The End of Innocence Part 11

The icy wind swept down from the nearby mountains, bringing a storm that kept the occupants of the hall inside, shutters drawn, for the better part of three days. Inside, fires blazed in all the chambers, lending a comforting warmth to the building.

Heero sat idly watching the flames with Duo tucked under one arm. He'd given up all attempts at concealing his involvement with the violet-eyed boy. Every time he was near the Scot, he had a need to be in contact in some way. He cared not what the other's thought about it.

Trowa and Quatre sat to their right, also seeking the comfort of the flames, their heads bent over a small peg-bearing board between them. Over the last couple of days the pair had found a peace between them and, discovering that they indeed had much in common, has started to forge a tentative friendship.

Quatre's soft voice echoed through the hall as he placed a card on the table and reached over to move his pegs on the small board. "Looks like that's the game."

Trowa raised an eyebrow. "I can't believe you beat me again." He chuckled.

"At least I didn't skunk you this time." The blonde replied. Looking the board over he frowned. "You seem distracted this evening."

I'm always distracted around you. Trowa picked up the cards and set them aside. "I guess I am. Maybe that's enough for tonight."

Duo looked up. "Why don't I get one of Uncle's books and read aloud for a while?"

Quatre smiled. "Oh! Duo has a wonderful reading voice! It's one of his favorite things to do." He looked over at the Viscount. "Milord?"

Trowa winced at the title. "That sounds fine, Duo."

As Duo jumped up, he spoke again. "Duo, Quatre..."

The pair looked at him in question.

"Even though you two are prisoners, and technically servants, please, at least in within the privacy of this hall, address Heero and myself by our names. There's no need for formality here."

Duo's eyes showed his surprise as he turned and hurried in the direction of the old lord's library. Heero nodded at his friend, his approval showing in the cobalt depths.

The chestnut-haired youth returned quickly and settled back beside Heero. Opening the book, he started to read, his voice clear and even. Quickly the other three relaxed to listen to the boy.

Heero realized that for the first time in his adult life, he felt... comfortable. Some of the edginess had faded without him even realizing it. So, this is what love it like, He thought. I only hope Trowa realizes it before it's too late.

His eyes settled on his friend, who although was listening, was also watching Winner's young son, his emerald eyes intense.


Outside the hall, the wind whipped through the courtyard, driving the powdery flakes of snow in drifts along the walls. In the center of the open, stood a lone figure, his hands in his pockets, face to the wind. He took a deep breath of the frozen air, ignoring it's icy bite through his clothes.

He loved nights like this. The primal show of nature called to his inner spirit. The feel of the cold, wet flakes on his skin, the sting of the wind. It refreshed him, energized him... exhilarated him.

Nothing else had ever made him feel so alive... until her. Wufei frowned, he was convinced that he had found his true mate. Their destinies were bound together. The little idiot just refused to admit it.

"Bit nasty to be out, isn't it?"

He turned, raising a hand to his head as the wind caught his hair and tried to whip the black strands around his face. "For some... maybe." He replied.

Sally pulled her cloak tighter. "I'm one of them. Come inside and I'll make you some tea."

"It's not necessary."

"And I'd like to speak with you." She added, turning and walking towards the stables.

Shrugging, he followed her, curiosity rather than the bitter cold, sending him inside. Inside the woman's rooms, he sat and watched her move around, ignoring the urge to go wrap himself around her.

"You like the snow." She stated, adding a mixture of tea leaves to a small pot and setting it on the fire.

"Yea... I like the fierceness of the storms. I never saw snow before coming to this land." At her surprised look, he added. "It's very hot where I hail from."

"How did you come to be here?"

"Several years ago, the Viscount saved my life. Since I had no family, I chose to repay him by following him here, fighting by his side and protecting his back, if needed."

Sally nodded in understanding and handed him a steaming mug. "I've never seen your hair out of it's pigtail. I like it." She smiled and picking up her own cup, went to stand by the fire. "How old are you, Wufei?"

"I was nineteen last season."

"You've been fighting for a long time. You're so young."

"My family was killed when I was eleven, I've had to fight to survive since. That's just the way it is, for most of us."

She understood all too well. "I'm twenty-three... isn't that a bit old for you? You should be seeking a young bride."

Wufei snorted. "Silly bits of fluff that don't know how to say no or stand up for themselves. You are the bride I seek. The fates only choose one true mate for each person. You are the one they chose for me."

The blue-eyed woman set her cup aside and knelt down to place another length of wood on the fire. Staying there, she watched the sparks flare around the small log as she considered her thoughts.

"The rumors ring of the truth." She finally said.

"Excuse me."

"Just listen, alright? I've never told this to anyone and after it's said, I don't care to repeat it. If, after hearing it, you still desire me for your wife, then I will marry you."

She took a deep breath. "I didn't come from a very loving family. My father considered female children more trouble than they were worth and my mother was too timid to stand up to him. He was greatly disappointed in me and my two sisters and punished mother regularly for not giving him sons." She laughed bitterly. "Actually, he punished us for not being sons, also. Surprisingly, the three of us grew up with strong personalities and I found sanctuary in the stables and the stable master's kindness."

Wufei nodded slowly, that explained her way with the horses. Animals cared not whether one was male or female.

"Right after the start of my thirteenth year, father de Wufei fought his rage at a man who give a child to such a monster. "Rumor also says that you're here because you were Lord Winner's lover."

"He protected me. When he heard what had happened, she showed up at the estate and brought me back here. When the Baron's guard showed up to arrest me, Lord Winner swore that he and I were together that night."

"Then he banished you to the stables?"

"I begged him. I wanted to be here."

She sighed. "I lied to you about having lovers. You are the fi..."

Her words were cut off as strong hands lifted her to her feet and she was crushed against the young man's chest.

"And the last." Wufei growled. "Your past matters not... only your future. We'll wed and you'll never know fear with me. I may yell and threaten, but I would never lay a hand on you, or any other woman."

"If you do..." Her muffled voice rose from his chest.

"You can kill me." He finished for her.


The next morning Trowa and Heero sat at the table in the main hall and discussed ways to improve the village's defenses, over breakfast. They were startled from their conversation by the sound of bright laughter from the main staircase. Duo raced down the stairs, with Quatre right behind him, and with a wave at the startled men, ran out the door. The pair looked at each other and rose to follow them.

Emerging into the courtyard, they found that the storm had blown itself out in the night, leaving a glittering field of white in it's wake. In the middle of this pristine beauty, the cousins were laughing and tossing snowballs at one another.

Trowa raised an eyebrow at the pair's antics. "Hard to believe that they are both eighteen, almost the same age as we are."

Heero's eyes never left Duo as he actually smiled. "What you are seeing is the difference between eighteen years of security and love and nineteen years of hell."

They watched the boys until finally Duo turned and saw the cobalt-eyed man watching him. "Quatre," He turned back to his cousin. "I'm for the hall and a warm fire."

"And Heero." The blonde added, playfully. "Go ahead. I'm going to go see mother."

Duo nodded and headed back to the hall as Quatre turned and waded through the knee-deep powder towards the gardens.

Awhile later, Trowa emerged into the center of the garden to find Quatre on the bench beside his mother's grave. "If you stay out here much longer, you'll freeze." The Viscount stated, sitting down beside the blonde.

"I'm not cold. The cloak you gave me is very warm." Quatre replied, turning from Lady Winner's stone to look at the tall man.

Trowa reached over and tucked the cloak around Quatre's slender body. "It isn't when you don't keep it around yourself." He said gruffly.

It was a simple, almost unconscious, act to move his hand from the garment to Quatre's cheek. The blonde leaned into Trowa's hands as he gently caressed his cheek with his thumb. Neither spoke as Quatre leaned in to meet Trowa's lips as he lowered his head.

What started out as the gentlest of kisses fanned a spark that burst into the brightest of flames as Trowa moved his mouth over Quatre's with more insistence.

Quatre gasped against the brunette's mouth as Trowa slid his hands under his cloak and pulled his closer, letting out a small moan himself. The taller man felt his body harden at the feel of the slim form pressed against his own and realized that if he didn't stop, he'd end up taking the blonde right here on the bench. With a low sound he moved away and looked down at Quatre.

Trowa drew in a breath at the sheer beauty of the boy. The frigid air and added a blush to his cheeks. His sapphire eyes sparkled as his kiss swollen lips formed a smile, the light breeze ruffling his golden hair. It was at that moment that Trowa finally realized that what he felt wasn't merely physical.

He was in love with the gentle blonde.

This complicated matters greatly.

He stood and pulled Quatre to his feet. "We should get back to the hall." He said gruffly.

Quatre sighed sadly and followed the slender man without a word.

This tug-of-war of emotions was getting too much for him.


The game that Quatre and Trowa are playing is a variation of the game Cribbage. Nagi is an avid cribbage player, which is how it made it into the story. This game is descended from an older game, which I can't remember the name of, rumored to have been developed around the 1680's. I've also read that the earliest from of this game originated in the Medieval Era... I can't find the source that I had read it in, so at the moment it's a point of argument between me and my husband. Regardless, I did say that I would alter historical facts some in this... so we are going with my theory ^_^ And yes, they did have a variation of playing cards... they were just rare and expensive.

Wufei's country of origin, I obviously kept it as China, unlike the other characters. It's hard to change him. After along debate, we had originally decided to state that he was from Formosa (now Taiwan, which at one point was property of China), I then, during the course of the chapter, ended up leaving this fact out.


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