For You I Suffer
The sun was low in the sky by the time we reached the castle stable yard, bathing the world in a warm, orange glow. The terrible excitement of the day was beginning to catch up with me, and exhaustion slammed into me with an almost physical force. I was heartily glad to be released from the carriage harness, sighing as the last leather strap was removed. Quatre, still distracted by his continued worry over my wellbeing, continued his rambling, nervous chatter as he led me into the castle proper. I followed unsteadily in his wake, my eyes drooping. Several times it was only my tether that kept my feet moving as I aspired to fall asleep while still standing.
My trainer must have sent word ahead of our arrival for when we reached the baron's suite, Helen was waiting for us. Quatre greeted her cheerfully, though his rapid fire speech and manner was a bit manic. Helen noted his distress, a raised eyebrow indicating her curiosity. The other lifted to join it as she took in my somewhat bedraggled state, as well as the large bruise beginning to form across my chest from where the large wolf had slammed into me. She tsked worriedly, laying her hand across the darkening skin.
"What on earth caused this, pray tell?" she demanded, her motherly tone brooking no hesitation. Quatre rushed to oblige her, eager to talk about my adventure as a way to share his own deep concern. His explanation shot forth with lighting speed, rambling back and forth as the blond sought to relate everything about the incident seemingly all at once. Even I, who had lived it first hand, could barely follow, but one phrase was clear and Helen blanched, her gaze flying over me to seek hint of further injury as she echoed it.
"Attacked by a wolf?!" She grabbed my arms, threatening to add to the bruises covering my torso. I winced as the force of her grip pulled at the muscles in my shoulders and back, which I had not known were suffering from tension-bourn strain until that very moment.
"Blessed be, I've not heard of wolves botherin' anyone about these parts since I was a girl in pigtails." Her country accent became more pronounced as her agitation soared. "Duo, thank heavens you weren't killed! I've heard of wolves doing horrible things to people in the past. What on earth is that blasted gameskeeper about that he should let such monsters roam free near the very castle itself?!" I could see that she was working herself up into a full-blown bout of indignant, maternal fury, and I interrupted before she could mistakenly lay further blame at Trowa's feet.
"It was not his fault in the least. The wolf was hurt and crazed with pain. Otherwise, as the gamesman assured me, it never would have attacked a full-grown man." I moved closer to her so I could wrap my arms about her ample waist, squeezing to reassure her, once more, that I was unharmed. "It was simply my misfortune for crossing the poor creature's path. I must admit, I did fear for my life at the time, and was more than willing to attribute the wolf with evil intent. But when I was safe and the truth of its predicament became apparent, Trowa and I could not help but be moved to pity. Quatre has said that he will allow me to return to the gamesman's homestead to help him nurse the wolf back to health. Truthfully, I am glad that he spared the creature's life."
Helen's gaze was skeptical at first, but she calmed slowly as I spoke. She shook her head at me as she sniffed away the tears welling in the corner of her eyes. I smiled at her as the increasingly familiar weight of her capable hand came to rest against my cheek.
"You are truly a treasure, my boy." She returned my hug gently, mindful of the sore spots on my chest. "I am sure that I would not have been so gracious had it been me." My trainer nodded fervently in agreement.
"Nor would I." Quatre glanced at me fondly. "But clearly, our Duo is made of sterner stuff that either of us." He chuckled. "As he said, I have given him permission to see to the wolf's recovery, and I am sure he will keep us apprised of its progress." His gaze sharpened when I swayed on my feet, and Helen offered much needed support as she bore me up as I slumped over her.
"Well, what's done is done, and I am grateful we can speak of it without undue grief. Now, we have idled quite long enough. My boy is dead on his feet."
Without further ado, she ushered me into the bath chamber, and I groaned with pleasure as my clamps and ring were removed and I lowered myself stiffly into the hot, scented water. Helen was thorough in her attentions as usual, but was more careful than was her wont, as though she still feared I suffered from some injury I had not revealed. I smiled sleepily at her caution but said nothing, quite content to let her care for me. Soon I was squeaky clean, and after deftly applying a thick towel to the water coating my skin, Helen led me to the sitting room. We retired to the sofa before the fire, taking up our usual positions so that she might brush my hair dry.
Quatre had not joined us in the bath chamber and he was absent when we entered the sitting room. But he soon reappeared, unexpectedly slipping through the main door rather than entering from the bed chamber where I had thought he had gone. I peered up at him curiously with my one eye that yet remained open, and he did not bother to disassemble.
"I sought out the baron to relate the details of your ordeal, Duo. No use in letting him be caught off guard by your injuries, mild though they might be." The blond ignored the frown I directed toward him. "Besides," he continued, "I thought Heero might wish to assign a patrol of soldiers to search the woods for any more wolves that might be lurking about." I lifted my head from my knees, fear for the unknown beasts stirred me to protest.
"But, my lord, what will they do if they find any? Kill them? As I have sworn, I was only attacked because the wolf was hurt." Quatre nodded but was unrepentant.
"Indeed, but a child might not have been so fortunate as you. Do not fear, Duo," he soothed as I made to speak again, "I have no doubt that the baron will insist on all due care for the animals' safety. But he must also consider his people. No, likely the soldiers will be ordered to simply chase the creatures away from any populated areas, should any even be found."
I subsided, knowing that nothing I could say would make any difference. Plus, Quatre was correct, if I had been confronted by a pack of wolves rather than one lone beast, I would surely not be sitting there to contemplate their fate. Best that any that were around be encouraged to leave, for their own sakes as well as that of the people of Windshire. Still, I looked forward to seeing what I had quickly come to consider as my own wolf the following day. But at that moment, all I desired was sleep. My head dropped back to my raised knees and Helen was forced to shake me gently to wake me from my slumber when she was finished with my hair.
She bid us a good night, placing a kiss on my cheek before quitting the suite. For once, my trainer was content to hold his peace as he led me to bed. I shuffled after him, more asleep than awake as I fell face-first onto the bed. I grunted softly as I landed on my sore chest, but a graceless wriggle soon gained me a more comfortable posture. Even now, I only vaguely recall the weight of warm covers settling over me and soothing caress of slender fingers combing gently through my hair. Sleep found me quickly and I gratefully surrendered to its healing auspices.
I know not how many hours had passed when I found myself unaccountably conscious. The fire had banked low, providing only the slightest hint of light for the room. I lay still for a moment, trying to discern what had disturbed my sleep. Then the mattress shifted next to me, depressing slightly as though disturbed by a weight. The delicious, male scent that wafted toward me on a wave of warmth confirmed my growing suspicions. At first I was unsure what to do, so I did nothing, remaining motionless as though still asleep, the semi-darkness of the room hiding my open eyes from view. But when a strong arm slid around my waist, I could feign slumber no longer. I looked back over my shoulder to find myself being lost in the deep shadows of my master's gaze for the first time in longer than I cared to remember.
Not since I had been moved to concern for the wolf's welfare after it ceased being a threat had I allowed myself to dwell on the fact that I had truly faced death. But now, looking into my master's eyes, the realization that I might quite possibly have never seen him again hit me anew. I shuddered at the prospect, my skin growing cold from a sudden chill of dread. Heero pulled me to him as he felt me shiver, and I turned over fully so that the lips descending on mine might meet with no hindrance.
I did not question this unexpected show of affection. Its cause was apparent in the hand that traced slowly over my bruises and in the arms that embraced me as though I were delicate china, easily broken. I ruthlessly forced down the bright spark that tried to ignite in my heart, swearing that I would seek no more than he was willing to give me. In truth, after all that had occurred between us, I was surprised that Heero even allowed me to remain in his bed rather than sending me away each night as Lady Une had explained was the more proper custom. No, I would take what was offered and be grateful for it, for even the slightest hint of care was enough, or so I strove to make myself believe.
Our love-making held little resemblance to our previous passionate encounters. Again, my professions of haleness fell on deaf ears, but I was loathed to complain. My master held me as sweetly as I had only dreamed was possible. I shattered into countless shimmering pieces as his lips, tongue, and clever hands left no part of me neglected. And when he came into me at least, filling me as only he was able, I was left breathless so that I could not even call out his name as my love took physical form, spurting from me and covering us both in a shower of white heat. In the end I was utterly spent and my profound exhaustion granted me no more than a moment's awareness of being wiped clean before being held just as gently as before. I fell into a deep sleep, knowing I would forever hold this night close to my heart.
But I kept to my vow to expect nothing more from my master only with great difficulty as I awoke to find the sun shining and the room empty, save for myself. I clung desperately to the dream of the previous night, daring the memory to fade, though it did little to stave off the heartache of knowing that we had reached no true understanding.
The following days found me consumed with the slow recovery of my erstwhile attacker. The injured wolf remained extremely wary of me and Trowa at first, not allowing us to come near him unless he was asleep or tranquilized. But eventually he seemed to realize that these strange humans were not so bad, that the medicines we gave him relieved his pain, and that the swelling fester of his wound was succumbing to our determination to see the infection cured. One afternoon nearly a week after our first, eventful meeting, my wild companion suffered me to scratch behind his ear while he was fully awake. I counted the allowance no small victory and dared to declare that I had made a new friend.
The wolf hunt continued, the soldiers - determinedly if peaceably - seeking out any lupines that might be making a nuisance of themselves. I heard from Trowa that only one pack was found, and with the judicious application of posturing and noise from the detail that came across them, they were scared off, moving deeper into the forest and safely away from accidental human interference.
I told all of this to my furry patient, though Trowa assured me that the lack of any wolves coming to look for him meant that he was, indeed, alone in the world. But though he surely cared not for all the meaningless sounds I made, I found in the wolf the ideal confessor. Unable to offer opinion and uncaring of my human struggles, the large beast laid passively day after day as I fed him scraps of fresh meat and handfuls of grain, which Trowa assured me were beneficial for his continued recovery.
I told him of my troubles with Heero, how he came to me every night without fail, engaging me in passionate exploits until I thought I might die from the ecstasy of it, only to leave me before I awoke to face the day alone. Even Quatre had determined that expressing his displeasure to Heero for his neglect of me was futile, and so he showered me with affection whenever I was with him, pouring meaningless gossip and prattle in my ears even as I did to the poor wolf. I named my new friend Argent for the startling beauty of his silver-colored eyes and the silvery streaks that shot through his otherwise dark gray fur, and thanked him for giving some meaning to my increasingly empty existence.
But even my innocent companion did not allow me to wallow fully in self-deceit. Even as I bemoaned my fate that my master continued to treat me as nothing more than a nighttime convenience, the wolf stared at me as though admonishing me to be honest.
"Do not give me that look, Argent," I protested, even as I knew that he was right. For other than my trainer and my ever wonderful Helen, there was one who made no secret of the esteem in which he held me. Every moment spent with Trowa furthered my emotional betrayal of my master. I had doomed myself to travel further and further down the path of perfidy every time I stepped foot into the gamesman's domain. Yet everyday I came under the guise of mercy, until even I was unable to deny that I had come to crave Trowa's unwavering advances the way a flower craved the sun.
The gamesman's manner of seduction was unhurried, even nonchalant, consisting of nothing more than gentle caresses and the occasional stolen kiss, as though he knew that I would have no choice but to eventually submit to him. And try though I might, I could not fault him for his confident assumption. Certainly I continued to outwardly resist his every attempt to engage me beyond the bounds of propriety, protesting prettily at every liberty taken, at every untoward advance. But the struggle to thwart him grew ever more difficult with each day that I woke up alone in my master's bed. And every hour I spent with him, I came to realize that I had come to feel far more affection for the quiet gameskeeper than I should. The more attention Trowa paid me, the harder I found it to rebuff his kindness. The simple truth was that I was lonely, and I drank in his obvious regard for me eagerly, though guilt at allowing myself to be thus swayed gnawed at me incessantly.
Though at the time my emotions dithered and swayed with disturbing inconsistency, I would later come to look back on this idyllic time with nostalgia. I had become accustomed to the routine of coming out to Trowa's cottage everyday to tend to Argent, sometimes helping him with chores when not busy with the wolf, and returning late to the castle to await the baron and hope that he might bestow me with his miserly attentions. So I should not have been as shocked as I was when my tranquility was suddenly and irrevocably shattered. I had merely forgotten my true purpose, and a forceful reminder of the reality of it was surely inevitable.
I noted with no undue concern Quatre's distracted demeanor as he came to collect me late one afternoon. Argent was progressing well and Trowa had begun talking about starting him on an exercise regiment to help him recover his strength, so I was in a fairly good mood. I met the blond in the courtyard, waiting for him as he dismounted from the horse Trowa had loaned him that morning. As had become our custom, I brought us to the gamesman's cottage in the mornings and took us back again while Quatre used a borrowed mount to come and go without me. I moved closer to the carriage I was charged to pull as Trowa came out to fit me into my fur-lined, leather harnesses. He, too, noticed my trainer's disquiet, but unlike myself, he chose not to let his curiosity go unsatisfied.
"Is there something the matter, my lord?" Quatre blinked at the directness of the inquiry.
"Um, no, not wrong, I suppose. Just a bit unexpected." He did not elaborate further until Trowa was attaching the last of my straps to the carriage, and when he did his tone bespoke his disquiet. "As I mentioned before, the baron ordered his soldiers to make sure the near reaches of Furuiki were cleared of wolves so that what happened to you, Duo, would not befall anyone else less capable of defending themselves." I was not sure how capable I had been, glancing down wryly at where my skin had only recently healed from the vivid bruise Argent had bequeathed me, but demurred as Trowa voiced his approval of the soldiers' methods.
"I heard they had great success, with no harm to either man or beast. Please express my thanks to Captain Wufei for his care in the matter."
"Yes, of course. The captain is immensely deserving of all the gratitude we can muster, for I have also just been informed that, in addition to dealing with the wolves, he and his men have recently scored a major victory against the bandits that have plague the travel routes in the forest for so many years."
At his words, I recalled my initial journey to Windshire, though it seemed a lifetime ago. My escort had explained to me that the bandits had long been a grave nuisance, attacking merchants and casual travelers alike as they transversed the expanse of Furuiki.
"According to the reports, the soldiers managed to capture and imprison most of the ringleaders and a vast majority of their mercenaries. All that remain are several groups of stragglers that evaded capture during the main raids. But Wufei assured the baron that he would have them all rounded up forthwith."
Trowa grunted in appreciation of the feat. If Captain Wufei and his soldiers had, indeed, cleared out nearly all of the bandits from the forest, they had done Windshire, and indeed all of Calderash, a great service. My gut began to churn as my shoulders bowed beneath a heavy premonition of doom.
"So, the baron had deemed that Wufei and all his men should be suitably rewarded for their valiant efforts on behalf of the people of Calderash." Quatre turned a concerned gaze in my direction and I silent begged Trowa to go away so that he might not hear what was surely to come. "Duo will be presented to the entire garrison tomorrow night at the inn in the village. I must admit, I am a bit hesitant at him having to entertain such a large gathering at once."
To entertain such a large gathering. I might have laughed at the blond's quaint description of what was before me had I not known the sound would be tainted with hysteria. I was completely terrified at the prospect, for I had been through too much to hold any illusions as to the truth of the matter. I was to be thrust amongst a crowd of coarse soldiers who would be allowed to use me and fuck me at will.
I heard Trowa gasp in shock as though from a great distance. He was not a fool and surely understood what Quatre meant. I was mortified. Trowa was not a denizen of the castle, so he had not been confronted with my role at Windshire in any direct sense. But that time of ignorance was forever gone. He could not but guess as to what awaited me at the hands of the soldiers, and knowing that this man that I had come to care for in no small part was finally being made aware of the fact that I was nothing more than the baron's whore was nearly more than I could bear. I prayed that the ground would open me up and swallow me whole, sparing me from my present humiliation and from what was to come. But, of course, the earth was not so forgiving.
I pulled at the carriage, my body following the dictates of my tormented thoughts, urging me to flee. To his credit, the gamesman did not call me a slut to my face, but I could not bear to face him as my trainer finally mounted the conveyance. Without any prompting, I shot away from the courtyard - away from Trowa - and fled, seeking refuge from his damning silence.