Trowa walked quietly out of the woods. He didn’t feel like having lunch and neither, evidently, had Heero, who had left him a while back, saying only that he was going swimming again.

Heero was a mystery to him. After only a half of day of knowing the boy, Trowa had seen him be indifferent, excitable, angered, and even, flirtatious. Trowa sighed at that last thought. He had never really considered a relationship with another boy, nor one with a girl for that matter. Somehow, in the fields, with the sun on your back and golden wheat whispering around you, relationships seemed trivial beyond necessity.

‘It’s no wonder these people hide their feelings,’ he thought. There are so many emotions to be felt when the heart and mind were idle. Still, he hoped he never learned to be like them.

He continued walking, bypassing the house and heading toward the stables. Perhaps he could ride today. And if not, he could at least spend time with less demanding company. He reached the barn quickly, entering the tack room first, searching for the braided young man who might give him his first riding lesson, but as before, Duo was not to be found.

“Looking for Duo?”

Trowa turned from where he stood in the doorframe, and found the silhouetted figure that had spoken to him.

“He’s not here. He tends to disappear at whim.” Treize stood near the end of the barn, a starkly white horse tied before him. He slung a saddle onto it’s back.

Trowa hadn’t noticed the man before, probably due to his distracting thoughts of Heero and hidden feelings. He stepped closer to the man, noting his riding garb and particularly the unbuttoned shirt that moved with the breeze.

“He said he would teach me to ride, but he’s been absent on my last few visits.” Trowa felt self-conscious.

“I’m on my way out,” Treize said, not looking up from his adjustments to the saddle, “would you like to come along?”

“I wouldn’t want to be trouble.” Trowa heard the formality in his own voice and loathed it.

Treize lead his horse to where Trowa stood, having finished saddling it, and handed the boy the reigns. The animal’s large head came near his face, sniffing and then snorting at Trowa’s hair. Trowa smiled at the introductory gesture.

“This,” Treize began, patting the horse’s neck, “is Soldier. He seems to approve of you and therefore you are no trouble.”

Trowa petted the gentle creature and noticed the pale blue of its eyes. “His eyes--”

Treize was buttoning his shirt but did not miss the questioning statement. “He’s pure Arabian,” he explained, “someone once told me that when they brought them over to the states, a few of them fell off of the boat and had to swim to shore. After their long journey, the seawater had bleached their color and the blue of the oceans had stained their eyes.” He finished, meeting Trowa’s gaze.

“I’m sorry,” Treize remarked at the odd look he found on Trowa’s face, laughing somewhat at his own words, “he’s an albino. No romanticism involved. All albinos have blue or purplish eyes.”

“I like the other story better.” Trowa replied, handing the reigns back to Treize.

“Me too,” Treize said softly, looking suddenly melancholy as he studied the soft leathers. And then, with outstanding brevity, the sadness was gone, an easy smile replacing it.

“Well,” he began, “you’re not dressed for riding, certainly not with those shoes on, unless you wish to be dragged a quarter mile. But, Soldier takes double easily, we can begin with reigning.”

Trowa was pleased, “I would like that.”

Treize guided Trowa onto the horse and followed quickly behind, the flat make of the English saddle held two passengers with sufficient comfort, and Treize took the animal into a nearby paddock.

Trowa knew little about horseback riding but was certain the animal they rode was of impressive breed. Its gaits were smooth and controlled and it responded to it’s master’s whim with great diligence. He felt at home, he felt safe.

Of course, part of that security may have been due to the solid frame at his back, the strong arms at his sides holding the reigns in front of him. Quite often, he found himself leaning into Treize’s chest, surprised that even in the intense heat their closeness was not uncomfortable. In fact, he enjoyed the contact, the warmth.

“Trowa,” Treize was calling, “did you fall asleep?”

He hadn’t been paying attention. That was odd, he was always attentive.

“No, I’m fine.”

“Would you like the reigns,” Treize offered the leather straps he held in is hand, Trowa took them. “Hold them like I showed you, not too slack, not too tight. There.”

The ride continued for half an hour more, Treize showing Trowa the finer points of neck reigning, and Trowa catching on quickly.

“How are you finding Heero’s company?” Treize asked as they made another round of the paddock.

“He’s pleasant enough.”

Treize laughed. Trowa loved the vibrations it sent through his body.

“I suppose that’s one way to take Heero. Did he give you a tour of the river? It’s one of his favorite spots.”

“Somewhat,” Trowa remarked, “and he showed me something else too.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

“He took me to a mausoleum back in the forest.”

Treize grew quiet, all trace of playfulness left his voice, “Did he?”

“Yes, and he showed me a most beautiful sculpture, he said that--”

“That’s enough lesson for today.” Treize’s tone was cold and serious. “You’d better wash for dinner.” He took the reigns from Trowa and helped the boys slide down the side. “Tell Netti I’ll be in shortly.” That said, he turned Soldier toward the paddock gate, gave him a swift kick in the sides, and voiced his command with short clicking sounds. In an instant, Soldier turned from the gentle teacher to a swift creature of tension and muscle.

“Yes,” Trowa said to himself as he watched the pair exit the paddock and disappear over a nearby hill, “he must have loved them very much.”

“Come quick,” Mahreem shouted through the screen of the open kitchen door, “It’s the master.”

Trowa, Heero and Milliardo had been sitting in the dining room eating dinner in utter silence when the shout came muffled through the door adjoining the kitchen and dining room. Malaise, the Persian cat had been sleeping on Milliardo’s boot and jumped at the noise, running across the room and skidding under the china cabinet.

The other three acted similarly, Milliardo, throwing down his utensils and napkin and stomping out of the room. Heero ran behind, eager as a child rushing to a circus.

Trowa’s reaction took a few seconds longer. He watched the other two dash out, their urgency frightening him. What could have happened? Was Treize hurt? A riding accident perhaps? The boy suddenly felt guilty. If Treize had been injured while riding, surely it had been his words that had distracted him. He had to know what happened and if he was to blame. He rose from his seat and was out the door.

The crowd that had gathered in the field made Trowa’s stomach flutter. It reminded him of flies gathering at a corpse. Was it really that bad?

He had begun to run once he’d gotten out of the door and his lungs burned with the effort, his mind raced as fast as his legs. He realized he was frightened at what he might find. He didn’t know the man very well but he wished him no harm. He remembered the warmth of Treize’s chest at his back, arms at his sides. He though of ginger hair, white gloves, the rich smell of lavender* and horses. He noticed how oddly beautiful the fields looked now, bathed in the red light of dusk.

He came upon the crowd and fought his way through to the center. What he found relieved him to no end.

Milliardo was there, supporting a somewhat staggering body. Treize’s clothes were dirty and his hands and face were scratched. His right sleeve was torn, darkness staining the area, dripping from his fingers. But more important than that, he was alive.

“Get out of the way!” Milliardo shouted in his usual congenial manner. Treize’s arm was draped over his shoulder and he limped along with Milliardo’s assistance, the crowd slowing their advance.

“If you don’t move now, I’ll shoot every damned one of you!”

The lookers-on parted swiftly, moving out into the fields or back to the house, only Treize, Milliardo, Heero and Trowa remained.

Heero asked the question, his voice cold and mocking.

“What happened uncle? Lose your balance on that mule of yours?”

Milliardo stopped their progression and didn’t look at the boy as he delivered his unwavering threat, “Don’t think you’re safe from my bullets just because you’re his family. You’d probably be my first choice.”

Heero glared at the blond man, contempt clear in his eyes and then turned on his heel and stalked toward the house.

Trowa looked hard at the ground and decided it best to head in as well. He turned to leave.

“Trowa,” It was not Milliardo that spoke now, but Treize. Trowa turned. “I hate to ask you-” his speech was cut by a pained grunt, “but . . . would you mind helping Milliardo with his burden?”

Trowa was saddened by the dullness in the pained voice, the usual melodic tones drowned in the in his injuries. Of course he would help. It was most likely he who was responsible for the man’s state. It was the least he could do.

Trowa moved under Treize’s opposite arm, supporting what little he could of the man’s weight. It was awkward at first, Trowa being shorter than the other two men, but they made progress as they walked, Treize using Trowa like a crutch, Milliardo guiding his steps.

Netti was waiting for them once they got to the house and fussed at him as they ascended the stairs. He shouldn’t ride so late, shouldn’t gallop so fast, didn’t he know better, was she going to have to put a leash around his neck?

Still for all her sternness, it was obvious she had been crying.

Trowa stood in Treize’s bedroom doorway. He had helped Milliardo remove his shirt and watched as Netti cleaned his wounds. Now Milliardo was gone, Netti was leaving and Heero had not been seen.

“Are you waiting for something to happen?” Treize asked from the bed.

Trowa had thought he was asleep. He lay still, eyes closed, face slack, blankets drawn over his stomach.

“I- I wanted to apologize,” Trowa answered quietly.

“What’s that?”

He stepped into the room, nearer to Treize’s bed, “I wanted to apologize for hurting you.”

Treize opened his eyes now, “And how did you do that?”

“I- while we were riding, I said some things to upset you. You left so quickly. I can only assume-”

“Nonsense. It was my own stupidity that hurt me.” He gave a tiny laugh and cringed as it shook his bruised ribs. “That, and and a flock of godforsaken birds. They always seem to pick that one second you’re not paying attention to burst from the bushes.” His smile faded as he saw the sad look on Trowa’s face.

“Nashi,” his voice was feathery, “are you unhappy here?”

Trowa looked up at the sound of the name. Why had he called him that?

“No, that’s not it. Even if this wasn’t my fault I still owe you an apology.”


Trowa sat in the chair Netti had placed at Treize’s bedside, and stared at the ground.

“I feel I’ve been very cold to you in these few days we’ve known each other, and all the while you have shown me nothing but kindness.” He looked up into the cornflower blue gaze that sparkled at him, “I wish that we might start over.”

Treize gave a weak smile, “There’s nothing that’s been done that’s needs to be replayed or replaced. I think we’ve started off well. Let’s continue as we are, perhaps we’ll find ourselves all the better for it.”

Trowa slid out of the chair and knelt beside the bed, taking Treize’s left hand into his own. “Thank you . . . Treize.”

Another hint of a smile lighted Treize’s face and his eyes slid shut.

|Part 7|