For You I Suffer
All I could see as I was forced marched down the corridors of Windshire was a horde of tall, muscular forms. Lady Une's guards surrounded me front, sides, and back, leaving me no chance for escape should I have even considered chancing it. I did not. I preferred to keep my thoughts focused on what would happen when the baron returned to find me gone. Surely he would not allow his aunt to keep me for her own purposes, no matter the depths of his anger toward me.
I held on to the notion like a man at sea clings to a buoy, for without that hope, however faint, I was surely just as lost. My mind easily conjured the scene of my rescue, with my master as the star player. How magnificent he would look has he swept in and unleashed his wrath upon a properly remorseful Lady Une. And how I would rejoice in our reunion as he whisked me away back to his chamber where I would proceed to beg for his forgiveness with every sensual skill I possessed.
Yes, it was a most pleasant fantasy, but was as yet nothing more. My present circumstances were decidedly less agreeable. Though I had been at Windshire for nearly four months, I still marveled at the vastness of the castle's interior. The guards had led me down endless corridors for what seemed nearly an hour to my anxious mind. Obviously, our trip was not that long, but I had long ago lost my bearings as we entered a completely unfamiliar part of the sprawling manse. We had gone down several flights of stairs, the curved, narrow passages presenting a challenge for my broad shouldered escorts. Still, I did not realize just how far we had descended until a bevy of delicious smells suddenly hit my nose.
The baron's chamber was at the highest level of the castle and the functional parts were at the lowest. I absently realized that I had completed my furthest journey within the castle away from my master's domain as I was herded into the dimly lit stone fortress that was the main kitchen. A moment before our arrival, the room had been bustling with servants preparing for the various evening meals of Windshire's loftier residents. But all work came to a cacophonous halt as the workers caught sight of our bizarre procession.
So long had my sight been blocked by the hulking figures of her guards that I was not certain whether the lady herself had remained with us. When I was suddenly pushed forward to stand in front of them, I saw that she had indeed stayed. Even amongst the humble setting of bubbling kettles and flour strewn tables, Lady Une's bearing was undiminished. I saw more than one jaw fall agape at the unanticipated appearance of royalty in their humble midst.
Lady Une glanced around critically for a moment before seeming to find whatever she was seeking. She raised a finger, prompting two of her guards to grab my arms and forcibly bring me before her. I noticed with a sinking feeling in my gut that several of the cooks, busboys, and scullery maids shifted their gawking stares away from the lady long enough to notice just who else was gracing their province with an unexpected visit.
A startled gasp stung my ears and my skin twitched painfully beneath the weight of a dozen pairs of ogling stares. Low-voiced murmurs of disbelief at the unsightliness of my scars reminded me anew of just how greatly I had been altered by Dorothy's misplaced hatred. But while she was banished from Calderash, she had left me behind to bear up under the crushing strain of smug pity and empathetic disgust. I kept my gaze lowered stubbornly to the spattered, rush-covered floor as I was hauled before my distinguished captor.
"At least you have learned something of how to behave properly before your betters," she sneered. I was happy to let her think that my downcast gaze was a product of humility, for I was most unwilling to let her see the fear that was surely stamped upon my features.
"But I am afraid that this little show of meekness has come far too late to save you. That sordid episode with the gamesman proves that, for some reason, you have come to believe yourself to be above your station. Apparently, you believe that you have the freedom to do as you please no matter whom you might inconvenience with your irrepressible lewdness."
I did look up then, some reckless urge to defend myself prompting me to speak.
"My lady, please. I know that I have made a horrible mistake, but you must believe...."
"A mistake?" she interrupted before I could explain once and for all just how deeply I was in love with her nephew. "A mistake, you say?" I shied away from the heat of the glare she leveled at me. "How dare you," she spat. "Any assignations you might enjoy are entirely at my nephew's discretion. You have absolutely no right to pursue your own selfish lusts simply because you feel the need to indulge yourself. Do you think that you would be forgiven for such an indefensible breach of your oath to the baron with a simple mea culpa?" Her breath blew hotly across my face as she drew so close that our lips nearly touched.
"Do not believe that you can employ your wiles with me, such as they are. I do not know what others see when they look upon you, but I see not a single jot of breeding or beauty. Even my late brother's bitch of a slave could at least claim some grace about her bearing. But you?" She laughed harshly in my face. "There is nothing agreeable about you. I look at you and I see nothing more than a disgraced whore."
I closed my eyes against the stinging humiliation of her epithet. I could not understand the source of her hatred for me, and thus I felt powerless to defend against it. If she really believed that Heero loved me, why did that disturb her so profoundly? Maybe I did come from a humble background, but was the thought that I might make the baron happy really so objectionable?
"What is the purpose of this?" she asked. I heard the unmistakable clink of iron chains before a hesitant voice responded to her demand.
"T-They are wot we u-use to keep th' pigs in thar p-place b'fore the slaughter, mi lady." The elder cook's stuttered explanation seemed to satisfy Lady Une, for she hummed thoughtfully for a moment before coming to a decision.
I opened my eyes as I was jerked forward. I looked from her raised hand, which had ordered me to be brought forth, and followed her gaze down to the floor. A short, black chain rested on the floor ending in a pair of manacles at one end and a peg embedded in the mortar of the stone wall at the other. I jerked away from the hands holding me, reacting unconsciously to the sight of the cold, dark metal. I had not seen their like since the disastrous evening I spent in Dorothy's room, and my wrists still bore the marks they had left from digging into my skin.
My struggles, of course, were futile against the strength of the husky guards as they manhandled me into place. Hands pressed down on my shoulders, and soon my knees were digging painfully into the hard, prickly rushes covering the stone floor as the shackles were locked into place. I yanked at them, but as always, the battle between man and metal went poorly for the one made of naught but weak flesh. And I was weaker than most, as I was not yet fully recovered from my ordeal. Moreover, it had been hours since I had last eaten, and my stomach ached for sustenance. Still, I tried my best to maintain my dignity as I knelt perforce before the woman who stood staring down her nose at me.
"There now, this is much more fitting setting for you than gold jewelry and silk sheets. It is high time you were treated like the worthless trash you are rather than like some treasured pet." I flinched before the power of her detestation, yet somehow I found the strength to meet her cold gaze. She smiled at me and I barely resisted the urge to shiver at her cruel expression. "You should use this time to reflect upon your crimes, to think about how you threw my nephew's favor back in his face. Perhaps my men will come and visit you later. I am sure you would enjoy servicing them, seeing as how you will spread your legs for anything that has breath."
"The baron will come for me," I interjected, my voice so soft that I could barely hear myself. I swallowed and tried again, emboldened somewhat by the incredulousness on her face at my daring. "When he discovers that I am gone, he will find me." My courage lasted only as long as her astonishment, and it fled swiftly as her gaze narrowed irritably.
"You certainly seem determined to try my patience at every turn." She reached out suddenly and grabbed a handful of my hair. I cried out in pain and surprise as she tiled my head back until I could not escape her glare.
"Supposing that you possess a brain beneath all of this useless hair, understand me now. I am the baron's aunt, his only remaining family, and by the heavens, he will listen to me. If it is my last act upon this earth, I will convince him that whatever feelings he thinks he has for you are nothing but a lie born of the flesh. Heero is better than that, he is stronger." Tears escaped from the corner of my eyes as her hand tightened, pulling my hair painfully against my scalp.
"Make no mistake, my dear boy, my nephew has a destiny and it does not include the likes of you. Once your influence over him is destroyed, he will quickly come to realize that his life is meant for far more than wasting it with a mutilated peasant."
She released her hold and I almost dropped face first onto the hard stone of the floor. Just when I thought that the world had shown me its cruelest hand, I realized just how naïve I was. But I truly did not know if I could tolerate much more. I lay trembling on the cold stone, weeping silently as Lady Une and her retinue departed. The servants went on about their business, having no time to indulge in idle speculation about why the baron's pleasure slave had been abandoned amongst them.
I cannot be certain of how many hours passed as I lay against the filthy floor, chained to the wall like livestock awaiting the butcher's knife. No matter how uncomfortable my stone pallet was I desperately needed to sleep, to allow my weary body some temporary measure of solace. But anxiety kept me from finding any rest. My stomach churned with hunger, but though I was surrounded by the mouthwatering aroma of food, nothing was within reach other than a few moldy crumbs from previous meals.
My emotions teetered between the terrible guilt of my betrayal and a heart-wrenching sorrow as I dwelled upon Trowa's fate. And adding to my stress, Une's parting threat kept my heart racing at a fearful pace. I flinched at the sound of every heavy footstep, praying that it would be Quatre - or, gods willing, the baron - but frightened that Une had made good on her promise of sending her guards to use me.
But as the pace of the servants' preparations for the dinner hour picked up, I was mostly left alone. I wondered over and over why Quatre had not appeared, but my growing hunger and exhaustion soon overcame my capacity for worry. Some of the younger children found it great fun to run up to me and touch some part of my unmoving body before running away with ear-splitting squeals. I cannot say what there objective was. Perhaps they were testing their bravery by proving that the baron's disgraced dorei would not eat them even if they got too close.
Though tiresome, their innocent amusements were easily ignored. But it was much more difficult to disregard the older youths who had far more on their minds that mischievous play.
"Hey, ya hungry?" The boy who called was no older than myself. I did not bother answering, both because I was, in fact, weak with hunger and because they had surely heard my stomach announce its emptiness.
"Hey, I'm talkin' to ya? I said, are ya hungry?"
"I thought you said he was pretty?" This one was a little bit younger, but he sounded far less intelligent. "He sure don't look pretty. He looks kinda gross ta me."
I only opened my eyes when something hard hit my cheek. They crossed slightly due to the proximity of the missile, but I managed to focus enough to recognize the piece of bread lying in front of my face. I would have summoned the energy to thank my benefactors, no matter the staleness of their offering, if they had just left me alone. Unfortunately, they took my sluggish taking of the bread as encouragement to their baser natures.
"Guess he's alive after all," the older boy guffawed. "Here, have another." This time, the food hit the floor. The slapping sound indicated that it was not bread they had thrown this time, and indeed I was left blinking at an overcooked slab of meat as it lay on the filthy floor. I hesitated and they quickly took me to task.
"I hear that ya eat offa the floor all the time." It was the first boy, his younger compatriot yukking at his friend's glibness. "So what, our food ain't good enough fer ya?"
"Maybe it's somethin' else he'd rather eat, huh?"
It was a testament to just how famished I was that I not only picked the meat off of the floor to eat but that their lewd suggestiveness did not kill my appetite completely. I had a very good idea just what they thought I would prefer to "eat," and it did not take long for them to find the courage to force the issue.
"I seen ‘im once, when I was hauling water above stairs. He was bein' led down the hall, done up all fancy with rubies and whatnot." The younger boy was obviously referring to the night Treize commanded my presence, and the reminder certainly did not endear him to me. "Look at ‘im now, though. He looks like he's gone one-on-one with a rabid dog or somethin'."
"Yeah, somethin' certainly beat him but good. Not so high and mighty now are ya? Betcha yer not too good for the likes of us now, huh?"
It would have been useless to mention how my trainer would once have welcomed their prurient interests on my behalf. He had been of the firm opinion that spending time being pawed and toyed with by the common folk was an excellent way to accustom me to my new life. But those days were long over, and the busy denizens of the kitchens were unlikely to appreciate such a performance.
The fact that Lady Une had clearly brought me here as punishment certainly did nothing to discourage them. I had closed my eyes as I chewed, hoping that if I simply ignored them, they might lose interest. But when I felt something hard and cold prod at my uninjured nipple, I realized that wish was doomed to be in vain. I gasped as I flinched, my startled gaze falling in confusion upon what appeared to be a pair of metal tongs. They assaulted me once more, and I looked up into the older boy's smug face. He smiled, revealing the loss of more than one tooth, as he poked at me yet again.
"Or maybe," he said to his companion, "maybe he's got some kinda disease." The tongs slid down the center of my chest, over my stomach, and past my navel. "Is that it? Ya got a sickness?" I brought my knees up protectively, clasping my hands around them at the first touch of the metal utensil against my cock.
"None o' that now," my tormentor sneered, using his booted foot to pry my own unshod feet apart. The younger boy bent over me and dug a dirty hand into my hair. He pulled my head back so that they could inspect me more closely. My neck ached from the awkward angle but I refrained from struggling, knowing it would only incite them to more violence.
"He's still pretty enough." The hand in my hair tightened as the tongs traced down the scar covering my cheek. "We have time for some fun before its time to start taking bath water up to the fancies."
"Alex, Muller, if you two have time to mess around here, you have time to go gather firewood for the hearth."
The two youths who were so intent on making me miserable stiffened at the sound of this new voice. They turned to look over their shoulders at the newcomer, releasing me at once. They looked sheepish and sullen as though they were naughty children who had been caught with playing nasty games with a stray cat. I glanced past them, looking up from my position at the floor as I wondered who could have so quickly brought them to heel.
The dark-haired youth was not any older than the oldest of the troublesome duo, but his tall, broad-shouldered build offered all the explanation that was needed for their sudden deference. He dwarfed the two fools who had been making sport of me. Cracking his knuckles, he glared at them, and they obviously figured that it was not worth the beating they would surely receive if they persisted with their tasteless diversion. I looked up at him warily as he knelt before me once the other boys had vanished.
"Sorry about them. They don't have a single brain to share between them, and what they do have doesn't work so well." He smiled, and I relaxed slightly at the kindness in his light-brown gaze. My nose caught a delicious scent and my stomach announced its appreciation as I caught sight of the plate my rescuer held. I blushed at the crude sound emitting from my gut, but he just laughed.
"Here. This is far better than stale bread and half-rotten meat."
"Thank you," I said quietly. I felt the prick of tears, and was greatly embarrassed that such a simple act of kindness could move me so profoundly. But his was the first friendly face I had seen in hours and I was very sad when he stood with a grin.
"Take your time with that. Oh," he said, halting himself as he started to turn away, "this is for you, too." I had not noticed the mug he held, but the rich scent of ale made my mouth water. I took it gratefully, sighing as the cool liquid slid down my parched throat. The young man hesitated as he watched me gulp down the mug's contents in nearly one swallow.
"I'm Solo, by the way." I took a break from my drink, wiping away a dribble of ale from my chin as I caught my breath.
"Duo," I responded in kind. "I'm the baron's...."
"Yeah, I know who you are." He spoke matter of factly, as though he saw naked pleasure slaves chained in the kitchen every day. I surmised that he had seen me before, at least at a distance, for my unclothed state did not seem to disturb him at all. He suddenly looked uncomfortable as he shifted his feet. "What, um," he rubbed at the back of his neck. "What happened to you? Why are you down here?"
"Those are two questions with very different answers," I replied brusquely. He glanced down toward his feet and I immediately felt sorry for my shortness. "Forgive me, I am...not at my best at the moment." He chuckled at my attempt at humor. I kept my gaze on the mug as I toyed with it.
"If you mean these," I nodded vaguely towards myself, "someone took a powerful dislike to me," I explained succinctly not wishing to dwell on that particular memory. "And as for why I am here...." I paused as I unwillingly recalled the reason for my presence. "Let's just say that I made a terrible mistake." Solo frowned at the brevity of my answer.
"Well, unless you killed someone, I can't see how you deserve this."
I shifted uncomfortably as much at the uncomfortable position in which the chain left me as from his approbation. He watched as I tugged at the chain, trying futilely to gain so slack so I could sit with my back to the wall and stretch out my legs. His lips firmed and he nodded as though he had come to a decision. I cringed as he suddenly loomed over me, but he merely reached beyond me to take hold of the short length of linked iron. His large hand closed around the chain and he gave it a sharp tug.
"This is used to hold livestock and such until the butcher can get to them." I nodded having learned that much from the cook when I was first arrived. "But you see," he continued, "no one thinks to check to make sure the chain is secure. After all, it's only meant to be used for a short time." He glanced at me, catching my gaze.
"Do you understand?" he asked. I frowned at him in confusion until he gave the chain another pull. That is when I noticed that the peg holding it in the wall moved outward ever so slightly.
"It's loose," I breathed, blinking in surprise. Solo nodded at me.
"So if you believe you deserve to be here then stay. But if not...." He regarded me with a long, meaningful look before rising to his feet. "I have to go, but I'll be back in a few hours. I'll try to bring you a chamber pot."
The blush that rose to my cheeks brought a teasing smile to his lips. I looked after him as he left through the main door of the kitchen, grateful that I had found one kind soul in this place. I tugged subconsciously at the chain, thinking about his unspoken offer. The peg seemed to move even more, and it was apparent that, with some dedicated effort, I could easily free myself.
But did I want to try? Should I attempt to escape? I still held out hope that once Heero returned to the castle and learned that I had been taken, he would rescue me. What would he think if he came only to find me gone? I had betrayed him more than enough for one lifetime. Any expectation I held for a future between us would not be able to withstand more treachery. No, I would stay put and wait until my master took me from this place. Only when he stood before me would I show him that I could have been free but chose to remain a captive. Maybe this small gesture would not only show him how sorry I was, but would prove how much I loved him.
My ruminations were interrupted when a serving girl rushed in through the same door Solo had just used, her face flush with excitement. I watched curiously as she rushed over to the old cook who stood stirring something in a large pot.
"Mrs. Lilly! Mrs. Lilly!" The older woman turned to her with a sour expression.
"Gracious, girl, I'm not deaf yet. Hold your tongue lest you steal my hearing with your screeching." The girl's blush increased, but she was undeterred.
"But Mrs. Lilly, you'll never guess what I just overheard!" The cook sighed as the girl bounced around her.
"Go on and tell me before you burst, then." The girl was surprisingly pretty as she smiled brilliantly at the encouragement.
"Mary usually serves Lady Une - the baron's aunt, herself! - but seeing as the lady had a guest, Mary said she needed some help so I offered because I've always wanted to see the lady's room." The serving girl ducked as a soup-covered spoon came swinging at her head.
"Susie, I swear if you don't stop your blathering I will brain you." The girl waved the threat away impatiently.
"Yes, but do you know who the guest was? It was the baron!" she continued as the cook's scowl deepened.
I started at her words, my heart flipping in my chest upon learning that my master had returned to the castle. I was trying to process the news that he had been eating dinner with Lady Une rather than taking me away from here. The older woman blinked, clearly as surprised at the news as I was.
"My, that's a rare thing. The baron hardly ever takes dinner with his aunt."
"Oh, that's not important," Susie said breathlessly. "No, it was what they were talking about."
"Susie, you know better than to eavesdrop on your betters."
"I wasn't! But I was right there in the room helping Mary so I couldn't help but overhear them." She sighed in frustration at the cook's interruptions. "So they were talking about the baron's, well you know, his pleasure slave." She said this last in a whisper as though she had suddenly learned discretion. If either of the women knew who I was, it was obvious they did not care that I could hear them talking. But my ears perked up at hearing myself mentioned.
"They were talkin' about how the baron's slave had done somethin' awful to the baron. The lady was fuming, obviously upset on the baron's behalf. And then the baron said that he never wanted to see his slave again...."
She went on, continuing her story with all the volubility of a chattering magpie. But I had stopped listening, her most stunning revelation echoing painfully in my mind.
The baron said he never wanted to see his slave again!
Despair threatened to crush me like a millstone, stealing my breath and robbing me of all hope. Not even the cutting sting of Dorothy's whip could match the pain that stabbed through my heart at the girl's careless revelation. While I had been sitting in this dank place, the man I had been waiting for had been planning to dispose of me all along. I began to feel like the trash Lady Une had accused me of being. All those plans I had made for how I would beg for Heero's forgiveness, for how I would plead with him to accept my love and allow me to stay with him forever, dissolved into nothingness. Had ever there been born a bigger fool than I?
Then despair suddenly warmed into anger. What did Heero mean by this? How could he just abandon me to such a fate without even bothering to hear me out? Did I mean so little to him that he thought me deserving of this castigation? Surely even when his pet, Wing, misbehaved he did not treat him so harshly as this. Was I to believe that I was not even so worthy as his dog?
I was barely even aware of my actions as I tugged frantically at the chain until, suddenly, I was free. I stared at the peg as it lay innocuously at my feet. My hands were still shackled, but there was nothing keeping me there but my own ruined dreams. Solo's words came back to me.
"If you believe you deserve to be here then stay. But if not...."
I looked around carefully, but everyone's attention was still occupied with their various tasks. Dinner service would not end for another couple of hours, and until then, the servant class was at the mercy of the ruling one. There was a back door leading to the back courtyard thorough which Alex and Muller had gone earlier to get firewood. I noticed that no one stood near it as I stared at my possible means of escape.
One last gasp of sanity rattled in my brain, pleading with me to abandon this madness. I knew that if anything, I should try to find Quatre and plead him to take me to the baron. Perhaps the servant girl had been mistaken in what she heard. Surely it would be stupid to just accept her gossip as truth rather than ask the baron himself whether he wished to rid himself of me.
But my courage failed me, and my ire darkened back into hopelessness. I could not doubt what the girl had said she heard. I had seen the look on Heero's face when he left Trowa's. It was I who had been fooling myself. I could not lay my misery at anyone else's feet.
There was nothing left here for me. The only thing I had ever truly wanted in my life would never be mine. The time had finally come for me to abandon my childish notions no matter how painful the thought. Though my heart felt as though it had been ripped still beating from my chest, I understood that I had no one left to rely on but myself. This interlude in my life was over, and though my feelings for the baron might forever dominate my life, I had to accept that they would never be more than my own unshared burden.
Slowly, I rose onto all fours, trying to stay low to the ground. I kept to my knees as I crawled to the door so as to remain as inconspicuous as possible. Holding my breath, I raised my joined hands to the latch of the small door, but it released with the barest hint of a click. My gut clenched at the momentous step I was about to take, but my hesitation was overcome by the agony of knowing that my life with the baron had come to an end. I opened the door quietly and slipped through.
Shivering in the coolness of the night air, I took a deep breath as I got to my feet and stood alone in the darkness. With one last look at the stone fortress I had come to consider my home, I took off, disappearing into the night like a pale ghost.