For You I Suffer
Before I had even fully awakened the following morning, I knew I was alone. I slowly opened my eyes on what was becoming a distressingly familiar scene. The other side of the bed stretched out before me, my own body heat providing the only source of warmth to the sheets. The cloud of sadness which had accompanied me into slumber began to reform, blotting out the wisps of joy I had been able to snatch from the shocks and revelations of the previous day.
My downward spiral into abandoned despondency might have continued unabated, but my trainer soon appeared. He asked me no questions regarding what had occurred between my master and myself the previous night. Instead, his manner was markedly, if forcibly, cheerful as he took me in hand, as though he were privy to cause behind the bleakness of my mood and was determined to thwart it. He told me matter of factly that Heero was already hard at work, having found some matter or other that required his immediate and undivided attention. My sorrow was such that it did not bother to increase at the news. The fact that I had awakened without my master told me all I needed to know about my place on his list of priorities.
My trainer led me to Helen, but rather than leaving me in her care, he lingered as she bathed me and prepared me for the day. I felt her gaze upon me, taking careful note of my lethargy, but I was unable to find the energy or desire to reassure her. Quatre’s chatter continued unabated until it sunk to an indistinguishable murmur in my awareness. Thus I completely missed his explanation of what was to be my task for the day. My disinterest lingered through the remainder Helen’s ministrations and her subsequent departure, even her dark scowl as she left making little impression.
Quatre continued to talk as he applied my cockring and my nipple clamps, the later barely causing any discomfort. I continued to ignore him as he picked up my chain and led me from the baron’s suite. I knew that we were not going to Heero’s study and therefore I could not find any interest in our destination. But my suppressed curiosity bothered to stir the slightest bit when I suddenly felt sunshine on my face and realized that my trainer had led me into the stable yard.
"So, pretty one, do be sure to tell me if you do not feel up to visiting Trowa today," Quatre said, continuing the previous flow of his one-sided conversation. "I do not wish you to overtax yourself." He stopped and looked at me as when I did not respond. "Duo?" His expression turned fretful. "Perhaps this is not the best thing for you right now. Indeed, I shall tell the gamesman that you will join him some other day...."
"No," I finally replied. Snatches of Quatre’s prattle came back to me and I realized that Trowa had requested my presence to help him complete the tasks necessary to prepare against the coming winter. Summer was nearly ended and I understood the need to lay by supplies before colder weather set in. Although I was ever wary of the handsome gamesman, I decided that some hard, honest labor was probably just what I needed. There was nothing like mindless physical toil when you did not want to be at the mercy of your thoughts.
"I feel fine," I assured him. My trainer peered at me doubtfully, but I returned his gaze levelly, leaving him with no obvious objections. He sighed, concern etched upon his brow, but he nodded and accepted my avowal at face value.
Knowing what to expect rendered my subsequent harnessing much less of an ordeal. My dildo was once again absent, the baron’s impassioned attentions, though greatly welcomed, having left me nearly as sore as had Treize’s abuse. I pulled impatiently at the straps once they were connected to Quatre’s cart, testing my strength against the conveyance and anxious to be moving.
The weather was idyllic, clouds providing just enough overcast to keep away the worst of the late summer heat and to offer my pale skin some protection. My booted feet fell in a steady rhythm upon the ground as I ran, and it felt good to indulge in physical exertion after days of being cooped up in the castle. Quatre kept up a steady patter of undemanding conversation as we traveled, and soon the gameskeeper’s hut appeared through the trees outlying the immense span of Furuiki.
Trowa was standing out in the small yard in front of his cottage and he stopped what he was doing to monitor our approach. Even before we were close enough for Quatre to call out a greeting, I could feel the electric caress of his half-shuttered emerald gaze. Suddenly, my breath came quickly - from my recent exertion, I told myself, and surely not from the sudden rush of heat engendered by the bold directness of the gamesman’s stare.
But try as I might, I could not deny his appeal. My heart was still tender and bruised and I was mired in doubt as to my status in my master’s affections. Trowa’s forthright expression of interest poured over my tattered ego like a soothing balm and I could not help but be affected.
"A good morning to you, sir gamesman!" Quatre’s smile was bright with cheerful welcome and amusement at the continuation of his joke. Trowa returned the greeting with a nod, not bothering to again correct my trainer as to the inappropriateness of the bestowed rank. Instead he kept his gaze fixed upon me, seemingly determined to interfere with the proper rate of my pulse.
"I have brought Duo to you as you requested," Quatre went on, undisturbed by Trowa’s lack of verbal response. He had known the gameskeeper for some time and was quite use to his taciturn disposition. My trainer walked over to the taller man and took his hand in a friendly clasp. "The baron, once again, finds himself overwhelmed with matters of state, so I do hope you will be able to keep our dear Duo sufficiently occupied today." Trowa’s piercing gaze had not wavered from his thorough perusal of my naked person, and one eyebrow raised in appreciative speculation as a blush colored my exposed skin in response.
"Indeed," he replied. "The warm weather and lack of rain has dried out the stand of trees I planted a few years ago and they are ready for harvesting for firewood. I could certainly use Duo’s help with that." One side of his shapely mouth turned up in a quirky smile as he glanced at my trainer. "Both myself and the animals who seek shelter in my stables during the harsh winter months would be most grateful for his assistance." Quatre shared in his amusement.
"Excellent! I shall leave him to you, then." They exchanged further pleasantries as Trowa came to release me from my harness. His nearness distracted me such that I was unable to follow their continued conversation, my attention captured instead by the intoxicating scent of maleness that wafted from him with every movement. Once I was free, Quatre begged a horse to see him back to Windshire. Soon the borrowed mount was saddled, and with a fond kiss to my cheek, my trainer was away, leaving me and my rapidly dwindling self-control alone with temptation.
We stood silently for a long moment, Trowa returning my wary glance as he stood before me, so close that I could feel the body heat that radiated from him. He examined my face minutely, frowning as noted the tale tell ravages of sleeplessness and stress. I looked down as he reached toward me, and closed my eyes when the rough pad of his thumb gently traced the darken circles smudging the delicate skin beneath them.
To his credit, he leashed whatever curiosity my distressed state aroused. Instead, he merely let his hand linger tenderly against my cheek before releasing me from the intensity of his regard. I inhaled deeply as he stepped away, unconsciously seeking the lingering traces of his unique scent. When I realized that I was actually sniffing the air in search of it, I was mortified, grateful that the gamesman had not seen my humiliating behavior.
With a wave of his hand he motioned for me to follow him to a small outbuilding situated between his cottage and the stable. I did so, glad that I was wearing boots as I walked over twigs and the occasional rock that littered the ground. This was clearly an area where Trowa was wont to work, identified as such by the various tools that lay about. I saw a stone wheel for sharpening blades, and a pair of sawhorses for supporting wood during cutting. I also noted a large stump perfect for supporting wood to be split, an axe lying against it in readiness.
The bucolic setting did much to ease the tension in my shoulders and the tightness in my chest. As before, I welcomed the promise of honest labor, glad to be granted a temporary respite from the mounting emotional traumas of castle life.
"As I told Quatre, I need to replenish my store of firewood. I plant trees for just such a purpose every year, and the four-year-old saplings are ready for harvesting." Trowa pointed to a grove of trees just to the west of the stables, stretching from that structure to the very border of the forest. There were several distinct groupings, ranging from the slender trunks of the newly planted saplings which would be harvested in several years to the older, sturdier trunks which were my goal for today. The latter group was the farthest out, several of the young trees disappearing into Furuiki, itself.
We entered the small workshed, and Trowa left me by the entrance as he moved deeper into the structure. I watched him grab several items before he returned to my side, holding, to my astonishment, thick work-gloves, a rough-spun tunic, and a pair of brown leather leggings. I accepted the offered items, blinking at him in astonishment as I looked at the proffered clothing. It had been weeks since I had worn anything resembling a proper garment and the objects looked almost alien. Trowa smiled softly at my confusion.
"You will be chopping down trees, Duo, and if there’s time, help split them, as well. It wouldn’t do to have you get splinters from flying wood." The rationale was simply practical, but a well-spring of emotion rose within me, and to my horror, I could feel tears welling in my eyes. For the first time since I had arrived at Windshire, someone was treating me like a person, like a true human being. I clutched the garments gratefully to my chest, my head bowed in hopes that the gamesman would not notice my untoward show of emotion.
"Thank you," I whispered. Trowa gazed silently at the top of my head for a moment before grunting in acknowledgment of my tremulous gratitude.
"Go on and put those on," he ordered, moving past me and back into the yard. I shivered as the rough cloth of his tunic brushed against my arm. "When you’re ready, meet me outside." I dressed as quickly as I could, not wishing to offend his generosity.
The unfamiliar sensation of wearing clothes was unaccountably disquieting, and in a corner of my mind I marveled at how accustomed I had become to being naked. Once clothed, I joined him as requested. He stood by the large stump, the axe now resting in his grasp. I admired the flex of muscle in his arms and back, visible even beneath his tunic, as he absently swung the tool back and forth. When I reached him he held out the axe.
"I just sharpened it this morning, so be careful," he warned as I took it. I could feel my humanity returning to me bit by bit as I took up the tool, the cloth of the tunic and heaviness of the leather reassuring against my skin. My boots were warm and sturdy about my feet and I could almost pretend that I was back on my own land with nothing more pressing to concern me except the daily business of running my farm. I hefted the axe, noting the fine balance of the tool and instinctively knowing that Trowa had made it with his own hands. Trowa looked toward the far stand of trees.
"Why don’t you gather ten or so for now? Other than the plowing you did for me, I’m sure it has been a while since you did any proper work. I’ll be amazed if you are able to move your arms tomorrow." He chuckled and turned to walk away. I stared at him in surprise, he had gone perhaps a dozen feet before I collected myself enough to call out after him.
"Wh-where are you going?" I asked. Surely he was not going to leave me to my own devices with a full set of clothing, boots, a weapon, and the perfect means of escape at hand. He barely paused as he glanced back at me over his shoulder.
"I need to run my trapline. I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just shout if you need me for anything." With that he was gone and I stood frozen with astonishment at the unbelievable trust he had just placed in me. It would be so easy, so easy for me to flee into the woods, making my way back to Fashel as best I might, leaving this madness behind me forever. Though I would be breaking my agreement with the baron, I doubted he would chase after me. To do so would be to acknowledge my willfulness and his inability to fully tame me. I would be nothing but an embarrassment for him, a blemish on his otherwise spotless name and reputation. His authority would be forever tarnished both amongst his own countrymen and amongst Calderash’s neighbors.
Or maybe I was just thinking far too highly of myself. I shook my head in disgust as I turned and walked toward the site of my impending labors. A humorless bark laughter passed my lips at my ridiculous flight of fancy. As though I would ever willingly leave my master for any reason. If love was a fool’s game then I was the biggest fool to have ever lived. I was Heero’s slave in far more than name. Even if he never returned my feelings, I would rather languish at his side than prosper alone.
I reached the nearest of the largest saplings and studied it for a moment to decide on the most efficient strategy to bring it down. The first tree proved the most stubborn as I struggled to regain my accustomed proficiency with the task. But I had spent many long hours chopping wood in the past and it did not take long for me to get into a rhythm, the familiar, uncomplicated feel of swinging an axe a comfort as I tried to quiet my thoughts.
After felling the two of the saplings nearest the gameskeeper’s cottage, I decided to continue from the section of the stand farthest away and work my way backward. That way, once I had a larger brace of trees to carry, I would not have as far to walk. In order to maximize the growth potential of the saplings, Trowa had planted them several yards apart from their fellows so that they might get sufficient light to grow strong as quickly as possible. The most distant saplings were just at the boundary of the old forest and the air was cooler as the massive trees blocked out the sun.
The sound of my axe was loud, demoting the common sounds of the forest to mere background noise. So I cannot fault myself overly for not immediately noticing when the birds stopped singing, the scuttle of ground dwellers fell into silence, and even the buzzing insects abruptly ceased their racket. The quiet growl initially went unheard until it had grown near enough that I could not fail to perceive it. I froze at the sound, a primordial fear tightening my muscles in unconscious preparation to flee. The breath stilled in my throat in a now familiar reaction to my growing panic, increasing the quiet of the forest and allowing the menacing sound to reach my ears all the more clearly.
The woods around my home were far younger and sparser than the magnificent expanse of Furuiki and did not support large predators. So the gray wolf that slinked out from the shadow of the massive, old trees was a strange, new sight. One part of me marveled at its graceful, stalking approach, the deadly power contained in its rangy form forcing a comparison with my master. The other, more practical, part, however, screamed with the silent terror known to all beasts who have come face-to-face with a predator.
I was intensely aware of how very alone I was, my hands clenching reflexively around the axe and I clutched at my sole means of protection. The canid stared at me with an unwavering, silver gaze, and I grew certain that it meant to hypnotize me with the power of it. My breath came in short, desperate gasps as the beast closed the distance between us, and it was only because I was watching it so intently that I noticed the slight tremor in its rightmost hind leg. I spared a brief glance and determined the cause - a long gash rent the haunch above its leg, oozing blood and pus indicative of a nasty infection.
Still, the wolf showed no signs of being at all hampered by its wound. It stopped only when it was a few feet from where I stood trembling. Fear sent a surge of adrenaline streaking through me and my senses seemed heightened as the beast crouched down in an unmistakable prelude to an attack. Time slowed as the wolf leapt at me with a guttural snarl. I could see every mote of dust disturbed by its passage as it flew through the air. Every varying shade of the wolf’s dark gray fur resolved itself in my vision, and I could smell the putrescence of the creature’s breath as it neared.
Prepared though I was by that ancient chemical spike running through my blood, I was nowhere near fast enough to avoid the assault. The beast fell on me, its weight, though less than my own, backed by the compact power of sheer muscle. The wolf bore me to the ground and I barely had the presence of mind to bring up the axe so that the beast sunk its sharp fangs into the handle instead of my throat. I cried out as it pounced, the shout silenced to a whimper as the force of my impact with the hard ground knocked the wind from me. Fooled for a few, brief moments that it had my flesh in its teeth, the wolf shook its head ferociously, attempting to tear out my jugular. I held on to the axe for dear life, hoping against hope that it might continue to be deceived. But it soon realized that it was chewing on wood rather than flesh and released its hold on the axe.
I drove the handle against its muzzle with all of my strength, the sudden move startling the animal enough so that it fell back several paces with a sharp yip, allowing me to scuttle backward on my elbows in a desperate bid to put distance between us. The beast snorted and growled, attempting to rid itself of the pain the axe handle had caused. It recovered with alarming swiftness and soon had me once again in its sights. Having seen that I would not be such easy prey, the wolf hesitated, watching my frantic attempts to escape. I continued to move away still on my back, afraid to make any movement that would provoke the beast or cause me to lose sight of it.
But the creature’s eyes were lit with an unholy fire. Later I would come to understand that it was merely the pain of its injury that had driven it to attack such unlikely prey without the benefits of a pack, but at that moment I feared the devil himself had taken possession of the beast. Its growl intensified, growing in volume and violence until it hurt my ears. My heart hammered in my chest, threatening to burst free and offer the hunter yet another tasty morsel to feed its hunger. I watched helplessly as its muscles bunched in preparation, knowing that I would be hard pressed to fend it off again. It took a step backward to better gauge its leap and I brought the axe up again in a pitiful gesture of self-defense.
This time everything happened so quickly that it was not until I heard Trowa calling my name as he broke out from the trees that I realized I was staring down at the wolf as it lay motionless at my feet. The dust from its fall was still settling as I noticed the two darts sticking out from the creature’s muscular neck. My wide, frantic gaze remained locked on the wolf as Trowa reached me and hauled me into his arms. From the corner of my eye I saw the tube of a blow dart in his hand and the part of my mind made logical with shock put the pieces together.
"Duo, are you alright?" His voice was gruff with a strength of emotion I had never thought to witness from the laconic gamesman. Several braces of animals from his traps lay neglected in the dirt at his feet where he had dropped them in his haste to grab me. I did not answer, my chest heaving with ragged breaths and my gaze locked on the wolf as I watched it for any sign of movement. Trowa shook me slightly before holding me even more closely against his firm chest. "Damn it, Duo, answer me!"
"Is it dead?" I whispered, unable to force more volume from my breathless lungs. The wolf’s side moved slowly, and I cringed away, pressing into Trowa before I realized that my question was answered. My attention never waiver though I realized the motion was simply due to creature’s slumberous breathing.
"No, just stunned." He shifted the tube, calling it to my attention. "I always carry blow darts tipped with a tranquilizer with me when I go into the forest. Though I would never kill one of the baron’s creatures, I am aware of the danger. As you see, Furuiki is full of beasts, but I have never seen a lone wolf attack a full grown man. I should never have left you unprotected," he growled. I laid my head against his chest as the tension and adrenaline slowly bled out of me, leaving me sore and exhausted.
"It is wounded," I said. Trowa grunted, agreeing with my unspoken assessment.
"That would explain it, then. It must have been mad with pain, otherwise it would never have targeted you." He held me away just far enough so that he could look into my pale face. His generous lips were pinched with concern, and his green eyes were dark with anger as he made no secret of the object of his fury. "Duo, please forgive me. I was a bloody fool to leave you alone like this. Of all people, I know what dangers abound out here so close to the forest. I am so sorry."
As I returned his intense gaze, it hit me all at once. I had been perilously close to death but had been saved not a moment too soon. Once the tears started they did not stop easily. I did not sob aloud, but I buried my face into Trowa’s shirt, my hands tightening around the fabric until it threatened to rip beneath the strain. The gamesman made no attempt to comfort me other than to hold me close, his arms a welcome cage of safety. I reveled in the uncomplicated display of affection as I went through the cathartic motions of shedding the last of my terror.