Treize eyed the petite youth across from him, watching soft lips as they spoke.

“And what manner of name is that . . . Treize?”

Generous tufts of blond hair, almost, Treize thought, as pale as Milliardo’s, framed a glowing face, outdone only by the starkly blue eyes that gazed so curiously upon him now. The boy was young, at least four years Treize’s junior, yet there was, in all of his actions, a certain maturity and grace that belied the angelic innocence of his face. He was beautiful.

Of course, viewing the boy as a part of his memory as he was, for that’s all that was left now, Treize was certain he lent the young man more beauty than life had bestowed upon him. Memories were like that, so easily repainted.

A thunderclap interrupted his reverie and Treize was momentarily pulled into the here and now. Outside their shelter, the rain fell in solid sheets, obscuring the view beyond. His driver had been forced to pull into an abandoned barn after the storm had proven itself vicious. Now, the rumble on the tin roof, the thick wet air that blanketed him, only served to alienate him from this world. His memories were, by far, more enjoyable.

“Monsieur Treize?” The boy questioned him when he didn’t respond right away.

“I’m sorry,” he said, shaking the rest of the present day from his head, “my name. . . it’s uh . . . well, actually, it’s choice was more out of tradition than finding a suitable match for it’s bearer.”

The young man leaned forward slightly, resting his chin on a most elegant hand, “How do you mean, Monsieur Treize?”

Treize smiled despite himself, momentarily forgetting his place, “I mean that I am the fourth Treize Laurel Khushrenada.”

“The fourth!” The boy seemed mightily impressed and smiled broadly, still retaining every ounce of elegance, “Are you of any noble blood? Surely with a name like that you must be.”

Treize smiled again and leaned forward across the table they sat at. He suddenly ached to be nearer the boy, to bask for an eternity in the warmth of that smile, and he found himself, for the first time in a very long time, giddy. ‘Ahhh . . . if only Milliardo were here to see me swoon.’

“Yes, actually,” Treize replied, ignoring the looks he got from his classmates as he moved to sit next to the younger boy, “my ancestry is of German nobility. Though I fear it’s so far removed now I could hardly claim myself a nobleman.”

The boy gave that heavenly smile again, obviously not bothered by Treize’s sudden closeness.

“Oh no, Monsieur Treize,” he replied, “I do not know you well but your eyes . . . they tell me you are a nobleman through and through.” He reached up a delicate hand to press gently on Treize’s temple, “Both here . . .” he moved his hand now to Treize’s chest, pressing against the fabric over his rapidly beating heart, “ . . . and here.”

Treize was swimming in delight as he watched those blue eyes sparkle for him. He imagined that he felt the warmth of the boy’s hand, though he knew it was impossible through his coat. What he wouldn’t give to touch him.

“My kingdom for a kiss,” he blurted without thinking, and held his breath for the response.
Oh, make no mistake, he meant it. Had he a kingdom to give it would be given. But the salon was much too crowded, mostly with his classmates, to do anything of the sort.

The boy, however, did not seem shocked. On the contrary, he smiled warmly again, rubbing at Treize’s chest a little, “Patience, my noble King. Patience.”

As the storm finally relented, the humid afternoon found Netti standing in the kitchen, buried to her wrists in ground pork. A pot boiled on the stove beside her and a pile of potatoes waited to be peeled. She hummed a religious tune as she worked, only an hour after lunch and already preparing for dinner.

After Milliardo’s mad dash to fetch the creatures, human and non, from the fields, she had scurried around the house, finding Relena and the others, warning them of the storm, as if it were not already quite apparent. And then she’d busied herself lighting lamps. Just as she’d finished the first floor, the noise outside lessened and the sky began to brighten a bit, bringing the light and the humidity with it. She shook her head at her waste of effort.

But no effort, she thought, was truly a waste. Idle hands make the work of the devil and hers had always been quite busy for most of her fifty-some years. She’d let the lamps burn a little longer, just to make sure that the worst had actually passed.

Heavy footfalls at the kitchen door caused her to look up from her preparations and a moment later she watched as a strange site stepped into her kitchen.

“Fetch me some towels, Netti!” It was Milliardo, soaked to the marrow, his usually pristine hair plastered to his forehead and stringy about his shoulders. It was, however, the thing in his arms that Netti found strange. A body was there, just as equally drenched and with double the amount of hair falling around him. Long dripping ringlets swayed with Milliardo’s steps, reaching past his knees. The boy’s face was reddened and Netti could not discern if he was conscious as she looked on with wonder at the worry she saw in Milliardo’s face.

Duo! She finally realized, only hesitating for a fraction of a second.

“Now!” Milliardo shouted violently and Netti jumped at the noise. She felt her own worry lurch upward as she scurried to find towels. Something must have been terribly wrong.

A gentle breeze drifted in through the cracked window, bringing with it the sweet after-rain smell and the thickly humid air. It made breathing a chore, especially for one occupant of the room who was already panting from exertion and surprise.

“What . . . what did you say?” Trowa asked, quietly, not certain he’d heard right. “What did you call me?”

Heero smiled as he licked his lips. It was a grin that gave Trowa a chill even as he sweated from the mid-summer heat.

“Come now, Nashi . . . did you and my uncle truly expect to keep it a secret? My Uncle may be a brilliant man when it comes to running his estate, but secrets . . . were never his strong point.”

“I --” Trowa began to speak but lost the words. His cheeks were hot and flushed and he became suddenly aware of his nudity. He reached to button his pants.

“Don’t!” Heero said excitedly, not so much a command as a plea, “We’re not finished yet.”

Trowa relented, allowing Heero’s hand to cover his nakedness. Only now, Heero’s touches felt different . . . wrong even. He looked away from that steel-blue gaze.

“How much do you know?” He asked softly as Heero’s mouth moved along his exposed throat.

“Not much,” Heero murmured between kisses, “just your first name . . . and that there’s something between you and some of the slaves--”

“What?” Trowa asked harshly as he pushed Heero away to stare at him, “They’re not slaves! Slavery has been outlawed.”

Heero looked at him strangely, “You know what I mean. What are they to you anyway?”

Trowa looked away again. What should he say? Treize had wanted it kept secret.

A sudden shout from downstairs interrupted any further contemplation. The voice was loud but the speech was unclear. Still, the speaker, the boom and command in his voice, was unmistakable. And from the urgency that Milliardo’s tone carried, Trowa and Heero both knew . . . something was terribly wrong.


“And what of yours, angel?” Treize was asking the young blond, still wrapped in the soothing blanket of his memories. “What manner of name is Quatre?”

“Quatre,” Quatre said with another smile, “is anything but a name of tradition.”

“How do you mean, Monsieur?” Treize asked, mimicking the boy’s earlier motions and leaning his chin on a white-gloved hand.

Quatre seemed pleased.

“I mean that I am the first and only Quatre in my family, and, dare I say, all of France.” He looked down at the table, face pensive for the first time that evening, “I gave myself that name a very long time ago, it . . .” his mouth was drawn now, and tiny creases showed themselves at his forehead. They were worrisome, those lines, and revealed a bit of the true nature of the boy’s character, “it’s the only thing no one’s ever tried to take from me.”

Treize watched the serious face for a moment, and saw the sadness that tugged ever so gently on the corners of the boy’s mouth. Angels should never look sad, he thought.

“So where do you hail from, may I ask? French? Born and bred?”

The boy’s seriousness faded and he answered with a gleam in his eye, “Oui, French-born indeed! But in these blue veins flow the hot blood of an Arabian.” He grimaced, and regarded his pale skin, “An Arabian who can’t spend more than a quarter hour in the sun before feeling faint.”

Treize laughed, “I don’t believe I’ve ever met an Arabic person so I can’t lay judgment.” He reached a hand to Quatre’s hair, fingering the almost platinum strands, “Though this isn’t quite the image I had in mind.”

Quatre laughed lightly, “You know, Monsieur, there are Arabian horses with white coats and blue eyes, perhaps I’ve suffered the same fate as them. I should tell you the story someday.”

Treize sighed deeply, staring into the blue pools that glimmered with life. Who knew there’d ever be anything less.

“Yes,” he murmured, “perhaps you should.”

|Part 14|