Nashi walked over the ankle deep grass of a small hill, the smell of summer delighting his senses, the familiar cry of cicadas greeting him.

Netti had told him where he could find the stables and he was anxious to see them. Having lived in the same place all of his life, never needing to travel, he had only ever ridden two or three times that he could remember, and never a horse. A few times Mahreem had put him on a mule, and led him around. Once, he had gotten on the animal alone, only to find himself back on the ground a few seconds later. Still, he longed for the freedom horseback riding offered, and after hearing from Netti that Treize had mentioned his need to learn, Nashi finally had something to look forward to.

He reached the stables easily enough, and walked under its cool shade. The barn was massive and boasted two long rows of stalls stretching down each side of a wide alley. There was a room to his immediate right, and a sound came from it, something being dragged and then dropped, and then a voice.

“Damned feed. Gets heavier every day.” The voice was male and rough, but had a sweet lilt to it that told Nashi its owner was not only young, but amiable. He peered inside.

A man with a long braid was bent over a pile of large brown bags at the door and picked up one of them, hauling it to a stack in the corner. Every time he would bend down, the Braid would snake over his shoulder and a foot of it would sweep across the ground. He looked to be in his late teens and despite his protests did not look unhappy in his work.

Nashi watched for a few seconds as the man labored until finally, something made him notice Nashi’s presence. He was near the door and picked up his head as he was bending for another bag. He was startled for a moment, straightening quickly, and then relaxed, an easy smile spreading wide across his face.

“Ahh, you were so quiet I didn’t realize anyone was there.” He moved forward and removed a leather glove, extending his hand to Nashi. “Name’s Duo. You must be Nashi, Zechs told be you’d be around some time.”

Nashi took his hand and let his own be shaken heartily, not looking from the boy’s face. He didn’t want to. Not only was he pleasant featured, but had the most uniquely colored violet eyes that lit up when he smiled. So, now there were two people he could look forward to knowing better.

“Zechs said I should show you around. This is the feed room,” he said motioning his hands around him, “tack’s next door, and the rest are horses. Easy huh?” He smiled brightly and stepped out of the room.

“You ride?”

“Not really, no. But I would like to.”

“Well, let’s introduce you.” Duo started walking toward the stalls, stopping by the first one, a large yet frail looking paint stood quietly in the corner. “This is General Noventa, he’s an old man, no one rides him we just put him out to pasture, he’s real sweet though.”

Duo moved along telling Nashi about each horse. Pointing at an empty stall he told Nashi that it housed Zechs’s horse, Tallgeese, a most aggressive gelding that Zechs lavished affection upon. Nashi couldn’t imagine the brusque man giving affection to anything, much less doing so lavishly. Treize’s horse too, was gone, having accompanied him on his trip along with a few carriage horses.

At the end of one of the aisles, Duo showed him a massive creature, black as moonless night and stalking antsily. He was their stud, Shinigami, Duo explained. No one rode him either, any man on his back took their life into his own hands, and there were no women to try.

“And this,” Duo opened a stall door opposite General Noventa, “is Brandy.” A small bay horse, obviously named for her richly colored deep red coat, stepped partly out of the stall, nuzzling Duo’s side and rubbing its head on his shirt. “Well, hello to you too, girl.” He looked at Nashi, “She’s grade and a little stubborn to boot, but once you make friends, she’ll treat you good. Just don’t push her too far, hell hath no fury like a woman being told what to do.”

“Is she the one I’ll ride?”

“Yeah, she’s a good one to learn on, just don’t get her near Shinigami, or any of the other mares for that matter, unless you’ve got a death wish.”

A bell chimed from the direction of the house and Duo hurried Brandy back in the stall.

“That’s lunch.” he said. “We don’t have time today to get you on her. I’ve got to help Zechs when he gets back, but try tomorrow morning, maybe I’ll be free.”

“Thank you.” Nashi said as Duo hurried back to the feed room, finishing his task before taking lunch.

“No problem, you’d better hurry, Netti doesn’t like late-comers.”

The rest of the day Nashi spent roaming around the estate, finding dogs, cats, gardens, and even spotted a river near the back of the land, he would have to go there soon.

That evening, he visited with Mahreem and Catherine and told them about the situation, and the agreement he had made with Treize. Both had been relieved he was okay and was permitted to stay, and they had parted sweetly, Catherine hugging him hard and Mahreem sending his regards to his mother.

Nashi felt the visit all too brisk, but realized how tired he was once he returned to the house, and slept soundly for once, anticipating the next morning.

He didn’t get to ride the next morning, however. After Milliardo had departed, he headed directly to the stables but Duo was nowhere in sight, and he had waited. He petted Brandy, fed her carrots, and spent the better part of the day there, still, no Duo. He had resigned at lunch and gone inside.

The rest of the day went much the same as the first and Nashi was feeling a little more comfortable with his surroundings. Still, he was disappointed at not being able to ride, and missed the noise of an overcrowded workhouse. His feelings were at odds and sleep that night was difficult.

The next day, the master returned.

When the early morning sun broke through his window, he heard the clatter of hooves in the distance and crossing his room, peered outside to see a carriage being drawn into the drive.

Treize stepped out of his ride in full aristocratic garb, dark blue coat, polished boots, and a sash about his waist. Nashi didn’t know whether to be happy or indifferent at Treize’s arrival. Something about the man called upon Nashi’s inner child, seeing the man as a potential protector and provider. Yet something else entirely made Nashi’s stomach clinch as he watched the man standing on the lawn. Not a sick feeling, but something Nashi couldn’t place, something that made him wonder what Treize’s skin felt like, how his hair smelled. It was a new and foreign sensation.

As Treize stood on the lawn, talking to Milliardo who had just joined him, the carriage rocked slightly and another figure stepped from its innards.

The new arrival was a young boy, his hair dark and unruly and he was dressed almost as well as Treize. He was much shorter than their master and Nashi guessed he must be somewhere near his own age, whatever that was.

“Heero,” Nashi breathed at the tiny figure, realizing his identity.

As if he had heard the whispered word, Heero looked up from the lawn, and into a second-story window, cobalt eyes meeting green, and smiled.

Nashi sat quietly on his impeccably made bed. He was dressed and ready for breakfast but felt uneasy about going downstairs. Netti had not come for him, he assumed she must be busy with Treize’s arrival. He had heard them coming in, heavy oak door easing open, thudding shut, the blunt sounds of boots on marble. His captor was home.

He hadn’t spoken with Treize since that first night, and though he did not truly feel like a captive, he was still unsure how he should act toward the man. What was wrong with him? It was not in his nature to be uncertain.

There was a light knock on the door.

“Come in.” Nashi called and the door opened.

He was expecting Netti, come to take him to breakfast. Instead, it was Treize who stepped through the door, his broad shoulders nearly filling the frame. He was still dressed from his trip, but the jacket was gone, as was the sash, and his hair was ruffled, blown breezy in the ride.

“Good morning, Nashi.” Treize offered.

“Good Morning.”

“I’m sorry to disturb you, but I have important news. May I?” He gestured towards a chair by the door and, before having permission, sat. His actions seemed hasty, as if he had bad news or was nervous. Master Treize, nervous?

“Before I get to that, have you fared well these few days?”


“Netti seems to have taken to you quite a bit. What do you think of her?”

“She’s very kind.”

“Yes. Have you gotten a chance to ride?”


“Well, we’ll remedy that soon enough.”

A nervous silence fell for a long moment, then:

“Nashi,” Treize spoke quietly and leaned forward in his seat, resting his arms on his thighs, “I wanted to talk to you about my nephew.”

“What about me, uncle?” a deep nasally voice broke into Treize’s speech from outside the door and a breath later the same dark haired youth that Nashi had seen on the lawn, stepped into view.

Treize turned his head to look at the newcomer.

“Heero,” Treize seemed surprised, “I thought you were resting.”

“You know me, uncle. Restless is more the appropriate term.” He stepped forward more, leaning on the doorframe, and looked in at it’s younger occupant, “Am I to be introduced?”

Treize sighed and, straightening himself, stood.

“This,” he gestured toward Heero, “is my nephew, Heero. He’ll be visiting us for a while as he does every summer. And this,” He tuned his gesture toward Nashi now, meeting the boy’s gaze with something akin to apology lighting in his own, “is Trowa. His father is visiting France for a year and Trowa will be staying with me until his return.”

The room was quiet. Nashi stared at the man standing in his room, his face not revealing the betrayal he felt. Treize turned back to Heero.

Heero didn’t speak. Instead, he turned and left.

Treize shut the door and turned to face Nashi.

“Trowa?” Nashi asked, his voice cold.

“I’m sorry. You have to have a name while you’re here. Heero’s mother is an important woman. His father, my brother, died some years ago and left her a vast estate. She’s the hub of aristocracy in some circles.”

“If you’re ashamed of my being here, don’t keep me. I won’t ask you to.”

Treize sat back down in the chair, sighing heavily. Nashi was seeing a new side to the man, he liked it.

Treize looked at Nashi, his face soft, brow knitting as he spoke, “That’s not it. I know I have been absent since your moving in but it was unavoidable. I truly wish for you to stay, however, as a man of stature I cannot risk scandal. Do you understand?”

Scandal? How was he a scandal? Nashi nodded solemnly, “Do I have a family name?”

“Barton,” Treize replied, the name an apology, “Trowa Barton.”

|Part 5|