek pronunciation. I know nothing about ancient greek, but here's the modern pronunciation. Doh-MY-oh-dees.
-Also, it would take a lot longer than "a few years" for a slave to be freed, but I didn't want Domiodes to be TOO much older than Duo (although that would have been more in the Greek style!). As if anyone didn't know this, the ancient Greeks were really big on homosexuality, more so than the Romans. Boys and youths were the most desirable.
-As for Domiodes being a "barbarian," he's perfectly civilized. Lol To the Romans, anyone who was not Roman was automatically a barbarian. Such an attitude is practically a requirement of any Imperial nation.