When Milliardo had finished dealing with Trowa he did not prepare for his morning ride nor for breakfast. Instead, mid-morning found him undressing in his rooms, a steaming bath that Relena had drawn for him awaiting him in his adjoining bathroom. His boots were pulled off and set neatly aside his bureau, and his own reflection watched him from the mirror of his dressing table as he undid the thick buttons of his wool overcoat.

His rooms, much like their owner, were a model of strictness and simplicity. The few items that lay on shelves or table tops were there, and only there, for good reason. There was no frivolity or embellishment in the decor. The colors were solid, the furniture smart. Only the rich, red velvet drapes that hung heavy over the two double windows, and a matching spread over the bed gave any sign of excess.

Milliardo sat upon that very bed as he undressed. The same bed, he though idly as he removed his undershirt, that he had not slept in the night before. He decided that he might skip his morning rounds and nap instead. The bath and bed were more than inviting, and after his long evening, he felt quite deserving. A voice startled him as he stood to remove his pants.

“I’m going to Atlanta.”

Milliardo turned at the familiar voice, the top button of his riding pants undone. He hadn’t heard Treize enter but he did not let the surprise show.

“Why?” he asked softly, “You’ve only just returned. Are you taking Heero back home?”

“No,” Treize sighed. He looked even more weary than Milliardo felt. His hair was damp and he was dressed in the beginnings of his public attire, white pants, open shirt and bare feet, as if he’d stopped in the middle of dressing to inform Milliardo of his intentions. “I will be visiting with Melanie but Heero will stay.” Milliardo watched him cross his arms across his chest as he spoke, staring at the floor, “I need to meet with Mr. Windsor concerning the Baker purchase. It seems there’s a problem with some of the tenants.”

“Ahh. And Trowa?” Milliardo asked. “Is there anything to be done with him?”

Treize looked up at the mention of the boy’s name, the expression on his face unreadable, his voice neutral.

“Ill leave that up to you. He and Heero seem to be getting on rather well, and I know you’ll solve any problems in my absence.”

Milliardo cocked his head, “Some problems, Treize, cannot be solved in your absence.”

Treize gave a small look of confusion but evntually conceded. He knew precisely what Milliardo meant and he knew it was true, “I know,” was the empty response.

At that moment, Milliardo decided how unnerving the entire situation was becoming. With Treize brooding the whole house would be upset, and his leave would only serve to slow the rebound. Something needed to be done.

“I need to know, Treize,” Milliardo said, finally walking to stand in front of his employer, his voice growing insistent, “I need to know what is going on in this house, with you, and Trowa.” He placed his hands on Treize’s shoulders and looked up into his face, forcing averted eyes to meet his own, “and I want to know now.”

Treize met the obstinate gaze unerringly, his eyes narrowing at Milliardo’s bold move. “You’re bordering on insubordination you realize.”

“I’ll take that risk,” he replied, tightening his grip on the other man’s shoulders, “you’re teetering Treize, and I can’t be there to catch you if I don’t know which way you’ll fall.”

A fire lit in Treize’s eyes and he flung his arms against Milliardo’s, breaking the man’s hold on him, and grabbing his wrists. He shook them as he spoke.

“And whose decision was it that you be my keeper? Can you tell me that?” Treize was yelling now, and his gaze was wild. Milliardo stood rigid in his grip and watched Treize’s face as he seemed to take in what he’d done. When he released Milliardo’s wrists it was as if he were throwing them back at their owner. He backed away, moving to the other side of the room.

‘You know damned well who.’ Milliardo thought solemnly as Treize released him. Without answer, he sat back down on his bed rubbing his wrists idly.

“I thought this was over, Treize. I thought you were over it.” He said softly, more to the himself than the other man in the room.

Minutes passed and neither of them moved. Then Milliardo felt a heavy weight sink the mattress beside him.

“Did I hurt you?” Treize asked quietly.

“Of course not.”

There was more silence and then the bed shifted again and Treize’s hand was in his hair, sweeping it to his back, kissing the exposed throat.

Milliardo did not object. Instead he turned his head, meeting Treize’s lips with his own. It had been some time since the two were intimate like this and at first the touches were awkward, but seconds passed and the familiarity came rushing back. Treize’s taste, the feel of his tongue, the heat of his body, called memories to Milliardo’s mind. The years of youthful lovemaking, a few years spent apart, and that last time . . . more than a year ago.

Treize’s hands began to stroke at Milliardo’s back, tangling in the platinum locks and pulling the other man closer. He released his lips now and kissed down his chin, his throat. Milliardo dropped his head back, allowing the other man better access, his hair brushing the velvet coverlet.

“Treize,” Milliardo breathed as he was pushed down backward, Treize moving eagerly over him, “Treize . . . this is not going to help.” Milliardo hated saying it though he knew it was true. Treize would try anything so soothe his own ache, and he would do anything to please Treize. There was also Duo to consider.

“It may,” Treize replied, voice thick with lust. He was moving down Milliardo’s chest now, kissing and touching.

“Treize . . .” Milliardo was growing breathless, “we have to stop.” His words were the antithesis of his actions as he massaged his fingers through Treize’s silken hair, gently pushing the other man’s head further down.

Treize came to the top of Milliardo’s pants and was greeted with a handsome bulge beneath. He started on the buttons, smiling at the one that was already undone.

Milliardo sucked in a breath at the feel of those deft fingers so close. ‘It’s been so long,’ he thought to himself, ‘once can’t hurt. It will make him feel better.’ But his thoughts were unreasonable and he knew it.

“Treize . . .” he began as Treize finished unbuttoning him, exposing him to the cool air, “you know I won’t stop you, but . . . please , I . . . Duo . . .”

Warm, strong hands stroked the tops of his thighs and he could feel Treize’s breath ghosting over his arousal. He felt Treize move forward and he closed his eyes, bracing himself for being swallowed.

Instead, Treize’s hands moved to his knees, using them for leverage to stand, and then he collapsed on the bed beside Milliardo, two pairs of feet grazing the floor.

“I’m sorry,” he breathed, as Milliardo tucked himself away, a not so easy task considering his aroused state. “I just . . . need something to distract me.” He rubbed his forehead, as if that might help clear his mind.

Milliardo rolled over toward him, laying his head on Treize’s chest, his hair spread behind him.

“And that’s what I am, a distraction,” he sounded neither angry nor hurt, “but a distraction from what?”

The chest beneath him sighed deeply and Treize’s arms engulfed him, pulling him tight against warm skin. “I didn’t mean it that way, Milliardo. The act itself is a distraction, not you,” a hand ran absently through Milliardo’s hair, “and you should know by now how important you are to me.”

Milliardo would not be wooed. “You’re avoiding the issue, Treize,” his voice was softly stern as he palmed Treize’s side, “I can see that there’s something between you and Trowa. I just need to know what sort of something.” He paused, trying to choose his words carefully. “He’s young, Treize. Even younger--”

“You think I don’t realize that?” Treize had tensed but his voice remained calm. “Do you think I don’t tell myself that every time I’m near him, every time I touch him. Everyday that I see him I want him more, and every minute I spend with him I fight the urge to run to my bed and hide my head beneath the covers,” he sighed deeply, “He frightens me, Milliardo. I can’t think straight. He makes me want to smile and cry in the same moment. He makes me want to protect him from vultures. He makes me want to be a vulture.”

Milliardo was quiet for several moments. He knew the question he wanted to ask, but how to ask it, how to say that name.

“He reminds you of . . . ?” The question was unfinished and less than a murmur, but Treize heard and understood all too clearly.

“Yes,” was the sad answer, “that’s what frightens me the most.”

“And you’ll still be going to Atlanta?” Milliardo though it wise to change the subject as quickly as possible.

“Yes, I need to.”

“What of Heero then, should I handle him as I would one of the vultures?” A lazy smile crept to Milliardo’s lips at the thought of ‘handling’ Heero.

“I suppose you can,” Treize’s voice sounded a bit lighter now, “but no shooting him Milliardo, and no beatings or hangings or any other thing that’s running through your mind. He may be a ruthless cad but he is my nephew. Melanie would be beside herself if you killed her son. She’d probably hang you herself, and have me strung up beside you.”

“Damn,” Milliardo said, “now you’ve ruined my day. When are you leaving?”

“Momentarily,” Treize replied, the somber mood returning a little less heavy, “ I should be going now, in fact.”

“Just in time to leave me with a cold bath,” Milliardo mused.

“Seems to me,” Treize began as he shifted his leg, the leg that Milliardo had been resting on, the leg that moved against a still quite apparent arousal, “that it will do you some good.”

Milliardo smiled, “It may.”

Muddy feet stepped onto the just-mopped kitchen floor, the screen door slamming with a thud behind them.

Netti peered from her place at the dinner table where she peeled potatoes for lunch, “Chil’! What you think you doin’ gettin' mud all on my clean floor!” She hefted herself from her seat and ambled to where Heero stood, not only muddy but wet. “And where you been? You done missed breakfas’. Lunch won’t be for an hour!”

Heero stared at her unmoved, “I woke early for a swim.” Indeed his hair was wet and his clothes stuck to him in spots, “Has Trowa been back yet?”

“Sho’ has. He missed breakfas’ too. Here,” she handed him a larger kitchen towel, “clean up that mess and then get ready for lunch. I swear boys ain’t got no sense today . . .” Her voice trailed off as Heero, for once, did as he was told and then darted out of the kitchen, headed toward the staircase.

Netti called after him, “Make sho’ you bring Trowa wit’ you when you come!”

Heero smirked as he took the stairs in twos.

When the door to the attic opened an hour later, Trowa was not awake to hear it creak, nor did he see the figure that stepped into the dim room.

Even after an entire morning of pouring over as many papers as he could read, he’d only gotten through two of the tall stacks. He had found purchase receipts and ownership papers from slaves who had to have died more than twenty years ago. And alongside those he found land deeds and stock certificates. Treize didn’t know how right he was when he’d said his father was unorganized.

And among none of this had he found a shred of evidence as to the purchase of his parents. Still, there were at least a dozen other piles and boxes to be rifled through. The hope that they would be there, somewhere, kept him searching.

That is until the heavy hand of sleep took hold. The eventful night and morning and the poor sleep he’d found on the floor of the mausoleum worked against him and when noon came it found him bent over a pile of documents, head resting on another, one paper still gripped loosely in his hand.

And that was how Heero found him as well. He shook his head at the sleeping figure and walked over to him before nudging Trowa with his boot.

“Trowa, wake up.”

The boy at his feet stirred slightly.

Another nudge, “Why are you always asleep? Get up!”

Trowa stirred again, this time cracking open his eyes. His face was flushed from sleeping in the hot room and his voice was gritty, “No.”

“Netti’s sent to me to fetch you. It’s lunch time.”

Trowa closed his eyes, “I’m looking for something.”

“And what is that? More sheep to count?”

Silence was the reply.

“Stay here then,” Heero said as casually as possible, “I’ll tell Netti and Treize that you’re busy I’m sure they’ll understand.” He was turning to leave but stopped, “Oh, but wait,” his tone was a mockery of alarm, “I can’t do that . . . Treize is gone.”

Trowa opened his eyes again and sat up slowly, “What?”

Heero smiled wickedly, “Will you be waking up after all, Trowa? Perhaps you will join me for lunch.”

|Part 12|