For You I Suffer
As Heero opened the door to his study, Wing, sensing the imminence of dinner, raised himself from the floor and ambled to his master’s side. The baron threw the aged creature a fond glance and reached down to pet its head. The gesture prompted a disconcerting streak of jealousy to move through me. Other than his brief perusal of my face, my baron had not laid a gentle hand on me and I longed for his touch.
I shot the dog a dark glare as it ambled out into the hallway before us, conspicuously free of a leash. I, on the other hand, was forced to walk as Heero tugged on my own mortifying tether.
Malicious thoughts for the albino Lab kept my attention occupied for a few blissful moments. However, a voice raised in greeting viciously snapped me from my distractedness.
“Good evenin’, mi lord. That your new slave?”
I looked up for the owner of the voice and my eyes met the rheumatic orbs of an old man. Though he was clearly a servant – identify as such by his humble clothing and imprecise grammar – he spoke with confidence, evidently accustomed to being treated with respect. His blurred gaze raked over me, reminding me painfully of my nakedness.
My baron smiled at the old man. “Hello, Jay. Yes, this is my new pet. What do you think of him?”
Jay reached down to a strange pair of spectacles hanging around his neck. He put them on, covering his eyes entirely, and peered closely at me. “He's right pretty, yer lordship. Best lookin’ one I’ve ever seen. Even better ‘n Penella.”
They talked about me as if I wasn’t there. I ground my teeth together in an effort to keep from shouting that I was a person and not some dumb beast. I was certainly unable to appreciate Jay’s complement as I should have. I learned later that Jay, one of Windshire’s many gamekeepers, was the oldest servant in the castle. He had seen several generations of pleasure slaves come and go and his high opinion of me was something to be treasured.
At the time, however, I was not pleased and my displeasure only grew when Jay asked if he could touch my braid with his filthy hands. The only hands I’d ever allowed in my hair, dirty or otherwise, were my mother’s and my own. Even Hilde had never been granted the privilege. Eyes downcast to hide their angry gleam, I waited for Heero to refuse. I was his and surely he wouldn’t allow me to be sullied.
“Certainly, Jay. At your leisure.”
The baron’s calm words shocked me utterly. Even as Jay began to fondle my hair, I raised my eyes to Heero, desperately trying to capture his gaze. He looked at me silently until Jay finished his examination and moved off with a final farewell. My eyes were stretched wide with confusion, not only at the granting of Jay’s request, but also at the cold disapproval with which my baron was now regarding me.
“Don’t ever question my judgment.” Heero’s voice was as icy as his gaze. “You are mine to do with as I will. Never forget that.”
My lips trembled with the desire to apologize but the words caught in my throat. I hadn’t been his slave for more than a few hours and I had already angered my master. The sting of tears filled my eyes and as I manfully blinked them back, Heero’s gaze softened.
“You have much to learn, Duo, and will make plenty of mistakes. But you must know this. As I explained, you are my pet. Only Wing shares an equality with you and even he may often rank higher. You are no better than anyone in this castle, or indeed in Calderash entire. You will treat even the lowliest servant with the same respect that you show to me. Do you understand?”
As he spoke, a curious feeling of contentment filled me. I ought to have been infuriated with his denouncement of my status. But, rather than being resentful, I was glad. How could I be happy to be relegated to the status of an animal, you may ask? Because it meant I was free. Absolutely and completely free. I had no control over any part of my destiny, not even over my person. My very life was in Heero’s hands, his capable, masterful hands.
Ever since I’d inherited my parents’ farm, every facet of my survival had fallen upon my own shoulders. I admit that my sudden transition from child to man had not been an easy one. Before their deaths, my parents had always cared for me, leaving me the desirable freedom of childhood. Now, that feeling of being cherished and protected – of placing the responsibility for my life in another’s control - was once again within my grasp. The notion filled me with relief after the worry and struggle of the past year.
I bowed my head in acquiescence, my lips curved with a secret smile. Satisfied with my reaction, Heero walked on, leading me by the golden leash. The castle’s corridors were filled with servants and guardsmen going about their business. Though still uncomfortable with my public state of undress, I soon became accustomed to the appreciative glances I garnered. Apparently, there had been talk that the baron would be receiving a new pleasure slave and whispered comments, easily ignored, surrounded us.
There were no further interruptions to our passage and we came, at last, to the dining hall. Heero nodded at the guardsmen to open the large, elaborately carved doors. As the portal opened, revealing the endless clink of silverware and the chattering conversation of the inhabitants, I swallowed my trepidation and prepared myself for the sharp contrast of the rich clothing of the courtiers and my own bare skin. ‘They will ignore me, like the servants, or at least pretend to,’ I mused. That, I could handle.
So, of course, I was completely unprepared for what occurred.
Heero stepped into the dinning hall a mere moment before I did, but that brief span of time was sufficient for an ear-shattering silence to fall over the previously noisy diners. All eyes – over a hundred pairs – fixed upon me. Then, Heero stepped away as far as he could, holding only the very end of the leash. I was suddenly alone.
I couldn’t comprehend the reason for the disturbing hush of the assembly. Was my presence unexpected? Were the courtiers astonished by my nakedness and my shocking adornments? The servants, though curious, hadn’t seemed surprised by my appearance. I was thoroughly confused.
I stood utterly still, waiting frantically for some signal from Heero or for someone – anyone - to make a sound. A tug on my chain brought my frightened gaze to my master’s. Totally at his ease, Heero raised his free hand slightly and twirled a finger. I blinked at him stupidly until I realized he was asking me to turn around. Automatically, I obeyed, though my face became increasingly flushed with every passing second. Upon completing my rotation, I faced the diners again and glanced at the baron. He turned his eyes from me and looked questioningly at the gathering.
Suddenly, a single, sharp sound broke the quiet of the hall. Someone was clapping. A second sound of applause was heard, then another, and another. Soon, the entire hall was filled with ovation, the occasional “*Huzzah*” thrown in for good measure. Heero’s lips stretched in a smug smile as he nodded in acceptance of the appreciation.
It wasn’t until my baron led me towards the high table, which created the base of the U-shaped seating arrangements of the dinning hall, that I realized the approbation was for me. The courtiers we passed called out to Heero.
“Well, done, my lord!”
“More beautiful than even Penella!”
Far from engorging my ego, the praise magnified my humiliation a hundred fold. Never before had my status as a mere object been made clearer to me. To be beautiful and obedient. These were now my only aspirations, my life goals.
I just hoped I could reach them without causing my master any embarrassment. Already, my feet itched to run and my tongue ached to beg the baron to release me from my promise. Home and Hilde had taken on nirvanic proportions in my mind. But I was bound by my word. My father had taught me that a man was nothing without his honor and I was determined not to disappoint him now.
As we made our way to the head table, I glanced surreptitiously around the dinning hall. Lords and ladies clothed in decedent finery met my gaze in all directions. Each table was filled and I guessed that every nobleperson in Calderash was present.
I kept my head bowed and eyes lowered so it wasn’t until we passed it that I finally saw it. A chair, of sorts, sat isolated in the middle of the floor. But, unlike any ordinary seat, it was covered with what appeared to be short, dense, black fur. Its disposition was also unusual in that it was reclined, forcing anyone seated upon it to lie backwards. Most strange, however, were the curved platforms, plainly meant to support arms and legs. The armrests would force the recliner to stretch his arms out and over his head, bending them at the elbow. The leg supports were situated at a most awkward angle, causing the legs to bend slightly at the knee and spread to an almost uncomfortable degree. Both platforms were fitted with leather restraints. And the seat was conspicuously absent, the recumbent position making only a backrest necessary. The possible purpose for the peculiar furniture eluded me in my innocence, though its presence never left the back of my mind.
Finally, we reached the throne-like chair of the head place and a servant stepped forward to pull it away from the table. Wing was already resting beside the seat and looked up at his master in greeting. Two bowls of food and water sat on the floor. The first pair was in front of the Labrador while the other laid in front of another red, velvet pillow. Though not as large as the one in Heero’s study, it was obviously comfortable, and just as obviously meant for me.
The baron sat in his chair and glanced at me briefly before tugging on the golden leash. Obligingly, I sunk to my knees, arranging myself comfortably on the pillow. I looked up at my baron and met his deep blue gaze. Finally, I found the approval there for which I had longed. He reached down and patted my head before looking away. I smiled broadly, in spite of myself.
Dinner was efficiently served and, fortunately, my bowls were filled with wine and the same food served to the other humans rather than the dog food being consumed by Wing. Lacking any silverware, I ate with my hands as neatly as I could. I picked up my bowl to drink until a quiet command from Heero quickly reminded me of my station.
So, begrudging the dog’s graceful manner, I clumsily lapped at my wine, trying not to spill any on the floor.
Heero sat alone at his small table but, as the meal wound down, he began to receive visitors. The first few were of no importance, given Heero’s level of response to their words of greeting. However, the next few clearly ranked in the baron’s inner circle.
A man and two women stepped in front of the baron and he rose to meet them. Reaching out a hand, he clasped the other man’s in a firm grasp before bestowing a kiss on the fingers of both of the ladies.
“Lord Zechs and Lady Noin, Windshire’s Minister of Trade and his lovely bride,” he said plainly for my benefit. “I’m very pleased to see you. I trust your journey to Slaburry was fruitful. And our esteemed physician, Lady Sally.”
Though returning the baron’s welcome with the proper level of enthusiasm, the visitors’ attention was firmly fixed upon me. I kept my head lowered so as not to meet their stares but my accursedly fair complexion revealed my discomfiture. Unnoticed, I glanced up at them, hiding my scrutiny with the longish bangs hanging before my face.
“So you’ve finally done it, Baron.” The deep tones belonged to the tall, painfully handsome, and very blond Lord Zechs. With hair nearly as long as my own, though worn loose, his physique was even more impressive than my master’s and he speared me with his ice blue gaze. “Aren’t you a bit young to have a pleasure slave?”
Inwardly, I gasped at the minister’s cheek. Who was he to question my baron? But Heero merely laughed, confirming Zechs’s status as a close friend.
“Young I may be, Zechs. But Calderash has prospered as never before in this past year, even with this damned drought. I thought I deserve a reward for my efforts. I’ve chosen well, don’t you agree?”
“Oh, most assuredly,” Lady Noin interjected. She was tall, as well. Her black hair - almost mannishly cut but in no way detracting from her femininity - complemented her blue eyes, which were darker in hue than her husband’s. “Sally and I were just wondering where you found him?”
Sighing, I resigned myself to perpetual third-personhood as Heero answered. “He’s actually a farmer from a small village called Fashel on the western border. I came across him a year ago after he’d inherited his father’s farm. I was on a tour of the land and decided to perform the land transfer myself. Definitely one of my better ideas.”
My baron reached down to stroke my hair and I nearly purred with pleasure at the gesture and his words. At that moment, I felt utterly appreciated, like a rare jewel which Heero had been most grateful to discover. I would need that feeling to sustain me through what was soon to come.
“Well, you’ve done unquestionably well, my lord,” Lady Sally added in her own husky voice. Her slightly bronzed skin bespoke her foreign heritage. Her hair was light brown and secured in two, rather interesting twists. Gently slanting, dark-brown eyes were filled with the intelligence befitting her position as the castle doctor. ‘Were all of Heero’s friends beautiful?’ I wondered idly. Two more women joined the group at that moment, cementing an affirmative response to my internal query.
The older lady was regal in her air. She was tall for a woman, taller even than Lady Noin, and wore her long, brown hair in a straight style, all the more stunning for its simplicity. Her serious brown eyes flashed over me before coming to rest on the baron.
Her companion was not so subdued. The young woman, nearly still a girl, stared at me, allowing me to perceive her resemblance to Lord Zechs, though her long hair was a more subtle shade of honey blond. Noticing my glance, she smiled, kindly, light blue eyes twinkling with mischief. Startled at being so easily caught, I lowered my eyes, my previously calmed flush returning.
“Relena, how are you?” Heero pressed a fond kiss to the young lady’s cheek. “And Lady Une,” he added with a bow, “you grace me with your presence.”
“Oh, stop your cheek, Heero. Though you may be Baron, I’m still your aunt and not above tanning your hide.” Hearing my startled inhalation, Lady Une looked down at me once more. “Well, he’s certainly attractive, Heero. His performance, however, remains to be seen. Don’t forget how long it took your father to properly train Penella; and your mother was no different. You may yet face frustration.”
“I am not worried, Aunt. I have every faith in Duo.”
Somehow, I did not find Heero’s confidence completely reasurring. ‘Performance?’ What on earth did Lady Une mean by that?
“Oh, Heero,” Relena gushed. “I know we’re supposed to wait until dinner is completed to speak with you, but Lady Une nearly had to sit on me to keep me in my seat. Will he be presented? I’ve read all about it. I was too young to see Penella presented and I long to see such a spectacle.”
Heero chuckled – ominously in my opinion. “Yes, Relena, he shall. In fact, if I can find Quatre, the show will begin.”
Relena beamed. “I’ll get him!” she cried, dashing off in a manner not at all befitting a lady.
The identity of the elusive Quatre occupied my thoughts as the small group conversed quietly. Lord Zechs was informing Heero that he would depart again for Slaburry the next day to finalize a trade agreement that would ease the conditions in Calderash brought on by the drought. The baron was congratulating him for the quick resolution of the issue when Relena returned, dragging a young man in her wake.
The newcomer was nearly as blond as Lord Zechs but had eyes of a much more amiable aquamarine. He smiled broadly at the others, bowing easily in a show more of friendship than respect. I could tell by measuring him against Heero that the young man was even shorter than myself.
“Here he is, Heero,” Relena declared, breathlessly. So this was Quatre. What ‘show’ would now occur, I wondered.
“I’m sorry, my lord,” the young blond apologized. “I meant to come over before now, but I was, um, discussing something of great import with Lady Dorothy.”
The assemblage smiled at Quatre’s blush. There was obviously some intrigue there but I couldn’t find the wherewithal to be curious as the mysterious chair caught my eye once more. It loomed in my sight and I had a feeling that I would soon discover its function.
“That’s fine, Quatre,” Heero soothed. “Now if you would excuse us,” he said to the others, “I need to introduce these two.”
The gathering dispersed and Quatre stepped around the table to stand behind me. I could feel his gaze upon my back but remained motionless until prompted by a tug on my leash. I glanced up at the young blond before turning my eyes to my baron.
“Duo, this is Lord Quatre. Like his father before him, he is a slave handler. He will be your trainer and, next to myself, there will be no one more important in your life here at Windshire. You are to obey him without question and he will insure your success during your tenure as my slave. Do you understand?”
‘NO!’ my mind shouted. I didn’t want to answer to anyone other than Heero. He was my master. He was the reason I’d agreed to this debasement. I could tolerate anything as long as it was for his pleasure. But, I clearly had no say in the matter. I nodded in acknowledgement while my heart sank in dejection.
“Good,” Heero responded. By the glint in his eye, I could tell he was aware of my struggle but, fortunately, he refrained from mentioning it. He handed my tether to Quatre and I felt instantly abandoned. “It’s time to present my pet to the court. Please be so kind as to prepare him.”
Quatre smiled and pulled me to my feet. I kept my eyes on the floor so as to avoid any offense my looking down at him would have caused. A delicate finger underneath my chin forestalled my intentions. I looked up and was immediately comforted by my handler’s aquamarine gaze.
“Don’t worry, Duo. My purpose is to make certain you are well taken care of. Just do as I say, and no harm will come to you. Please think of me as a friend.”
So desperate was I for a confidant, that I nodded in ready agreement and returned his smile. Thus reassured, I followed him docilely out into the midst of the hall. Our destination remained unknown until we halted by the shackled chair. In hindsight, I can hardly believe my willful ignorance, but I looked at Quatre curiously, wondering why we’d stopped here.
“And now, Duo, you shall be proffered to the court. Relax and you’ll be fine. Just remember, you do this for Heero’s pleasure.”
Quatre was, indeed, a masterful handler, knowing instantly how to calm my nerves. For I had gone deathly pale at his words, the purpose of the chair finally impinging upon my understanding. The spread platforms, the reclining seat, the restraints ... they were, of course, all for me. My mind’s eye provided a stunning tableau of how I would appear arranged in the chair, completely naked. Everything, and I mean *everything*, would be exposed. My eyes fastened in horror upon the leg supports, precisely picturing what all would be revealed with my legs thus parted. Unable to speak, I stepped back reflexively, my mind rebelling at the very idea of what would occur.
Quatre felt my retreat through the chain and turned towards me. He smiled, almost sadly, and raised a hand to my bloodless cheek.
“For Heero,” he whispered.
I stared at him, his words and his eyes providing much needed encouragement. Yes, of course. At last I understood. Heero thought me beautiful and wanted to share his good fortune with his loyal courtiers. This was for Heero. It was all for my baron. And for my master, I could do anything.
Taking a deep breath, I nodded to my trainer. He smiled and led me towards the chair.