The Duke Orsino's quarters.

"You want me to...what, master?" Viola stumbled over her words disbelievingly.

"You heard me, boy" Orsino replied "make haste to the Countess Olivia's residence and read this love note to her".

He was sat on a window seat, stroking the velvety petals of a wilting Rose.

"Again, sir?" Viola persisted "are you sure?".

Orsino frowned "Quite sure, lad. Go".

"My Lord, I-W"
"Just go boy, I'm in no mood for debate" Orsino brushed her off and went back to fondling the dying flower.

"My Lord -" Viola carried on.
"Go!" He snapped, irritated.

He paused "what did you just say, boy?"

"I said no, sir" She replied, stoicley.

He rose up and towered over Viola, slightly angry and slightly confused at this blatant refusal.

"You dare to question my authority?" He asked, harshly.

"I don't sir, I question your heart" She replied confidently in the face of anger.

"Excuse me?"
"Your heart, master - the Lady has refused you numerously aand yet you continue to torture your heart by persisting in chasing her affections - do you think so little of your it? That you would abuse it so harshly?"

Orsino sighed and sat beside Viola, puzzled. "That, is none of your concern, lad. Enough of this nonsense, go, do as I say".

"I cannot" She insisted, trying to keep her tone smooth.

"Why the devil can you not?!" He raised his voice angrily.

"The rejection, it hurts you" She said quietly "and I could never do that"

He caught her gaze "Why" he said shaking his head "do you insist upon taking care of me, you funny little thing?"

Viola found herself getting lost in his intent stare.

"Love" She replied softly "I understand it"

He laughed, a bitter laugh.

"How can that possibly be, boy? You haven't lived yet, nevermind loved"

Viola flinched "I have, my Lord"

"Oh you have? he was teasing now "and whom have you loved?"

"A wonderful...being, my Lord" She hesitated.

He chuckled "Oh? And of age, is this 'wonderful being'?"

"About the age of Olivia's fool, my Lord - perhaps older still"

"What on God's Earth is a young bairn like you doing with an such a detestable old bag?"
Viola smiled "I don't think that's quite fitting, my Lord".

"Perhaps not, boy - I suppose none of that really matters when you love them"

"no" Viola whispered.

"no" Orsino agreed.

A few moments of silence passed, not awkward, just frozen. Unable to speak, Viola's heart began to beat painfully - there was a look in his eyes, a glint she'd never seen before.

"Cesario?" Orsino asked quietly.

"Yes, my Lord" Viola answered, her head spinning.

"Will you..." He shook his head "go to my Lady's home and read that letter to her?" He trailed off.

As quickly as her hopes rose, they dashed back down again - agonisingly plummeting to the pit of her stomach.

"Yes, My Lord" She mumbled, scurrying out the room before the Duke could see her watering eyes.

Orsino faltered after her, a dozen unanswered questions swarming around his head as he watched the youth scurry out the room, noting a curiously tight feeling in his chest.