“Treize, love. It’s good to see you!” A wisp of a woman made her way down a large staircase to where Treize stood in the foyer. She was a very slight, little woman that more floated than walked. Her hair was darker than Heero’s and pulled in a neat bun at the nape of her neck. She had thinned since last Treize had seen her, and looked paler as well. He knew the smile was merely for the sake of welcome.

This was Melanie: his brother’s wife--no,widow, Heero’s mother, and the toast of more social circles than he could count. He had only known her for some three years but in that time they had managed to forge something . . . a bond based on a dead man and an errant child and all the goings-on in between. She was one of a very scant number of women who had ever managed to be called his friend.

“And you, my dear,” Treize replied as she approached and offered her hand to be kissed, “look ravishing.”

“And you . . .” she smiled as if astonished, “you look like you’ve been asleep!”

Treize returned her smile, slipping a hand around her waist as they walked across the foyer, her head barely reaching his shoulder, and toward the place they always preferred to sit and talk: the garden.

“You’ve caught me,” he affirmed with a good-natured squeeze, “ With the rain and all, the ride over was quite lulling.”

“If you call the worst storm since last summer lulling then you must come bearing news of my son. So tell me . . . what has he done?” The question was more playful than alarmed, but Treize could hear the weariness in her voice all the same. Was everyone so sad?

“Nothing, that I’m aware of,” Treize replied as he opened the heavy oak door that would lead them out into the still-wet afternoon air. A sea of jade, chartreuse, vermilion, amethyst, gold, and a number of other vivid colors, shades, textures, and scents greeted them, welcoming the conversationalists into the surreal comfort of it’s vibrant world. And though the marble benches beckoned sweetly from beneath a sprawling oak and a waterfall of wisteria, the couple chose the cobblestones and walked instead.

“Then why the visit? Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”

“I’ve business to attend . . . but that’s nothing Lucient couldn’t have handled.” He sighed heavily. “I suppose I was just feeling a little claustrophobic.”

“I know what you mean,” she replied. From the sound of her voice, Treize was certain she did.

Damn this light! It hurt his eyes.

Damn this whole house! That woman and her yelling, the tea that scoured his throat, all the sounds . . . the door, foot steps . . . he could feel them vibrating up the legs of the chair he sat in. The tremors seemed to travel upward and end at his head . . . and damn this light!

The floor would be nice. He was certain of it. It was hardwood, it was dusty, it was cool.

With very slow and deliberate movement, mostly blinded by the cold compress over his forehead and eyes, Heero slid out of his chair and onto the kitchen floor. It hurt his head to move, and from this angle on the floor the light pouring into the window was even more severe, but somehow, he felt better.

Something huge landed by his head. The sound of it was enormous and monstrous . . . it began to purr. He wanted to swat the animal away--he and Malaise, at best, had been sworn enemies--but he lacked the will (and orientation) to strike out. Besides, the noise was becoming . . . soothing, espescially when the cat crawled on his chest and set his body abuzz with the constant and steady thrum. Good kitty.


Bad kitty. No talking.

“Heero, are you okay?” Even over the incredible din in his head, he knew it was Trowa speaking. Few people could relate so much concern by sounding so impassive.

“Fine.” He hated to speak, partly because it hurt, mostly because it was a tell-tale sign of how much it hurt.

“Do you want help to bed?”

“No,” the word was shaped more than spoken.

“Heero--” and then Trowa’s words were pierced by a horrible screeching sound. It sounded like thunder and a carriage crashing and a horse whinnying all in the same noise . . .though it was more than likely a chair being scraped across the floor. Malaise was gone in an instant.

“You’re going to bed.” At the sound of the deep and familiar voice Heero had torn the cloth from his eyes, a move he regretted as the light tripled the pain in his head, undoing Malaise’s efforts. If Milliard wanted to kill him now, he was helpless.

Strong hands slid beneath his back and legs, lifting him against a chest so broad he wondered how he had survived an encounter with this creature. Damp hair tickled his face.

“I’ll be up in a minute with another compress and some mo’ tea.” He heard Netti yelling as he felt Milliardo ascending the stairs. He could hear the man’s breathing above him, footsteps below, a steady heartbeat in his ear. For a small moment he was reminded of another man. One who was a bit taller, a little more broad. His steps were less severe, his voice softer, and his embrace much more soothing. He smelled like the garden, and felt like home. And then, like too many other things, the moment was gone.

“Duo will be staying in this house,” Milliardo was telling him as he lay him (to Heero’s surprise and relief) gently on the bed. Heero was blind again from the cloth Netti had hastily thrown on his forehead as Milliardo was hefting him up the stairs, and for that he was glad. Milliardo was inches from his face.

“You are not to speak to him unless necessary. You will avoid him when possible. You will behave . . . is that understood?”

Damn him.


“What was that?”

Damn him!

“Yes, sir.”

A breath, a movement, footsteps, a shut door; Milliardo was gone.

Heero rolled onto his side, his chest aching now as much as his head. A frown creased his face.

“And damn you too.”


|Sidestories, History and Conclusion|