The End of Innocence Part 3
The sound of the door opening brought Quatre to his feet, pulling Hilde up with him. He glared defiantly at the slender brunette standing in the doorway.
"You're Lord Winner's son, correct?"
"Yea." The boy answered.
"I'm Trowa Barton."
"I know who you are, Viscount." The blonde replied.
"What have you done with my brother!?" Hilde cried.
Those cool green eyes settled on the girl. "Young Maxwell is still alive, for the moment."
"No, you've got it wrong." Trowa explained. "We're doing all we can for him, but I have my doubts as to his survival."
"I want to see him!" Quatre demanded.
"You both may see him, but first I must have your promise that you won't try to leave. You've been ordered to remain here, by the Baron. If you were to leave and get caught, you'll be executed. I promise you that none of you will be treated harshly here."
"Try telling that to Duo!" The blonde snapped.
The Viscount flinched at the words. He was sorely grieved at what had happened to the young man, but there was nothing he could do now. "I'd gladly take back what happened to him, were it possible. All I can do is punish the man that did the injury. It won't happen again, you have my word on that." Quatre frowned, the Viscount knew that if he gave his word, he'd be bound. A Winner never went back once an oath was given. No matter the cost to themselves. He glanced at Hilde, who was watching him silently. And she'd abide by whatever I said, her loyalty is so true, he thought sadly. I have to protect the both of them! He bowed his golden head towards the Viscount. "As long as my cousin remains here, so will I. On that you have my oath." Trapped! I am trapped by my own words!
Trowa nodded quietly and motioned for the pair to follow him. The cousins followed him until he stopped in front of the door to the room that Duo was in. Rapping lightly, he called out. "Heero?"
"We're coming in, alright?"
Quatre flashed a surprised look at the Viscount. He asked? No ordering?
The taller man pushed the door open and let the two inside.
"Duo!" Hilde gasped and rushed forward. Falling to her knees, on the floor beside the still form, she gently brushed her fingers along a bruise on his pale cheek.
Quatre hung back, as much as he loved his cousin, Hilde needed this more than him. He just needed to know that Duo was being cared for. And it was obvious that the cobalt-eyed man was doing that.
Trowa watched the wealth of emotions play across Quatre's face, silently. He obviously cared for his family and the people of this place very much. If he could get the boy to accept his position, then the people would soon follow. Those expressive sapphire eyes turned towards him. My god, he's beautiful, he thought with a start. What am I thinking? He's a boy!
"Milord," The boy spoke, the title coming hard for him. "What do you intend to do with us?"
"We'll talk about that after." Trowa replied, meaning after Hilde was finished.
Finally the dark-haired girl stood and looked at Quatre sadly. "They're taking good care of him, but I'm afraid for his life. He's been hurt so badly."
"We'll do all we can for him, Lady." Trowa said quietly.
She looked at the silent man by the hearth. "Somehow I think you will."
Heero nodded his head, once in silent acknowledgment.
"Come." Trowa said. "We have things to discuss."
He took them to the chamber that he had chosen for himself, feeling that this was best talked about in private. Sitting in the chair by the fireplace, he stretched his long legs out and looked over the pair, standing by the door. It was hard to believe the two were related, they were as different looking as night and day. But he knew underneath burned a similar fire in the cousins. He spoke first to Hilde. "Your young master has inquired as to my intentions regarding the three of you." She stiffened, her blue eyes never leaving his face.
"As far as your brother, I'll make that decision if he recovers. I think the best thing for you is marriage."
"Milord?" She frowned. "You're regarded as much the Lady of the manor as he is the Lord." He inclined his head towards Quatre. "If you were to marry one of my men, the it would be a gesture of good faith, on both of our parts. I'm willing to suitably dower you as I know your dowry was taken by the Baron."
"Hilde." Quatre spoke up. "Don't do this. It's a ploy to make sure I don't rebel."
"That is probably is, but she doesn't have much of a choice, if I order it. I'm asking her to agree of her own free will."
Hilde thought for a moment. "Do you give me your word that whomever you choose will be a decent man?"
"Hilde!" The blonde gasped.
"Quatre, I have to take a husband someday and I'm well within the age to marry." Then lower she added. "And it will help ensure Duo's safety." Turning back to the Viscount. "Will you?"
"Yes. I already have a young man in mind. He's risen well within my troops and would like a wife. He's as gentle as your young lord here."
"Then I'll accept, if I meet him and he agrees with me."
"Surely, you're not looking for a love match?" Trowa asked.
"No, but I expect to marry someone that I can be friends with." V"A wise thought. I'll arrange for you and Edmond to meet and you two can decide from there. You may seek your room for now."
"Yes, milord." She flashed Quatre a silent plea before leaving the room.
Quatre was stunned by her sudden accepting attitude. Then he realized that she'd sacrifice anything to make sure her brother and he would remain safe.
Trowa's emerald gaze settled on the young blonde and he studied him intently. He really didn't know what to do with this one. He couldn't offer the same option to him. That would be ridiculous. He really didn't want to make him a servant for the hall, not only was he not suited to the work, but the people would never stand for it. And I want him where I can be near him, he realized in surprise. What am I thinking about! He watched the blonde shift uncomfortably under his scrutiny.
Finally, he sighed and spoke. "My decision regarding you has been more difficult." He stood and stared into the fire. "You will serve me personally." When did I decide that? "You will attend me night and day, whenever I require it. Is that understood?"
"You can't be serious!" The blonde cried. "I'm not a servant!"
"And what would you suggest? My only other choice is to put you to work in the hall. I don't think you'd stand up to that for very long. This is the only choice you have. Either that or I can locked you back in your chamber." His eyes narrowed. "Do you really want to remain a prisoner?"
"No." Quatre replied dejectedly.
"Alright then. I have some things to attend to. While I'm gone, I want you to restore some order to this chamber. Can you do that?"
"Do you need anything?"
Quatre looked around him and shook his head silently.
Without another word, the tall green-eyed man left the room. Quatre started across the chamber. Might just as well for right now. At least until Duo's better.
Downstairs, Trowa sought out the main who would be acting as the steward. The two were deeply immersed in conversation when Wufei burst through the entrance.
"A demon!" He yelled. "They have a DEMON working in the stables!"
"Wufei, what in God's name are you talking about?" Trowa asked impatiently.
"Or at the very least... an imp!" He snapped.
"I take offense at that description, sir!" A female voice chimed out behind him.
Wufei spun around. "That's her!"
Trowa looked at his friend, wondering if the cool, damp climate here had finally addled his brains. "Uh, Wufei... that's a female."
"Yes! I know that! A female imp! She had the nerve to threaten me with a hay fork and order me out of HER stables. She must be a netherworld creature!"
"And if you had told me what you were doing there, in the first place, I might have been friendlier!" She snapped. "You came barging into my stables, bellowing out orders." She stalked up and waved a fist under his nose. "And had the NERVE to tell me to leave!"
"Of course I did! A woman has no place working in the stables... dressed like that!" He snapped back, waving a hand at her breeches.
Trowa started to chuckle and Wufei turned to him in shock. He was laughing! The Viscount never laughed, he very rarely ever smiled.
Sobering, Trowa looked at the woman. "May I have your name, madame?"
"Sally Po, milord." She replied. "I've been the stable mistress here for four years now."
"And how did you come by such an unusual position?"
"Talent, milord." She replied, haughtily.
"Well, Sally Po, I've seen how well cared for the horses are here. You may keep your position as stable mistress."
"I figured that, milord."
Trowa raised an eyebrow and continued. "As long as you and Wufei work together."
"Viscount! You've got to be joking!" Wufei exclaimed.
"Have you ever known me to joke? I mean it. She obviously has talent with the animals. Between the two of you, I should have the best stables in the region."
"That's not a request, Wufei."
The woman laughed. "Come! I'll show you your duties."
"You mean the other way around." Wufei growled, stalking past her.
"Over my dead body!" She snapped following him.
"Female... DON'T TEMPT ME!!"
"You never order the two of us around, he's highly insulted."
Trowa turned to look at his friend. "I have my reasons, Heero."
"And what would that be?"
"Some things are better left unsaid."
Heero searched his friend's eyes. "Yes, I guess they are." He finally said.
Trowa gave a small smile. "So, what brings you down?"
"Ah, our patient has awakened. I've come to see if I can find a broth of some kind for him."
"He woke! I'm surprised." He lay a hand on Heero's shoulder. "You go back. I'll find something for both of you."
Heero nodded and headed back up the stairs. Trowa shook his head his head. Such a strange show of compassion from his normally cold friend.
Heero's head snapped up at the sound of movement from the bed. Standing, he went and sat on the edge of the bed. The boy had woken for a short time earlier and he had managed to get some thin broth into him. Although, Heero was sure that the young man was unaware of what was happening. Then he had fallen back into a deep sleep. Now, several hours later, it looked like he might wake again.
He watched Duo frown as his eye fluttered open, revealing deep pools of violet. Those eyes settled on Heero and his heart clenched at the fear he saw there. Why would anyone want to hurt this stunning creature? "It's alright." He spoke quietly. "I won't hurt you." No one will ever hurt you again.
Duo closed his eyes and winced at the pain in his body. He jumped and stiffened as a gentle hand brushed his forehead.
"It's alright." The voice soothed again.
He jerked, his slim body trembling as the memories came flooding over him. "Pl..." He rasped. "Please... don't touch me."
"I have to, in order to care for your injuries." Came the patient reply.
"I-I don't want to be touched. Please. I can care for my own injuries."
"You can't even sit up." Heero replied calmly. "I won't hurt you. You have my word."
Duo opened his eyes and stared into those cobalt depths. "It was you!" He gasped. "You were the one that..."
"Yes. I stopped him." Heero said sadly. "I wasn't early enough, though."
"But, you helped me." Duo insisted. He had a vague memory of gentle hands lifting him from the floor, of worried cobalt eyes and a low voice calling to him. "I believe you." He said finally. "I'll try to bear it."
"That's all I ask."
Trowa rubbed his eyes wearily as he strode down the hallway to his chamber. This day had been too long. Pushing open the door, he stopped, surprise evident in his green eyes.
Not only had young Winner straightened the chamber. He had cleaned it from top to bottom. The room practically gleamed. Maybe he's more capable of the work than I'd thought.
The blonde was seated at the hearth, reading a book. A platter of food, covered with a cloth, was staying warm by the fire, along with a bottle of wine and a goblet. Trowa stood in the doorway for a moment and studied the young man. He was fascinated by the shimmer that the flames caused in his golden hair, the curve of his slender neck, those long slim fingers slowly turning the pages of the book. His eyes settled on his full lips and as the blonde wet his them with the tip of his pink tongue, Trowa felt a surge of desire slam through him like he'd never experienced before, his groin tightening painfully. I've gone mad!
Suddenly he realized that those sapphire eyes were watching him. Clearing his throat he strode into the room and lay his gloves on the dresser.
"Lord," The boy spoke and Trowa could hear the struggle in his voice at the title.
"Compliance doesn't suit you well." He said curtly.
"Calling me that, I can hear the resentment in your voice." He explained sitting heavily in the chair in front of the fire.
"I'm trying." Quatre responded.
"I know you are. Look, I didn't ask to be sent here to take your father's place. Or yours." Trowa spoke wearily. "I had nothing to do with your father's execution. In my personal opinion his death robbed this land of a great man. I did ask to be given this land, but only because I knew the person who would receive it if I didn't. I want to make sure these people are treated well and they wouldn't have been otherwise. The other man was a hard and cruel man. I want peace as much as your father did." He looked up at the silent boy, his green eyes searching his face. "Will you help me or fight me?"
Quatre stared back at him, his mind circling. The Viscount was right about one thing. He didn't have anything to do with his father's death, but did he dare trust him on the rest. What choice do I have? I have to try to see that my people are safe! "Have you eaten, milord?" He asked quietly, the title falling a little easier from his lips.
"When we are in private, call me Trowa. I'm not comfortable with the title either."
Quatre actually smiled at the slender man's words. "Yes... Trowa." He walked over to the table in the center of the room and started to drag it towards the hearth.
"Let me help."
"It's alright, it's not that heavy." The blonde replied, but Trowa wouldn't have any of it.
He placed himself on the other side and pushed while Quatre pulled, quickly sliding the table over by the hearth. Trowa stood and looked at it. "I think I like it better here." He said. "Leave it after I've eaten."
"Alright." The blonde replied, setting the platter of food on the table. "Would you like wine?"
"Do you know how to mull it?"
"Yes, I do." Quatre sat back down on the hearth and laid a small iron poker in the flames. He poured a goblet of wine and opened a small packet of herbs, sprinkling them into the red liquid. Pulling the hot poker from the fire, he plunged it into the goblet, the wine steaming and hissing as the hot iron heated it.
He carried the warmed and spiced wine to the table and handed it to the Viscount. Trowa reached out to take it from him and their fingers brushed against one another. The blonde gasped as a current of electricity raced through him at the light contact, his sapphire eyes widening.
Trowa's eyes narrowed at the feel of the blonde's fingers brushing against his own, another jolt of desire running through him. Watching the boy's eyes widened, he had a sudden urge to grab him and kiss him senseless. What in the name of all that's holy am I thinking! I'm lusting after him as if he were a kitchen maid, and he's a boy at that! He shook his head, trying to clear the thoughts that raced through it. He stood suddenly. "I don't think I'm hungry after all." He said abruptly. "You can clear this away and then find your own bed."
"And where would that be?" The blonde questioned, his voice shaking, he'd seen the naked desire in those emerald depths. And it frightened him. "You haven't told me where I'm to sleep, yet."
In my bed! That's where I want you! DAMN! He had to stop these thoughts. They were wrong. "You may lay a pallet by the hearth, you seem to favor that spot."
"Yes, milord." The blonde replied quietly, once again raising the wall of formality between them.
Trowa swore and slammed out of the room. Somewhere in this place there must be a female that's not afraid of us! One that is willing to ease the fire in my blood, he thought angrily. A woman, yes that's what he needed! He'd just been too long without one, that was all it was.
Mulled Wine is wine that has been sweetened or other wise spiced and then heated. The process of mulling wine has been a practice since medieval days. Back before technology, wine was mulled by adding spices to the cup of wine and then heating it with, generally a small poker heated super hot in a fire and then plunged into the wine and held there until it stopped hissing. This process would alter the flavor of the wine and remove the alcohol from it. This drink was generally consumed by women, but men, who didn't care for alcohol also drank it.
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