Last chapter, and I am afraid it is a long one! A warning in advance: not all sub plots are resolved. They will be addressed in the sequel "Captivation" on which I am currently working and pulling my hair out over. If you have any preferences in what happens in the sequel let me know and I will try to include them.

Thanks to those who reviewed chapter 11: me, apol, Cynthia, beth, sakura yuy, Winnie, FierySable, Arabella Figgy, N/A, juliemoonstar, angelic1090, AznxAngel, Chibi Cat, AyanamiChan, Oyuki, Silver_Star, Joyell9292, CT, LaraWinner, Seeress, mya (a lot to happen I know, hence the really long chapter and sequel), pokey and mscad.

A wee note to mscad: You nearly gave me heart failure at the thought of a hole in the plot! I went back to check and I am pleased (and relieved) to say that Relena's name was mentioned by her old doctor in Dr Barry's presence prior to Barry talking to her. Phew! Nevertheless, thanks for mentioning it, I like when people mention possible problems!

Seduction by kmf

Chapter 12

The knock on the front door surprised the butler, it was evening and to his knowledge no guests were expected. The master had only just left with Dr Barry and had given no message to be given to anyone calling. Opening the door he found an attractive young woman dressed in dark clothes with a hooded cape covering her warm brown hair. She smiled and handed the butler her card. The butler referred to it before saying.

"I am very sorry Lady Une, but Lord Yuy is not at home."

Lady Une smiled again and swept passed the butler, pulling her hood down as she entered the hall. "I am not here to see Lord Yuy. I am here for Miss Peacecraft."

The butler hesitated, but Lady Une continued to undo her cape and then held it out to him. "I know it is late and Miss Peacecraft is unwell, but I leave for London early tomorrow and I wanted to pass on my felicitations before I go." She smiled sweetly again as the butler hung her cape a hook of the hat stand.

"I will see if she can receive you." The butler said, placing the card on a silver tray and making towards the stairs. He was a little disconcerted to find the lady following him rather than remaining in the receiving hall, as was the custom.

At the top of the stairs the butler knocked softly on his master's bedroom door. Catherine opened it and looked at the butler in surprise. He handed her the card and rolled his eyes to indicate that the lady was right behind him. Catherine frowned and looked over his shoulder to see Lady Une standing there.

"I know Miss Peacecraft is ill, but I have come to give my condolences for her mother's death and my best hopes for her speedy recovery." Lady Une said sweetly.

Catherine's eyes narrowed. There was something very disturbing about Lady Une and Catherine did not like her. She was about to refuse Une entry when Une pushed the butler to one side and came close enough to Catherine to whisper:

"I have news about Lady Helena Kushrinada that you might find interesting."

Catherine hesitated, torn between the desire to send this Lady away and the need to know what Une knew of Helena. Finally she nodded to the butler that Une's visit was acceptable and ushered the woman into Heero's room.

Une paused as she entered the room, sniffing the air and identifying the perfume she smelt to be jasmine. She sighed and breathed it in deeply, her mouth twitching into a serene smile. "A delightful scent." She commented "Equalled only by the rose in my opinion." Une turned to look at Relena and an expression of surprise came over her face. "She is in better health than I was led to believe."

Catherine smiled and stepped towards her charge "Dr Barry is a skilled physician." She said.

Sensing a movement close to her Catherine turned and was startled to find Une so close. Une smiled before bringing the fire poker crashing down on Catherine's head. Catherine fell to her hands and knees, stunned by the blow but not to the point of unconsciousness.

Une cursed and brought her foot up catching Catherine in the stomach. Catherine fell to the ground winded. Looking up she saw Une about to bring the poker down upon her head again and she forced her arms away from her injured stomach to defend her head. She caught the poker on its downward arc. Again, Une cursed softly trying to pull the poker out of Catherine's grip. Catherine's attention was so focused on retaining a hold on the poker that she did not see Une's foot heading towards her head until it was too late. Catherine's last conscious thought was how pretty the bows on Une's slippers were.

Une shook her head in distaste. The maid was so hard headed it had taken more blows than she had originally calculated to fell her. She listened carefully for the approach of anyone alerted to the struggle whilst she watched the unconscious maid. Une smiled, as the house remained silent. The silly maid had not ruined her plans yet and for a reward Une would refrain from killing her.

Une looked at Relena lying in the bed. She must be drugged, Une thought, to have slept through the fight. Une walked closer to observe the girl. Spoilt pale wretch she thought, feeling pangs of jealousy. How different Une's life would have been if she had been cherished with love and wealth as Miss Peacecraft was. Unfortunately most bastard children, Une included, were not cherished. If Une had been given wealth by her sire then Une would now be able to wed and support Treize. But it was not to be, and Treize would wed Relena.

Une did not want to share Treize with anyone. She did not tell that to Treize though, because he would not understand. He believed that Une was a free spirit, bedding many men. But in actuality Une only slept with one man. Her beloved Treize. Her master. Treize thought it exciting that Une belonged to others and so she played along, inventing rendezvous and assignations. She was clever in her pretence, so clever it almost became real to her. Almost. But there was only one man for her. And that was Treize.

Une was offended by Miss Peacecraft on two counts. The first was because she dared to turn Treize down. It was intolerable that this stupid child could turn down such a man. The second was that Miss Peacecraft would soon be married to Treize. Treize was Une's and she would not tolerate sharing him with anyone else. Even she could see that her dislike of Relena was illogical. The girl was literally dammed if she did, dammed if she did not.

Une bent over Relena and looked for something to bind her with. Finding nothing immediately useful, she unravelled the bandage at Relena's wrist and, holding the girl's wrists together, tied them. Firmly. Relena groaned as Une pulled extra tightly and her eyes flickered open. As Relena opened her mouth to speak, Une shoved a muslin square from the bedside table into her mouth before she could make any utterances. As Relena gagged on the dry cloth, Une pulled the sash from dressing gown draped at the foot of the bed and swiftly used it to hold the gag in place.

"I really do not want to hear you whine." Une said as she worked tying a knot firmly at the back of Relena's head. Relena was now awake and started to struggle, kicking her legs in agitation.

"Really my dear I would stop that unless you want to end up like her." Trieze had entered the room having silently let himself in to the house and crept quietly up the stairs. Trieze came into Relena's line of sight. She followed his pointing finger and saw Catherine lying on the floor, still. A trickle of blood was running from the girl's nose. Relena stopped struggling. A muffled noise came from her mouth as she tried to call her maid's name.

Treize sat on the bed beside Relena, and Relena tried to move away from him.

"Now, my dear, we are going on a little trip to Gretna Green. Do you know where that is? It is quite a way and will take a few days to get there. I need you to be a good girl for the trip." Treize looked at Catherine "We do not need you awake all the time, only for the vows, so unless you want to end up like your maid, please co-operate."

Relena looked at Treize with disgust.

"I am sorry, my dear. I really do despise physical violence and I would never strike a woman. However, my lovely companion Lady Une is much more realistic and would have no hesitation."

Une smiled "Please misbehave Miss Peacecraft. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to discipline you."

Treize held up a hand "Now, Lady, please. Miss Peacecraft will follow our instructions, wont you my dear?"

Relena nodded her head.

"Good" Treize bent down and scooped her up in his arms. "Now, we are going to leave here very quietly. You will not make a sound. There is no point, really. Yuy and your doctor have gone to Sanq Hall courtesy of a note I wrote." Relena frowned and looked at Catherine "I am sure your maid will be fine. Just so long as you remain quiet. Lady Une will stay with her to ensure she stays well until we are safely in my carriage."

* * * *

It had not taken Duo long to find the farmhouse where Hilde lived. After leaving Maresfield he rode to the village and made enquiries at the most popular pub. Fifteen minutes later he knew the names of Hilde's father, sisters, dead mother, horse and dog. He knew when they had arrived in England, how profitable the farm was and how it was a shame that Mr Schbeiker was foreign otherwise he would be a valuable addition to the village. With another pint of beer purchased for the informative patrons Duo also learnt that none of the Schbeiker girls had ever gone into servitude. The family was almost landed gentry, the farm was so profitable that there was no need for them to work. They helped on the farm as any good daughters ought to, but they never worked in any of the big houses.

Duo thanked his drinking companions by purchasing another round of frothy beer served in pewter tankards. In gratitude he was given the location of the farm. Nodding his thanks, and downing his pint, he left the pub and set off.

When he arrived at the farmhouse he hesitated for a little while outside. It was very dark by now, the windows of the farmhouse were illuminated by candlelight and looked warm and inviting. Duo could see Hilde and her sisters sitting in the parlour. Hilde was smiling at her two younger sisters whilst she wound up a skein of wool into a ball. As she worked she appeared to be instructing the youngest in the art of spinning, giggling at the child's lack of co-ordination. Then the child seemed to have a fit of temper and left the upright wheel.

Hilde put down her wool carefully and sat at the wheel, placing an apron over her lap to keep her dress clean. As she rolled some raw wool into a cigar shape, she beckoned to the sister who sullenly came to watch. Hilde used a hand to start the wheel, her foot pressed up and down in gentle rhythm on the pedal to keep the wheel in motion. Hilde's nimble fingers teased the wool out, pulling back away from the wheel until the thread was long, thin and even, then she allowed it to be pulled in and gathered on the spool. Hilde repeated this process a couple of times at the end of which she quirked an eyebrow at her sister as if to say "see?". She then stopped the wheel and let her sister try again. Even Duo could tell the child's work was rough, lumps of wool underspun collected down the thread, but Hilde smiled encouragement.

Duo sighed, thinking what an accomplished woman she was. None of the social elite he had met would know how to spin. Hilde probably even knew how to brew her own beer and wine. She was a treasure.

Duo scowled. But not his treasure. His anger rekindled, he strode to the door and knocked firmly. After a brief pause he knocked again. The door was opened by a timid little mouse of a girl who looked at him with over big eyes, peeping out from under her mop cap.

"Yes sir?" she asked. "Mr Duo Maxwell here to see Miss Hilde Schbeiker." Duo announced.

The maid's big eyes opened even wider and she looked nervously to her left.

"It is alright." Hilde appeared in the doorway "I will talk to him. Outside." The maid bobbed a curtsey and scuttled off.

Hilde looked at Duo cautiously then pushed past him to the cool night air.

"What do you want?." She asked

"How did you know which was Heero's room?" Duo blurted out, deciding that direct questioning was the best.

Hilde blinked. Her face grew white then red. "I beg your pardon?" she asked.

"Perhaps I am not being direct enough." Duo frowned "I am asking how you knew where Relena was housed and how you found the room without direction? Are you having an affair with-" before Duo could finish, Hilde had swung her arm back and punched him in the face.

It was Duo's turn to stumble back and fall. He ended up sitting on his backside looking up at an extremely irate Hilde who was rubbing her hand. Her punch had hurt her as it had hurt him. And what a punch it was! Duo rubbed his jaw, feeling for loose teeth, feeling impressed at yet another accomplishment Miss Schbeiker had. She was a fantastic boxer.

"How dare you!" Hilde growled out in rage "How the bloody hell dare you!" Duo raised an eyebrow at her language and started to get to his feet. "That is right! Get to your feet so I can knock you down again!" Hilde almost shrieked in rage. Duo froze realising that she was not joking. "You, you, you…. spoilt self centred idiot of a man!" Hilde continued "How dare you accuse me of such an thing. If I were a man I would call you out! Go on! Get up!"

Duo decided it was safer to stay down. Hilde's anger was far stronger than his own but he had to know the truth. So, with due thought to the health risks of the question, he asked again.

"Are you having an affair with my cousin?"

Hilde looked as though she was going to have an apoplexy. "No!" she all but screamed at him "Catherine was making a pot of tea in the servants quarters when I arrived. She gave me instruction to go unannounced because she knew that I did not want to have to go through the ordeal of seeing you!" Hilde's fist clenched at her sides "Now, Mr Maxwell, if you have finished insulting me. Kindly get off my land. If I ever see you and your stupid woman's hair on this property again, I shall set my dogs on you!" Hilde spun around, entered the farmhouse closing the door with a resounding bang.

Duo continued to sit, rubbing his jaw. He grinned.

"What a woman!" he said out loud. He had a lot of work ahead of him, he knew, but he was going to win that feisty woman's heart. And he was going to marry her. His grin grew broader at the thought. Then it faded a little as he remembered his encounter with Heero.

"Looks like I shall have to apologise." He got up and dusted off his posterior "It is a good thing that I am so endearing!"

* * * *

Millardo Peacecraft and his wife were both grateful for the news that Wufei had just related to them and their houseguest Quatre who was, as normal, guarded by Rashid.

"This is wonderful" Lucrezia was delighted "Soon she will be able to come home!" she rested her hand against her still flat stomach. Whilst it had been important to Lucrezia that she protect her baby from the threat of disease, she found she had missed Relena dreadfully and was genuinely looking forward to her return.

Wufei nodded "Dr Barry can see no reason why she cannot be moved once she regains a little strength."

"Dr Willerby is a problem." Millardo said "He has always been an excellent doctor but perhaps his methods are a little old fashioned. Maybe I can encourage him to retire."

Lucrezia nodded "I am afraid I would no longer have any trust in him when it comes to my confinement." She blushed at the mention of her pregnancy "Perhaps we can gently encourage him. I do not want to hurt his feelings."

"You must approach this with honesty." Quatre suggested "I am sure that the doctor would prefer that rather than being lied to. Perhaps you could encourage him in his other interests. At the picnic he told me a great deal about his interest in astronomy."

Peygan came to the door "Dr Robert Barry and Lord Yuy are here to see you." He announced.

Lucrezia looked at Millardo, startled that Heero should call and fearful of Millardo's reaction. Millardo's eyes had narrowed at Yuy's name.

"He is here?" he muttered, not taking note of Peygan's response. Millardo go to his feet and strode out of the room to the receiving hall, closely followed by the Lucrezia, Wufei, Quatre and Rashid.

"Millardo paused as he saw the two men waiting to see him. Heero looked unsettled, he played with his top hat running his fingers around the rim.

"Dr Barry" Millardo came forward to shake the doctor's hand "It is a pleasure to meet you. I cannot thank you enough for what you have done for my sister." Barry inclined his head in response "May I introduce my wife Lucrezia Marchioness of Zechs, and Ambassador Winner. I believe you already have met Mr Chang." Barry nodded to each of the people mentioned "It was Ambassador Winner who sent to the King for your assistance."

Quatre smiled broadly as he reached to shake Barry's hand. "I hope you will forgive my…." Quatre paused and looked at Barry closely "…deception."

Barry glanced at Wufei who also looked a little taken aback at Quatre's choice of words. Barry looked back at Quatre's wide blue eyes.

"I am a doctor, it is my duty to heal the ill, even if the truth is bent a little." He replied. Quatre smiled more broadly and nodded.

Millardo turned to Heero, his smile fading and his eyes growing hard.

"What are you doing here Yuy?" he demanded, "I told you that you were no longer welcome at Sanq Hall. I cannot believe that you would stoop so low as to accompany this honourable doctor to gain entrance."

There was an awkward pause as Barry and Heero exchanged glances, then looked at Quatre. Quatre looked backed at them expectantly.

"Ah, there seems to be some confusion." Dr Barry finally said, "I received a summons from his honour." Barry nodded towards Quatre "The invitation included Lord Yuy."

Millardo glared at Quatre who held his hands up in protest. "As much as I am pleased to meet you doctor and as much as I would like Millardo and Heero to resolve their differences, I did not sent the invitation."

Again, there was silence. Dr Barry was annoyed.

"Well, someone did. If this is all a joke, I should like to take my leave. This has been a most peculiar day and I am eager to see my bed."

No sooner as he had finished talking, were they all started by the entrance door being thrown open and a very dishevelled Dorothy Catalonia stumbled in. She had obviously not been expecting anyone to observe her undignified entrance, least of all the master of the house, and she regarded them all with something akin to horror. Her hand flew up to her hair, which had at some point come unbound and fell in tangles to her hips. Her day dress was dirty, she looked as if she had tripped on more than one occasion. She was wearing neither bonnet nor gloves. Her face was scratched lightly, as were her arms. Her right arm sported a large bruise in the shape of fingers.

Quatre was the first to move. He quickly came to Dorothy's aid, placing a supporting arm around her waist spurring the others into action. Dorothy was ushered to the drawing room and settled on a settee. Dr Barry cast a quick eye over her paying particular attention to her bruised arm, whilst Lucrezia swiftly order a restoring glass of brandy to be followed by some tea. Quatre sat beside her gently plucking leaves from Dorothy's hair. The fact that Heero was not welcome had been temporarily forgotten as he stood in the shadows of the candle lit room.

"Miss Peacecraft, is she alright?" Dorothy asked when she was able to make herself heard over the general hubbub of concern. She looked to Quatre who was distracting her by caressing her hair under the pretence of removing foliage from it. It was an oddly comforting sensation.

Millardo frowned, remembering Heero. He looked up at him and scowled before answering Miss Catalonia. "Yes, she is recovering under the ministrations of Dr Barry. She is much improved from yesterday."

Dorothy sighed in relief. "Thank goodness, I was so worried that I would be too late."

"Too late?" Quatre asked as Dr Barry started to manipulate Dorothy's arm to assess the damage done to the limb.

Dorothy winced at the pressure Dr Barry was exerting on her arm. "I am so sorry Marquise, but I have to inform you that my cousin Lord Kushrinada is not to be trusted. You must be vigilant of Miss Peacecraft. I overheard my cousin and Lady Une making plans to abduct her with the intention of Trieze marrying her for her fortune." Dorothy did not notice the shocked silence in the room and continued "When they knew I had overheard them I was locked in my room. I escaped by climbing down the ivy which grows outside my bedroom window." She closed her eyes "I am so relieved that I was able to get here in time to warn you."

Millardo had listened in silence and now blinked trying to comprehend what this girl had just told them. "I beg your pardon?" he said trying to understand how it would be possible for a friend of so many years to betray his trust.

Heero had come forward to the light, his fists were clenched "So much for Kushrinada's high morals!" he growled, glaring at Millardo "Kushrinada is planning to wed another fortune. How do you think he will dispose of the heiress this time?" Millardo glared back at him. Lucrezia swiftly moved between the two men trying to keep them apart.

"When are they to make the attempt?" she asked Dorothy, whilst casting a warning glance at Millardo.

Dorothy shook her head "I do not know for certain. I had thought they were on their way to steal her now. I am thankful I was able to arrive before they did, so you will be able to keep Miss Peacecraft safe."

"I could keep her safe if she was here!" Millardo said angrily, focusing his rage on Heero again "This is your fault Yuy, you should have bought her here when she fell ill."

Heero bridled at the accusation "And if you had paid more attention to her in the first instance she would not have fallen ill." He retorted.

Lucrezia held her hands up "Gentlemen, please! This is not helping the situation at all."

Millardo was still unable to accept that Treize had so thoroughly betrayed him. He turned back to Dorothy and demanded "Is what you have related the truth, or is it some trickery that you and Heero have concocted between yourselves? Have you and he entered into another bet to see how quickly you can make me rush across the county to save my sister?"

Heero had enough. Moving past Lucrezia he grasped Millardo's arm and drew him close so they were eye to eye, nose to nose. "You are wasting time, Peacecraft!" he growled.

Dorothy was having difficulty keeping up with what was going on. She shrunk back from Millardo's onslaught and felt relief when Heero distracted Millardo's rage from her. Before Dorothy could say anything to defend herself Quatre spoke up.

"Miss Catalonia is telling the truth Millardo." He said quietly whilst patting Dorothy's hand. Dorothy turned to regard him grateful that he was supporting her. She had no wish to argue with the Marquise, she felt as though she had no energy left to argue with anyone.

Millardo nodded at Quatre's words and shook Heero's grip from his arm. He turned and walked to the door that connected the drawing room to his study. Taking a candlestick from above the fireplace to light his way, he moved through the door to his desk and placed the candlestick down upon it. Reaching into his waistcoat pocket he drew forth a small ring of keys from which he selected one made of brass. He unlocked a drawer of the desk and pulled from it a large rosewood box. Selecting another small silver key he opened the box to reveal two duelling pistols nestled in blue velvet.

Lucrezia put her hand to her mouth distressed at Millardo's intentions. She knew that Relena must be rescued, but also knew at what the cost would be to her husband if he had to duel with Trieze. Millardo carefully pulled forth the weapons. He looked up to see that Heero had followed him into the room. Millardo considered the situation for a moment or two; if he were to successfully rescue Relena he would need all the help he could get. Silently Millardo held out a pistol to Heero. Heero accepted it, judging the weight of the weapon before placing it in the waistband of his trousers.

"Careful with that Yuy." Millardo cautioned "It is primed."

Wufei was standing in the doorway watching the two men arm themselves. "I am coming with you if only to prevent unjustifiable bloodshed. If Trieze has done what Miss Catalonia accuses him of then he shall pay for it." He gestured to the weapons. "However, you must give him the opportunity to speak for himself. I will not allow you to shoot first and ask questions later"

Heero walked back into the drawing room, and paused to study Wufei "She is your sister. Do you not feel any anger?"

"Yes, she is my sister. And I will do my utmost to protect her. But I am also very aware that your anger is driven not only by this event, but by the fact that your sister died whilst married to Kushrinada." Wufei calmly answered.

"And if he has taken Relena?" Heero pressed, his eyes narrowed.

"If he has taken her, then I will be the first to seek justice." Wufei said, his head bowed. "I demand the right to fight Kushrinada as her brother, if not of blood then of spirit."

Millardo emerged from the study and handed Wufei a sabre housed in a plain black scabbard. "You may wish to carry this then." Millardo said and watched as Wufei pulled the blade free of its scabbard and hefted the weight judging its balance "But I warn you: Trieze is an excellent swordsman."

"So am I." Wufei said confidently.

"Millardo, please take Rashid with you too." Quatre asked "He is a skilled warrior and may be of assistance" As Millardo nodded his acceptance, Rashid bowed and placed a hand on the scimitar he carried in his waistband. He smiled in anticipation of a fight.

Dr Barry had been watching the exchange of weapons with interest. "I may be mistaken Mr Chang, but I thought you said you did not duel." He commented.

Wufei gave him a half smile "I am not going to duel. If Kushrinada is guilty I am going to dispense justice." He nodded and followed Millardo and Heero from the room.

"There is a difference?" Barry shook his head.

* * * *

Treize had smuggled the passive Relena down the stairs without alerting any of the servants. Once outside he bundled her into the waiting carriage. The driver was aware of an additional unwilling passenger but he appeared to have been paid well for his silence. Treize pushed Relena on to a seat and then sat opposite to her. He lifted the flap of heavy material that shaded the unglazed window and observed Une descending the front steps of Maresfield followed by the butler.

Treize quickly threw a dark blanket over Relena to prevent anyone who made a quick inspection of the inside of the carriage from noticing her. The blanket smelt stale and dusty. She coughed a couple of times into her gag before Trieze hissed at her to be quiet and pulled her forward so that she fell from the seat to the floor of the carriage. Treize pressed his foot hard against her back giving her a clear warning to keep silent. Relena could see nothing but she felt another person enter the carriage, the vehicle tipping down slightly, then evening out again as they sat on the highly padded upholstery.

"Oh. Lord Kushrinada! Good evening to you sir!" Relena heard the butler say.

Treize said nothing but Relena imagined that he would have nodded. A second pair of feet were now upon her, swinging backwards and forwards catching her in the ribs with each forward swing, in exactly the same place each time. Relena winced in pain as the force behind the kicks began to increase.

"Be sure to give your Master my compliments." Lady Une said and then Relena heard the door close and the carriage lurch into motion. Treize foot was raised from Relena's body, but Une's gave her another maliciously hard kick before Relena felt a hand grasp her arm and she was lifted and shoved back onto the seat. The blanket was removed and Relena found herself closely scrutinised by Une and Treize who were sitting opposite her.

"Do not look so cross, my dear. You should be happy!" Treize said, "An elopement is an exciting event."

Relena tried to protest but could not due to the gag in her mouth. She shook her head violently. Une frowned.

"You will obey Master Treize." Une said, "If you do not willingly I will punish you." She smiled slightly "Just as I punished Helena."

Trieze looked pained "Please Lady Une, try and restrain yourself. You know that I abhor violence. Please do not remind me again of that inelegant episode."

Une flushed at the reprimand and nodded, lowering her head. But her eyes were still focused on Relena. Relena closed her own eyes, pulling slightly on the bandages that now bound her arms together. She winced in pain and saw that the cut on her wrist had opened and blood was staining the dirty white material. Relena looked up at Une who was still regarding her intently. Relena could see hatred in this woman's eyes. How had this woman punished Helena? Had Helena not taken her own life by jumping from a high window in the asylum? Had, in fact, she been pushed? And had Une been the one to push her?

Une stopped looking at her and snuggled into Treize, kissing him on the cheek. Trieze pulled her close warming her. Une reached out one hand and pulled the blanket away from Relena and arranged it on her own and Treize's legs. Relena left now only in the white night dress shivered.

"My dear, please speak up if you are cold and I shall give it back." Une said, raising an eyebrow as Relena glared at her unable to speak due to the gag. "No? I shall take it that you are warm enough then" Une turned her attention back to Trieze.

The coach lurched making all three occupants steady themselves. Treize pulled the material flap back from the window and called out "What is wrong driver?"

A voice floated back "These back roads are rough, sir. They have not yet been sealed and can be treacherous.

After a while the juddering movements of the carriage began to make Relena feel ill. The cloth in her mouth was not helping; it was causing her every so often to retch as it touched the back of her throat. She was sure that sooner or later she would disgrace herself by being thoroughly sick, and then probably choke to death. Treize must have thought that too because he reached over and pulled her towards him. She overbalanced and came to be on her knees on the floor of the coach, in a position of supplication to Treize and Une.

"I am going to remove your gag – but I warn you: if you scream or call for help I shall restrain you again." His nimble long fingers untied the knot and let the sash fall away. Treize watched in distaste as Relena used her bound hands to pull the rag from her mouth, then he gestured for her to throw it out of the window.

Lady Une hissed "That was foolish" but Treize shook his head, pulling back his cloak to display his sabre. "She knows what will happen if she complains."

Une shook her head "That was not what I meant."

Relena had swallowed in relief. Now that she did not have the constant sensation of the cloth pressing on the back of her throat she was able to think more clearly. She glared at Trieze.

"You are mistaken if you think I will wed you Sir!" she said determinedly "I will never consent."

Une's reaction was not as Relena expected it to be. She burst into laughter "You are an innocent if you think Master Treize needs your consent."

Treize held a hand up to silence her "Please Miss Peacecraft." He said softly "I only want what is best for you. I shall, if you wed me, treasure you for as long as you shall live. You will be my Queen."

Relena felt cold at his polite speech "Queen for how long?" She asked coldly "Queen for two or three days until you manage to have me certified as mad and confine in an asylum? Or until you manage to have me die through illness? Or perhaps you will have Lady Une throw me from a high window? I believe that is your favourite way of disposing of annoying wives!"

Treize shook his head and looked pained "My dear Miss Peacecraft. I am afraid your illness has affected your reason."

Relena smiled ironically "And see, it begins already. You will never convince me of your good intentions, not after what you have done tonight, not after how you treated Heero's sister, and certainly not after I saw how you treat your own daughter."

The last remark got both Treize and Une's attention.

"Daughter?" Treize asked faintly.

"Mariemaia." Relena said "Confined to a work house and employed as a slave in your textile factory."

Lady Une was looking with some surprise at Trieze, and Relena noted with satisfaction that she had managed to disconcert the usually unflappable Lady Une.

"You have a child?" Une asked

"Of no importance." Treize answered "A bastard girl. I paid good coin for her to be housed in a work house in London away from the prying eyes of the local gossips. That idiot overseer must have bought her in the last lot of children he got from the London parish. It is not important."

Relena watched Une closely. It apparently seemed quite important to her even if it was of no concern to Treize. However, Une did not have the opportunity to ask further questions at that point of time as the coach encountered a rut in the road that proved too much for its wheels. The carriage lurched alarmingly to one side and Relena felt herself thrown against the side of the carriage. The impact caused pain to shoot up her arm and white spots to dance in front of her eyes.

"Absolutely typical." Trieze muttered "When will my luck change?"

* * * *

The ride from Sanq Hall to Maresfield was a mad dash of horses pushed to their limits, the riders uncaring of whether their mounts stumbled or strained legs. The need to get to Maresfield and to Relena as soon as possible outweighed any consideration of safety.

Upon reaching Maresfield all four men ran up the steps and entered the house, Heero calling noisily for his butler. When the unfortunate man appeared Heero quickly demanded if any people had visited. The butler shakily recounted the visit of Lady Une, adding that Lord Kushrinada had remained in the carriage and had made no effort to enter the house.

A dread gripped Heero and he swiftly climbed the stairs and knocked softly on the door of his bedroom. When no response was forthcoming, he quietly opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief to see a figure in the bed, softly illuminated by the dying coals of the fire.

"Thank God we are in time." Millardo whispered, and Heero was inclined to agree.

That was until Rahsid pushed past Heero into the room muttering "Where is Catherine?"

Fresh fear took hold of Heero, for it was true Catherine was not to be seen and the maid would never willingly leave her mistress. Rashid was now bending over the figure on the bed.

"We are too late." He said laying his head down onto the chest of the figure.

"What the hell are you doing to my sister?" Millardo and Wufei both said together, starting forward angrily. Heero held up a hand to stop them

"It is not Relena." He said quietly

"She lives." Rashid reported, lifting his head "Her heart still beats strongly, but I must take her to the doctor."

Heero nodded and turned to leave the room "Coming?" he asked Millardo and Wufei, who by now had identified the figure in the bed to be that of Relena's maid. They followed him swiftly down the stairs, out the front door and back into the cool night air. Heero swiftly took the reins of his horse and mounted again.

"Which way should we go?" Wufei asked

"The small roads. They will stay away from the main." Heero replied.

"Would they?" Millardo questioned "They would travel faster by main road."

"They would believe that we would also easily catch them on the main road." Heero argued "There are more small lanes to travel along, more chances of us not finding them."

The butler had by now appeared at the top of the steps, and was hurrying down carrying three lit lanterns. He handed one to each of the men and Heero nodded his thanks.

"What if Treize anticipates us thinking that he would go by the back road, and then travels by the main?" Wufei asked "Should we not divide and search both?"

Heero considered, looking at Relena's brothers "I do not believe that. I believe he is on the back roads and that is where I intend to search."

Millardo frowned "You trust my sister's safety to a hunch?"

"Do as you will, Peacecraft." Heero pulled on his reins and spurred his horse into action. Holding his lantern low to catch sight of any tracks that might have been left by the passing of the coach.

Millardo frowned "I cannot risk it, Wufei. I do not believe that Treize would have the intelligence to risk the high road. However, Une is with him and she is devious." He nodded to himself coming to a decision. "I will ride hard on the main. They are only at most half an hour in front of us. If I do not find them within two hours, I will join you on the back roads. You go with Yuy. Keep him in line. If you find Relena, don't let Heero near her."

Wufei nodded.

* * * *

Relena sat shivering as Trieze and the driver argued over whose fault it was that the wheel had become damaged. Treize claimed it was the driver's poor skill in directing his horses, whilst the driver said it was idiocy to have forced him to drive a team so fast and hard down treacherous lanes. It was only a matter to time before a horse broke a leg or a wheel was broken. Trieze should consider himself lucky that the latter had happened because at least the driver could mend that.

Relena sat observing Une closely. Une had not spoken since the accident, but Relena could see she had much on her mind. Perhaps, Relena thought, if I would get the sympathy of this woman she might let me go.

"Did you know Treize had a daughter?" Relena started to speak softly. Une's eyes flicked back into focus and stared at Relena. Une was silent. "Did you-" Relena started to repeat herself thinking that Une had not head.

"No" Une interrupted "I did not"

"Does it worry you how he treats his own flesh and blood?" Relena asked again.

Une's eyes narrowed "How Master Treize treats what is his has nothing to do with you, nor me." She replied

"Does it concern you that he did not tell you of his daughter?"

Une smiled mildly "His illegitimate daughter is someone of no importance. We all know that bastards are of little use to anyone."

Relena was the now the one to feel annoyed "Do we?" she asked "Thank you for that observation, but I believe that I am valued quite highly. Especially by the 'Master'" she said sarcastically.

Une shook her head. "You are only of use because of your money. If you were poor, no one would care."

"If I was poor, I would still care for Mariemaia. Treize has cast her aside, a child that so much resembles her father you would be able to pick her from a crowd with ease. All because of his selfishness and her parentage. If she was loved and cherished then I would say she would have the opportunity to be of great use."

Une turned her head away "If she was loved and cherished. But how many bastards are if they have no money."

Relena watched Une for a little while. She bit her lip knowing she was on dangerous ground, but she knew she had to make the observation.

"You are illegitimate." She said. Une made no comment. "That is why this revelation has affected you so much."

Une turned her head away again and Relena knew that she had guessed what was upsetting Une. She reached out her bound hands to touch Une sympathetically, but Une slapped her away. Her eyes grew angry again. The tormented expression had gone.

"Do not touch me!" Une hissed "And do not think that you can get into my mind."

Une stood up and exited the carriage leaving Relena on her own.

Relena did not hesitate. Immediately she reached for the handle of the door closest to her and twisted it. She had to push hard to open the door as the carriage was on a tilt. Quietly she climbed down, her breath held, expecting any moment to be caught or a cry of alarm to go up as her absence from the carriage was discovered. Treize was still arguing with the driver as she softly let the door close.

Relena turned and in the darkness could see that they were currently in the woods. Unable to see any lights to indicate habitation, she did the next best thing she could and just walked in a straight line away from the carriages, down a bank and into the woods. Once out of earshot from the carriage and secure that no breaking twigs could alert her captors' attention to the fact that she had escaped, she ran as fast as she could away to freedom.

* * * *

Heero slowed his horse and held his lantern low. On the verge of the road there was a wad of white cloth tinged with orange from the lamplight.

"We are close" Heero commented and Wufei nodded his agreement, but gestured ahead to where the track forked.

"Which way?" Wufei asked.

Heero dismounted and peered at the dry road. There were plenty of tracks but none looked new. "I do not know." he said.

"There are two of us. I will take the right, you take the left." Wufei decided and Heero nodded his agreement. "If I find no sign I will catch you up". Again Heero nodded, mounted his horse and started to canter down the road.

Wufei tightened his hand on the pommel of his sabre. He was feeling uneasy. With each minute passing he worried more and more for the safety of his sister. He urged his horse into a trot and proceeded down his chosen path, his lantern held high as he looked left and right for any more signs. Wufei felt hope as he observed a puddle in the road that had recently been driven through, wet tracks of a carriage had been through it. He continued cautiously now, paying extra attention to the noises of the near dawn.

Seeing a glow of a lantern ahead in the road, he slowed his horse to a walk and moved to the verge where the grass would muffle the sounds of the hooves. He lowered his lantern to shield the light and observed the scene in front of him. A carriage was on the side of the road, its driver in the process of replacing a broken spoke. To the side stood two cloaked figures that appeared to be arguing with each other. Wufei identified the pair as Trieze threw up his arms and exclaimed loudly.

"No more on the subject Lady Une! The child is nothing to do with you!"

Wufei immediately dismounted and strode forth "Kushrinada!" he yelled "Where is my sister!"

The driver stood up in fright as the enraged oriental suddenly loomed in the orange glow of the lamp. Wufei made a terrifying figure, his cape swirling and his brow creased into a scowl of rage.

"Where is she?" Wufei demanded again

Trieze was less impressed than his driver and seemed only amused "Finally my luck seems to be changing" he smiled "What are you going to do Clergyman? Pray for God to smite me down?"

"Give me my sister!" Wufei scowled.

"Make me!" Treize scoffed.

Wufei drew forth his sabre, which made Treize grin broadly.

"You wish to duel?" Trieze drew forth his own sword "I warn you, I will not go lightly with you just because you are a man of the cloth."

"I will not duel with you." Wufei hissed "Duelling is between two honourable men. You have no honour Kushrinada. You attack the weak and defenceless; no honourable person does that. I will fight you, not duel!"

Treize eyes narrowed "And now you insult me. So be it!"

Treize bought his sword up to his face in a salute. Wufei did not. He would not acknowledge that Trieze had any honour at all. Trieze scowled and bought his sword down, his feet apart, his front foot pointing towards Wufei. His sword arm forward, his off hand held up behind him balancing the weight of the sword.

Wufei untied the strings to his cloak and let it fall behind him and adopted a similar position holding the pommel of his sword loosely. He smiled.

"En Garde!" Treize acknowledged

Treize lunged forward in attack whilst Wufei parried moving his sword in a small circle effortlessly with a flick of his wrist. Wufei then immediately struck back and Trieze parried.

Treize smiled knocking his blade up against Wufei's holding it in the classic engagement position. "You are fast!" Wufei made no reply, but again attacked. And so it went on: attack, parry, reposte, and parry. Swords catching the orange flame of the lantern flickering in the early dawn.

Une watched the fight with trepidation. She could see for all Treize's bragging and blustering that he was evenly matched with this clergyman. For a while it seemed that Treize got the upper hand; Wufei was forced back by a series of lunges on Treize's part. Then Wufei took the offensive and forced Treize back.

Attack, parry, reposte, parry, counter reposte, parry…

Wufei's style was wilder than Trieze, who fought elegantly in a classic French style with refined tight movements. Wufei fought in a coarser way, his movements jerky but forceful. He had not been schooled in the art as Treize had.

In the end it was not training or skill that determined the match. It was luck. Or rather, in Treize Kushrinada's case, it was the last of a long run of bad luck. As he attempted to parry a lunge that Wufei made, his foot encountered a hollow in the grass on which they fought. Caught off balance his body automatically moved to regain equilibrium leaving his torso open to attack. Wufei's riposte was not parried successfully, his blade slid into Treize's chest. Both then regarded the blade in some surprise.

"Typical.." Treize breathed as he fell to his knees, the blade slipping from his chest allowing a spurt of blood to follow. "Salute." He said to Wufei, fell to the ground and breathed no more.

"No!" screamed Lady Une, as she ran to the body of her lover and fell over it crying in her anguish.

Wufei calmed his breathing and looked at the sword in his hand in distaste. He dropped it and ran to the coach. Opening the door he found it empty. Looking at Une he knew he would not get anything coherent from the hysterical woman.

"Relena!" he called.

* * * *

Relena had slowed her pace to a shuffling walk. She was cold, her feet hurt from the twigs, ivy and bracken that carpeted the ground under the trees. She was tired. If Treize loomed near she thought she would run to him and beg to be carried back to the coach. She so wanted to be anywhere that was warm, anywhere she could lay down and sleep. Relena stumbled in the dark again and muttered as she tried to use her teeth to undo the bonds at her wrists. She so very much wanted to go home.

Hearing in the distance the sounds of a rider approaching, she looked towards the noise to see a light travelling along what she thought must be the road. Stumbling she hurried through the thickets trying to intersect the horses path. Saplings pulled at her dress impeding her movements. Suddenly she pulled free of the woods and stumbled out to a track. She held her hands up trying to hail the rider who was fast approaching.

The horse reared at the sight of her suddenly appearing, white and ghostlike at the side of the road. There was a muffled curse as the rider fell; the lantern shattering as it hit the ground. The horse trotted back snorting and the rider was still. A horrible sense of deja vu flowed over Relena and she all but cried as she sunk to her knees in despair. Her stupidity had probably killed her potential saviour. She could see the prone figure lying in the road, but she had no energy to get to her feet and tend to him.

"….Relena?" A voice questioned in the dimness of the dawn. The rider rose from where he had fallen and walked over to her, kneeling beside her on the road.

"Heero?" Relena felt tears well up in her eyes and she sank into his embrace. Heero held her tight, kissing her hair in the delight of finding her.

"Are you alright?" he demanded, pulling away and trying to see her in the murky light. He saw her nod "Did Treize hurt you?"

Relena shook her head. He observed her shiver and standing took off his cloak, then his jacket. He held the jacket up for her to slip her arms into, then saw that her wrists were bound. Cursing Treize, he wrestled with the knot for a while, before resorting to a knife he produced from the inside of his boot. He examined her bruised and bloody wrists before dressing her in his jacket. He bade her say where she was and quickly recovered the horse.

"Can you stand?" he asked. Again, she nodded and he helped her to her feet before wrapping her in his cloak like a blanket. He mounted the horse before reaching down and lifting her onto his lap. She smiled, breathing in his scent on his cloak and nuzzled into his embrace.

"This seems familiar." She murmured and Heero half smiled.

"Please do not make a habit of it, I do not believe I can take the strain of finding you abandoned in the wilds again." He said as he urged his horse to walk on

He asked her gently how she got away and as the dawn got lighter she explained to him, her voice tired, her eyelids drooping. As she finished she asked "Is Catherine alright?"

Heero nodded caressing his cheek with her hair "I believe so. Rashid was taking her to Dr Barry." Relena smiled in relief. "I need to apologise to you Miss Peacecraft." Heero said after a pause "What happened at the ball…"

Relena twisted her body so she could look up at Heero. She raised a hand to his lips to stop him speaking.

"It is alright. Do not apologise. I know why you did what you did." Relena could not mask a large yawn "But it is all truly remedied. You need not worry."

Heero smiled sadly, brushing his lips against her soft cheek. "It would please me more than anything in this life to court you, but you know one of my family secrets, the most terrible one. I could never subject you to a life of never knowing when madness would strike."

To his surprise Relena laughed softly. "You will see. I said it is alright." She told him what she had learnt from Treize, Une and Dr Willerby. His eyes narrowed in anger at what had befallen his sister and the desire to punish Treize was strong. But he could not maintain that anger whilst holding Relena so close, the moment was too precious to spoil by contemplating revenge. In addition a little bubble of joy had started to form in his chest as he realised that if the Yuy blood was not tainted, there was no reason why he could not court Relena. Apart, of course, from Millardo.

Relena closed her eyes and nestled again into him sharing his body heat. She opened her eyes again and looked at him. "You have other family secrets?" she asked weakly, her expression conveying worry at what else could possibly haunt the Yuy family name.

Heero had to laugh at her face "Nothing so dire as madness, I assure you."

Relena closed her eyes "Tell me" she said sleepily. Heero was no longer watching the road, he let his horse find its way whilst he gazed at his sleepy burden.

"It is a legend, rather than a secret." He said softly, watching as Relena nodded but did not open her eyes. "Two or three hundred years ago one of my ancestors was a captain of a merchant ship. He was sailing his ship to East China where he hoped to partake in profitable trade. He encountered a storm that blew him off course into the Sea of Japan. There he encountered a wreck of a ship that had also fallen foul of the weather. The captain rescued from the water one survivor: a young Japanese girl." Heero observed Relena smile sleepily and smiled himself "The captain, feeling sorry for the young girl, attempted to return her to her home land, but Japan is and was a forbidden place closed off to foreigners. The captain's ship was driven back by Japanese warriors who refused to allow them to land, or to return the girl. Because she had come into contact with foreigners she was also forbidden to return."

"Was she beautiful?" Relena asked.

"Oh yes, extremely beautiful." Heero nodded "So beautiful and gentle that the captain soon fell deeply in love with her and took her home with him to be his bride."

"And she loved him too?" Relena asked in a very small tired voice.

"Undoubtedly" Heero smiled again "Who could resist a Yuy. Though, truth be told she did not at first. She thought him a arrogant, selfish man. But later she came to love him deeply and they had many children together. They were a perfect match."

Relena's breath was quiet and even. Heero looked down at her and smiled realising that she was now peacefully asleep. He watched her wishing that all fairy tale romances could come true. He kissed her hair again, luxuriating in the closeness between them.

And that was how Millardo found them a little while later. Having had no luck on the main road, he had travelled hard on the back road. He had already encountered a pale Wufei riding with a silent Lady Une. Wufei had related how Treize had died and that Une, after screaming for what had seemed a very long time, had suddenly become quiet and completely withdrawn. Wufei told Millardo that he had not found Relena and had no idea where she was.

Millardo had spurred his horse and backtracked to the other road where he found the cut bandage that had been used to bind Relena. Fresh hoof prints pointed the way in which Heero's horse had travelled. It was with pure relief that he came across Heero and Relena. Relena was peacefully cradled in Heero's arms, wrapped warm and secure. Heero was shockingly immodest in his shirtsleeves, but Millardo felt inclined to overlook this impropriety because Heero was protecting Relena's immodesty.

Heero surrendered his bundle to Millardo without protest, careful not to wake the sleeping girl. Relena stirred at the loss of Heero's warmth, but settled in Millardo's arms without waking. Millardo looked at Yuy sensing the high regard he had for his sister and frowned uneasily.

"Treize is dead." he finally said. Heero lifted his eyes from Relena and looked at Millardo. He nodded, but said nothing and asked for no details. The fact that Treize was dead was enough for Heero.

Heero looked once more at Relena, then spurred his horse into movement "Take care of her!" he called over his shoulder as he cantered off.

Millardo nodded.

* * * *

The sun had risen by the time Heero returned to Maresfield. Having assured his staff that all was well with Miss Peacecraft, Heero retired to his bedroom. The room was still perfumed with jasmine, the bed unmade since Relena had inhabited it. He moved to it, touching the robe that lay across the foot of the bed. He raised the robe to his nose and inhaled the faint fragrance that was Relena.

Heero undid his necktie, pulled off his boots, and undid the buttons on his waistcoat. Then he allowed himself the pleasure of lying back in the sheets where she had so recently lain. He turned his face into the pillow breathing her in and he groaned in frustration that she was no longer there, no longer in his arms. He ached to hold her, to smooth her hair, to be regarded by her pretty eyes with love.

If what Relena said was true, there was nothing to stop him wooing her. Although, he would have to strive hard to earn her brothers approval and respect. But Heero would stop at nothing to make Relena his, even if he had to resort to kidnapping her himself.

Heero did not know how long he pondered, denying himself sleep, but the sun was quite high when a knock at the door bought him back to himself. At his summons, the butler entered carrying a letter that had just arrived. Heero handled the missive in trepidation, smoothing the crisp thick paper with his fingers. The red wax seal was that of the Marquis of Zechs.

Dismissing his butler, Heero broke the seal with his thumb, unfolding the single sheet. Millardo's spidery copperplate writing was distinctive. Heero sat back against the pillows of his bed to read:

1 Lord Yuy

I am writing on the behest of my sister Miss Peacecraft. She wishes to relate that she is much improved in health and Dr Barry assures us that she will suffer no long term ill because of her adventure..

On becoming aware of Lord Kushrinada's true personality I have been persuaded to reverse my decision forbidding you to visit Sanq Hall. Whilst I still believe that your conduct at the ball was unforgivable I am not the one who is able to grant forgiveness. But take heed, Yuy. If you do ever visit my house and family again: you will act with honour. I will be watching you closely and at the first evidence of misconduct I will take great delight in removing you from my home. This time permanently.

Finally, Miss Peacecraft is reminded of her determination to set up a school for the children of the poor. She desires that you visit her today at 3.00 pm to offer advice as she is convinced of your expertise in all matters. I would again remind you of the proviso for you visiting and remind you that I will be present in the capacity of an observer and chaperone.

If you ever distress my sister again I will have a great deal of pleasure dispensing my own form of punishment.


Heero grinned as finished reading the letter. A large weight had gone from his shoulders in the course of reading a few lines.

He held the letter to his chest anticipating the afternoon when he would legitimately be accepted at Sanq Hall and allowed to see Relena. His Relena. He would be able to woo her and claim her as his own, God willing, as he had dreamed of the night of the ball. Heero was beginning to remember how sweet life could be.

A timid knock at Heero's bedroom door bought him back to the present. A very repentant looking Duo stood solemnly, his face sporting an impressive black eye.

"Ah, I see you got your answer." Heero commented lazily, then he started to laugh.

Yes, life was sweet.

The end.