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Much Ado About Nothing

Title: Sigh No More

Fandom: Much Ado About Nothing

Pairing: Conrade/Don John

Rating: Fan Rated Mature

Disclaimer: This belongs to Will Shakespeare, with thanks to Kenneth Branagh for making it into a fantastic movie!

Status: new/complete

Date: 5/23/17

Series/Sequel: This is the sequel to In Any Way, In Every Way, which I never thought I'd write.

Summary: Conrade, devoted companion of Don John, bastard brother of Don Pedro, will do whatever is necessary to keep his lord safe.

Warnings: mention of coercion, spoilers for the movie and the play

Notes: The title is from the song sung by Balthasar, Don Pedro's attendant. I enjoyed playing with this story. For instance, the horses were named Iago, from Othello, and Troilus, from Troilus and Cressida. The Duke Orsino, who asked for Don Pedro’s aid, is from Twelfth Night, as is Conrade's childhood friend who wasn't a pirate. The unnamed island Conrade plans to take Don John to is Prospero’s, from The Tempest. The Scot who would be king is Macbeth. As an aside, in the play, Don Pedro has been referred to as prince and count. That wasn’t my doing.

Acknowledgment: Many thanks to Gail for her unceasing help. This year will mark seventeen years that we've worked together, and I appreciate it more than I can say.


Sigh No More


How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?

But few of any sort, and none of name.

What Don Pedro, prince of Aragon, meant when he told his messenger to deliver that information to his friend Leonato was that none of his noblemen had fallen.

I’d carried Don John’s squire from the field. He had a name. Sebastian. Both my lord and I would grieve his loss.

Though the battle be fierce, yet I had to agree—grudgingly—that Count Claudio and Signior Benedick had been at the forefront and comported themselves with valor. And afterward, they’d strutted about camp like a pair of cockerels.

With the battle over and the day and the war won, Don Pedro rewarded his troops and assured them on the morrow the journey toward Messina, the home of his good friend Leonato, would begin.

He would send ahead the messenger come the morrow, but for that evening, he planned a feast for his gentlemen. Of course he invited my lord—the prince was nothing if not… magnanimous. However, Don John declined the invitation, citing his grief at his squire’s demise.

“Ah, yes. Poor lad,” Don Pedro murmured, but then he turned away, effectively dismissing Sebastian’s fate and us.

Don John and I retired to his tent, and having known him for so long, I could see his banked discontent.

“I would have the Count's man, the most exquisite Claudio,” he said, his words like ice.

“Aye, my lord.” Ever would I do his bidding.

I waited until Don Pedro’s men had eaten their fill and began making inroads into the wine. Claudio finally left the rollicking group, declaring he was to bed, and I hailed him before he’d got too far.

“Some wine, my lord?” I offered. I’d added a potion to the wine skin that was warranted to drive him wild with lust.

He took a sip. “Ah, this is passing excellent!” And he guzzled down the remainder. “I give thee thanks, sir.” The wine worked quickly, and he peered around, befuddled. “Where’s my tent?”

“Count, you are turned around.” However, instead of helping him to his tent, I led him to my lord’s.

We both enjoyed him, Don John his arse and I his mouth.

That was yestereve, however. On this morn, although Benedick continued to strut about, bragging on his deeds, Claudio made his way through the camp to Don Pedro’s tent, limping and complaining of his head. Any who noted his condition perforce must assume the former was a result of the rigors of battle and the latter the amount of wine he’d drunk the night before.

The thought of his discomfort gave me some degree of pleasure. As for my lord, he didn’t seem to think on his brother’s man beyond the use he’d put him to.

Eventually, camp was broken down, and by midmorning we were on the road.


In due course, we arrived in Messina and were billeted in Leonato’s luxurious villa. While the men leaped with abandon into the river to bathe, I ordered a tub brought to my lord’s chambers. Before I joined him in the tub, I washed the sweat of travel from the body I revered. Then I stepped into the tub and lowered myself over his long, thick cock. I’d already prepared my hole, and I shivered as he slowly penetrated me.

“You’re a good man, Conrade,” he murmured, running his palms up my torso to rest one on my shoulder and the other on my neck.

“As are you, my lord.”

His laugh was brittle. “Hardly that, and you should know better than most.”

“How so?”

“It was scarce a sennight after your sire left you with me before I had you in my bed.”

“Did you hear me complain?”

He threaded his fingers through the dark strands of my hair. “No, you never complained.”

I leaned forward and paused with a hairsbreadth between our lips. “And I never will. I’m your man. You’re my lord. Set me any task to your pleasing, and I’ll endeavor to accomplish it.” I wanted nothing more than to close the distance between our mouths and cover his lips with mine, but this was something he’d never permitted, not once in all the time I’d been with him.

He slid his broad palms down my body and under my arse and urged me to ride him.

Who ever thought making love in a tub romantical? Water splashed over the sides, and it was difficult to find a steady rhythm.

Finally, my lord halted me. “Up, Conrade, and onto the bed.”

With haste, given what was about to come, I rose, swung a leg over the side of the tub, and nearly skidded on the rug that covered the floor. I barely took the time to run a towel over my body before I threw myself face down on the bed, raised my arse, and spread my legs.


Afterward, I limped out of my lord’s bedchamber, where he lay drowsing on the daybed. Don John had well and truly used my arse, and I would be sore for a while, but that was how I liked it.

I filled a pair of goblets with the sweet ruby wine a servant had brought to us with Leonato’s compliments and took them back to the bedchamber.

“Wine, my lord?”

He roused, shook his head, then shifted, in obvious discomfort.

“Roll over. I’ll massage the knots from your muscles.”

I placed the goblets on a chest of drawers, poured scented oil into my palm, and let it warm while I examined my lord’s back. It was crisscrossed with old scars the prince’s father had inflicted on Don John rather than on the son who’d been born on the right side of the blanket.

There was no wonder my lord was a bitter man.

I straddled his thighs, let the oil spill onto the tense muscles of his shoulders, and began working my palms down his spine to the dimple at the small of his back, then up again, this time to the indentation at his neck.

“You have clever fingers, Conrade.” His movements and the sounds he made indicated his obvious pleasure, and my cock hardened with the knowledge.

“Thank you, my lord.” I leaned forward to brush my lips along the side of his throat. I was lost in the pleasure of tending to him when my cock brushed against the firm curves of his arse.


This was something else he’d never permit, and usually I was more cautious than that. I retreated, picked up a towel to wipe the oil from my hands, and silently cursed his sire for whatever else he had done to my lord.

Don John pushed himself off the bed and up onto his feet. Without a glance toward me, he began pacing the room restlessly, uncaring of his nudity.

“Sit, Conrade,” he ordered, and I obeyed him, as ever I would.

Don Pedro might be the prince, but his brother, John the Bastard, was my lord. I would do whatever was necessary to protect him, even if it meant giving my life for his.

No, I didn’t just serve Don John. I loved him.

Now, although I feared I’d displeased him, I took up my goblet and lounged with apparent careless ease. I twirled my goblet between my fingers, watching as he continued to pace.

“’Twould have been so simple for a stray arrow to find my brother,” Don John muttered.

I knew better than to respond to that.

There was no love lost between my lord and his brother, and Don John had been in a green and yellow melancholy since the battle had ended and he’d learned the prince had come through it hale and whole. Did Don John truly desire to rule? I considered the Scot who would be king. It hadn’t ended well for him. “Instead, that good lad met his end.”

“Aye,” I said in a soft undertone. If I didn’t leave, I knew I’d be weeping like a babe. Without bothering to finish my wine, I set it aside, rose, and began gathering up my clothing. It didn’t take long for me to dress. “Have you—” I cleared my throat. “Have you further need of me, my lord?”

He waved me out, and I turned to leave. “Stay.”

I paused. “My lord?”

“Send Borachio to me.”

“Aye, my lord.” It wasn’t my place to object to whomever Don John chose to amuse himself, although to my knowledge, he’d never before whiled away an hour with the man who had but recently come into his service. I bowed and left the rooms Leonato had given him. I had no doubt they weren’t as fine as the prince’s.

I jogged down the steps that curved around the outside of the building down to the courtyard and went in search of Borachio, who claimed to be my friend but who’d lusted for my position at our master’s side. I very nearly ran him down in the orchard as he dallied with Margaret, the Lady Hero’s waiting woman. “Borachio.”

“Go away. Canst not see I’m busy?”

“Don John wishes your presence.”

Margaret curled her lip. My lord was not well-liked—how could I not be aware of this, when Don Pedro’s gentlemen made no effort to conceal it? When she saw how I regarded her— my own lip curled in supercilious disdain—she turned pale, tore herself from Borachio’s embrace, and ran away.

“Damn you, Conrade. You know how to spoil a man’s fun.” He righted his clothing.

“Never mind that. Just get you to our lord.”

He growled and stalked back the way I had come. “Well? Aren’t you coming with me?” he called over his shoulder.

“No.” My lord had no need of me. “Don John gave me leave to spend the evening as I would.”

There was to be dancing and feasting and much merriment in celebration of the battle won, but I had other plans.

Borachio snorted and continued on his way, not bothering to ask how I would while away the long hours of the night.

I went to the stable and ordered my horse saddled. I knew from when last we’d passed through this land that there was a molly house at the far end of the town. It hadn’t been long since I’d ridden a handsome young man, but I needed the distraction.

At the molly house, I searched for a likely candidate. I became irritated when I realized I sought one with the same dark hair, the same height and lean build as my master. I would not pine for him—one day he would have to wed. I had best keep that in mind and be satisfied with what I could have.

I found a trim lad who knew how to make love to a man. He would have suckled me to the point of coming, but I made him bend over and take it up the arse. Fortunately, John was a common name, and the lad didn’t question that I cried it out when I spilled my seed.

And at the end of our hour together, I handed him a small pouch filled with coins and returned to Leonato’s villa, where the festivities were still going strong, this time in celebration of Count Claudio’s coming nuptials to the Lady Hero.

Well, I wished her joy of him.

Before I could make my way to the tiny room that was mine, Borachio pounced upon me and dragged me away.

“Whither?” I demanded in irritation.

“More wine,” he chortled. There was the scent of sex about him, and his breath was redolent with the odor of all the wine he’d already drunk.

“Whence have you the coin for wine?” He was a man who was ever free with his coin, and therefore usually lacking.

“Don John gave me a thousand ducats.”


He rubbed his hands together. “I made love to Margaret, calling her Hero all the while.”

“Are you drunk, sirrah?”

“Perhaps I am now, but I wasn’t then.” He leered at me. “I was able to get it up quite well.”

“And how did Margaret take being called by her lady’s name?”

“She was in such raptures she scarce noticed.”

“All right, but for what purpose?”

“I’m trying to tell you, dolt. Don John and I plotted to convince his brother the prince, as well as Count Claudio, that Hero was not a maid.”

I’d had no problem seducing and toying with the most exquisite Count Claudio, but… “Why hurt the lady?”

“Because by hurting the lady, our master hurt his brother.” Borachio chortled. “You know the match was of Don Pedro’s making. Should have seen his face when he thought ’twas Hero in my arms.”

“And you know this how?”

“I looked up after placing a love bite on Margaret’s throat.”

I stared at him, dumbfounded. Don John had been in a foul mood, otherwise he never would have agreed to slander a gentlewoman. I blamed Borachio for what could well be a disaster, but before I could respond to this plot of his, we were taken up by the watch, who had somehow overheard Borachio’s foolish boast, thence charged in the prince’s name to stop and hauled off to gaol.


The next day was the wedding of Count Claudio and the Lady Hero. Borachio and I heard of the events in the small room in which we’d been imprisoned. The entire household, as well as all Don Pedro’s gentlemen, watched in horror while Claudio denounced Hero as an approved wanton.

The results were she died of grief, and we… we were undone by a band of foolish knaves.

“Damn you, Borachio,” I growled under my breath.

“I swear ’twas not how this was supposed to end.” He winced and held his head. “Odds bodkins, my head’s pounding.”

From an excess of the wine he’d drunk the night before, no doubt, and it bloody well served him right.

We were taken from the room and brought before the prince. Borachio fell over himself blaming Don John and confessing to what they had done.

Don Pedro listened in silent fury. “And my brother has fled Messina,” he ground out.

I forgot my place and cried, “What?”

The prince glared at me, and I felt myself turn cold. I’d seen him through my lord’s eyes, and so had dismissed him, but he was the prince.

“I beg your pardon, your grace.”

He turned away, and Leonato signaled the watch to return us to our prison room.


Deceit piled upon deceit. The Lady Hero proved to be alive, and she agreed to marry Claudio, in spite of how he’d treated her. Foolish woman. And if she but knew of how he enjoyed having a cock up his arse, how he suckled one as a babe his dam’s tit, would she still have taken him?

I could have pressed my lord’s plan, this time revealing what Count Claudio was, but with Don John gone, I hadn’t the heart. Once I was out of this fine mess, I’d go in search of him.


As it turned out, that didn’t prove necessary; Don John was taken by soldiers and returned to Messina in chains. I heard Benedick say to the prince, “Think not on him till tomorrow. I’ll devise thee brave punishments for him.”

And then they’d danced.

Although I was no longer imprisoned, they wouldn’t let me see my lord.

Leonato requested the prince and his gentlemen remain till the end of the month to celebrate not only his daughter’s marriage, but his niece’s as well.

I, however, began to put together a plan to get my lord away from his thrice damned brother and this miserable place.


Borachio came to me, almost bubbling with glee.

“What’s toward?” I asked.

“Since all’s ended well, the prince has pardoned me, on the condition I wed Margaret.”

“What did you tell him?”

“Art mad? Of course I agreed.”

“Of course.”

“And I’m to join his court.”

“You agreed?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Our master would not look kindly upon this.”

He shrugged. “The prince is our master. Well, he’s our master’s master, so that makes him our master as well.”

“Are you sotted again?”

“Nay.” He snorted. “I’ve had enough of the Bastard’s doings. I’ll wed Margaret, settle down, and raise a passel of boys.”

I stared at him, horrified. How could he change his allegiance as if it were no matter?

“Oh, and his grace wishes to see you.”

“Will he let me see Don John?”

Borachio shrugged again, and I wanted to skewer him with my sword.

Instead, I went to the mirror. My hair was a fright from the numerous times I’d run my hands through it. I smoothed it into some semblance of order, straightened my tunic, and made my way to find Don Pedro.

He was in the stable, watching as the blacksmith replaced his horse’s shoe.

“You sent for me, your grace?”

He turned to face me. “Has Borachio told you he’s sworn allegiance to me and has joined my court?”

“He has.” It felt like a betrayal.

“I wish you to do the same.”

“Your grace?”

“Swear allegiance to me and join my court,” he said impatiently.

“Why, your grace?”

“You are a leaderless man. You will become my man.”

“Your pardon, sire, but I am not leaderless.”

“You refer to my brother, the Bastard.”

“I do. Don John is my master.”

“Don John is gone away.” He caught my arm before I could collapse to the stable floor.

“Pardon?” I asked through frozen lips. “I thought—”

“You’ll notice his horse is missing.”

Dazed, I glanced around, to realize Troilus, Don John’s steed, was indeed not in his stall.

“My brother bribed a guard sometime during the night and vanished.” Don Pedro avoided my gaze.

I didn’t believe him. Don Pedro prided himself on the loyalty of his men. There was nothing Don John could have offered the guard to persuade him to look away while he made his escape. As well, I didn’t believe for a moment that my lord would leave and not have me accompany him.

Had my lord been poisoned and his body hidden in some obscure place?

I wasn’t fool enough to suggest such a thing aloud, but there were those who would have liked nothing better than to slay him. The lady Beatrice, to avenge her slandered cousin. Benedick, to please her. The incompetent watch, by unlucky accident. Even Hero. After all, she was such a tiny woman. Who would suspect her?

“Sirrah? Your answer?” The prince’s words snapped me out of my reverie.

I had some status in Don John’s household, but in the prince’s… I would be fair game for any who’d had a quarrel with my lord.

And yet… How else could I respond?

I bowed my head, which Don Pedro took as assent. “If you have no further need of me, your grace?”

He dismissed me, and I left to find a tavern.

When I came across one that suited my mood, I bought a tankard of ale, chose a seat away in a corner, and sat down to drink and to plan. I knew of a small cove to the south, where a friend from my childhood harbored his baubling vessel, although in fact it was sound enough and had battled larger craft to defeat. Whilst Antonio was called pirate by some, I knew he was not. I’d find Don John and get him to that cove, and together we would leave this wretched country.

Two men entered the tavern and sat nearby.

“Do you forgive me?” the first asked his companion.

I gave a start and eased back into the gloom of the corner. It was Count Claudio. Beside him sat Benedick, the married man.

“Didn’t I cry us friends?” Benedick demanded in a surly tone.

Claudio looked somber. “Has your lady given you leave to forgive me?”

Benedick scowled at him. “You’re a fool.”

“I see. So she hasn’t.”

“Well, according to my lady, neither has Hero forgiven you.”

“I should never have married.”

“I thought Hero loved you. I thought you loved Hero.”

“I did. I do. But the woman holds a grudge like no man’s business.”

I couldn’t help giving a sour chuckle, and Claudio wheeled to face me.

“Do you laugh at me, sirrah?”

“I laugh at you, I laugh at me, I laugh at this entire benighted world.”

“Come, Claudio. ’Tis naught but Conrade, Don John’s creature.”

I gritted my teeth. It mattered not that my line was older than Benedick’s and as noble, or that my feats in battle matched his. Because I was Don John’s man, I was as nothing.

Benedick strode out, assuming Claudio would be at his heels, but Claudio stood there for a moment, worrying his lower lip.

“Sometimes, late at night, I have a memory…”

My hand trembled and some of the ale spilled over the rim. Could he remember what had been done to him?

I shrugged. “Why would you talk to me of your memories?” I raised my tankard, and by the time I took a sip and lowered it, Claudio was gone.

Before I could be relieved, one of Don Pedro’s messengers hied himself in. “Illyria is under attack. The Duke Orsino has sent a request for aid, and Don Pedro has agreed to it.”

This couldn’t have come at a better time, although I glanced ruefully at my tankard. Well, at least I wasn’t sotted. I set down the tankard and went to my quarters to make ready. There was no need for haste, since I wouldn’t be going with them.

Borachio appeared in my doorway, scowling. “Art not ready yet? I’ll be glad to be away from Messina.”

“How so?”

“I had to leave the gold the Bastard gave me with Margaret. Don Pedro insisted on it.”

“Ah.” I had no sympathy for him. He’d agreed not only to become the prince’s man but to wed Margaret at Don Pedro’s order.

“Why isn’t your squire packing for you?” He thought I was preparing for the coming journey to Illyria.

“Have you forgotten Sebastian is dead?”

He had the grace to look abashed. “Well, had best hurry, Conrade.”

“Go on ahead. I’ll join you anon.”

He grunted and left.


My lord’s possessions were still in the chamber Leonato had given him, another sign he hadn’t left of his own accord. I packed them up and hastened to the stable.

With Sebastian gone, there were none to saddle my charger, and of course none of Leonato’s servants would deign to do it, so I knew I’d be left to saddle Iago myself.

By that time, the stable was empty of men and horses. I set aside the saddle bags and bedrolls and went into the tack room. I reached for the saddle and bridle, but held when a low groan disturbed the quiet. I withdrew my sword from its scabbard and advanced cautiously.

The groan sounded again. “Odds light, where am I?”

“My lord?” I sprang toward a locked box where feed was stored and used the hilt of my sword to break the lock. I flung up the top and peered down in horror.

Don John, pale and sweating, was imprisoned within, bound hand and foot and covered with grain. He face was bruised, a knot on his cheek and an eye swollen shut.

I sheathed my sword and got him out of there. With no food or water and with the air growing foul, he wouldn’t have lasted much longer. I thought of Benedick’s words. I’ll devise thee brave punishments… Yes, and they’d have wound up killing my lord.

I freed Don John of his bindings, took the water skin I’d brought with me, and moistened his lips.

“Who did this to you, my lord?”

“’Twas dark, but I’d swear Count Claudio had a hand in it.” He gave a tired smile. “I remember well his scent.”

“He’s too much the lad to accomplish the deed on his own.”

“No. But where Claudio is, Benedick is certain to be nearby.”

I spat a curse. They would not dare to lay hands on the prince’s brother without Don Pedro’s tacit permission. And if they were still in Messina, rather than on the road to the port and the ship that would take them to Illyria, I’d have skewered them like a pig. However, they were on the road to the port, and I had more important matters to tend to.

“And may they never have an ounce of luck,” I snarled under my breath. Then I said, “My lord, we must leave.”

“Aye. Troilus was placed in a stable in town.”

“I’ll fetch him. You should be safe enough here—all the men have ridden off.” I frowned. “Save for Leonato and that brother of his.”

“What, didn’t my brother give Claudio and Benedick leave to remain while they honeymooned?”

“He may have, but those two were eager to be away. Perhaps they’re finding the married life isn’t all they’d thought it would be.” I slid an arm around him and urged him forward. “Come, my lord. I’ll hide you in Iago’s stall until I return with Troilus.” My horse was known for his uncertain temperament, and only the bravest… or the most foolhardy… dared approach his stall if Iago had no intention to permit it. “Watch well our master,” I whispered in his ear. He nodded his head as if in understanding and stamped a hoof.

“Leave me your sword,” Don John said.

I handed it to him. He would be safe for the nonce.


“My lord?”

“What will you do if you’re questioned?”

I grinned at him, although I could have wept at his weariness. “I’ve learned well from you, my lord. I’ll damn their eyes and demand who they think they are to interfere with Don Pedro’s man.”

“My brother truly thought you’d switch your allegiance to him?”

“Aye. He couldn’t fathom there would be one who had no joy of him.” I rested my hand on his shoulder. “I must go, ere we never get out of this place.” More than anything, I desired a kiss, but I dared not take one.

“Conrade.” Don John beckoned me closer.

Before I could ask what I might do for him, he brushed his lips over my mouth.

“Too long I’ve kept distant from you. That will change.”

“Aye, my lord.” That had ever been my fondest wish.

“Now off with you.”

I took to my heels and made my way to town.


“Whither are we headed, Conrade?” Don John asked as we rode off, leaving Messina behind us. Finally, away from his brother’s shadow, he seemed at ease.

It had been a simple matter to find Troilus, saddle him, and return to Leonato’s stable with all hast. None were in the town to say me nay, for they’d all gone to watch Don Pedro and his gentlemen ride off to glorious battle.

“There’s an island I’ve heard tell about. It was once inhabited by a wizard and his daughter, although word has it now ’tis empty. I’ll hire a ship to take us there.”

“How will we afford this? My brother emptied my pockets.”

I held up a pouch and shook it, setting its contents to jingling merrily. “A thousand ducats, my lord.”

He narrowed his eyes. “The amount I gave Borachio?”

“The very same.” I tucked the pouch in my tunic. “He left it behind with Margaret.”

“And she gave it up willingly?”

“She was away from her room, giving something else up.”

“I almost have it in me to feel sorry for Borachio.”

“Don’t, my lord.”

“I said almost. The wretch caught me at a moment when I wasn’t myself.”

“Think I don’t know that? He wanted my place at your side.”

“He’d never have that.” Don John reached across the space that separated us and caught up my hand. “You were the best of them all.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

He gave my hand a final squeeze. Before he could release it, I brought his hand to my mouth and brushed my lips against it.

“I am—ever and always—your man.” As much as I wanted to continue holding his hand, I had to let it go.

He smiled into my eyes.

My God, he took my breath away. I returned his smile.

“Shall we be away, my Conrade?”

His Conrade. “Aye, my lord.”

We gathered up our horses’ reins, and as daylight began to fade, we urged them forward to whatever future awaited us.