Milliardo stepped into the warm air of the dark summer night, his hair blowing in the slight evening breeze.

As he moved from the front porch, he looked out into the fields, dots of light speckling the dark horizon. The celebration had been underway for a few hours now and, as the wind carried with it light sounds of laughter, showed no signs of stopping.

“Happy birthday, Nashi . . . Trowa, whoever you are.”

He frowned at the thought of the boy and looked back up at the house. Its grand facade was dark except for a small flickering light in the kitchen. He looked at Treize’s window, black beyond the pane.

“Where are you my friend?” He shook his head, and turned toward the stables, perhaps he was there. He had been looking for him since before Trowa’s party had begun. They had planned a meeting of sorts and Milliardo wondered what was keeping Treize.

He had also been wondering since Treize’s accident if it had truly been an accident. Treize was an accomplished rider, it seemed a stretch of the imagination to accept the story he had given. Still, even the best rider could be endangered if sufficiently distracted. And it seemed that Trowa was becoming more and more of a distraction for him.

The night of Treize’s accident, he had gone in to check on him long after Trowa had left, only to find the man awake, face flushed with worry.

“Treize, you should be asleep.”

“I know,” Treize replied, his voice weary, “but I knew you’d be back soon. I need a favor Milliardo.”

Milliardo sat on the edge of Treize’s bed, face soft, “Anything.”

“Will you keep an eye on Heero? I fear he may be making advances upon Trowa. I heard a disturbing encounter after he left.” The request was accompanied by a look of concern that Milliardo had not seen on the older man’s face in some time. He knew too well how alluring and dangerous Heero could be, and the same concern filled him, only not for the boy in question.

“You mustn’t worry about that Treize,” Milliardo leaned down, closing the gap between them, “If he is your worry, he is mine as well. Nothing short of my death will allow him to be harmed.” He leaned further, kissing Treize’s damp forehead, “Get some sleep, before I call Netti up.”

Treize had relaxed in his presence and was asleep moments later.

Milliardo was intent to keep his promise. He had seen Heero the next morning, or more importantly, seen Heero’s black eye. He laughed at the thought. It seemed that Trowa was not entirely incapable of defending himself, but Heero’s danger was not always of the violent sort. So he had spoken with Heero, or rather, threatened him, about the dangers of meddling with their house guest. Heero had snorted at the remark, but Milliardo noticed Heero’s scarcity in the following days. Still, he knew it was unwise to let down his guard.

If Treize wanted him to watch Heero, he would watch him. If Treize wanted him to strangle the life out of that scrawny, beguiling neck, he would do so . . . and quite happily. But Treize would not order the death of his nephew, much to Milliardo’s regret. He almost hoped the boy would give him a reason to beat his pretty face in.

“Looking for someone?” Came a soft voice from the darkness as Milliardo stepped into the barn. It was followed by strong hands around his neck.

“Yes,” Milliardo’s surprise lasted only a brief second before he smiled, leaning into his lover, all murderous thoughts flying from his head, “I was.”

“Feliz cumpleanos mi hermano,” Catherine whispered to him as she hugged him hard for what seemed like the hundredth time that evening.

All of the workers were out for the celebration, and the food. Netti had indeed prepared a feast for them, and the night had been a wonderful success.

Trowa felt comfortable among his friends again. Catherine and Mahreem had been so warm to him, saying how much they missed him and loved him. These people, for all their poverty and labor, were what truly made him happy.

Catherine, as always, had a gift for him, a dark green turtleneck, immaculately tailored.

“I started it last winter,” she had supplied, explaining the reason for such an impractical gift in the summer’s heat. “I was going to give it to you then, but it took so long to finish it-”

“I love it. Thank you.”

The evening had worn on, everyone stuffing themselves beyond full, a few retiring. As Catherine and Mahreem got a little inebriated from the wine Treize had provided, they got looser with their interaction and Trowa began to see the attraction between them. It seemed that they had become much closer since he had left them. Perhaps he had been in the way, or maybe he was what brought them together. He didn’t know and didn’t care. They looked so happy together. They deserved that happiness.

It was growing late and Mahreem and Catherine were retiring, wishing Trowa a happy birthday again. They held each other as they walked to the house. Trowa held himself.

He had been thinking of Treize all evening. Even the joy he felt among his family and friends could not quench his growing desire for the other man.

Desire. He had finally admitted to himself why he felt the way he did about Treize. At first he hadn’t seen it because of its unfamiliar presence, but after watching Catherine and Mahreem, their looks and gestures, he knew what he wanted from the older man.

That wasn’t entirely true. Though he had been through a lot in his fifteen odd years, he had never had any sexual experience. Masturbation had come as a pleasant shock to him only a few years ago, and even after that, one was often too tired after a day’s work to indulge in such trivial pleasures in the evening. But while he didn’t know the particulars of the act, he knew he wanted much more than what their current relationship offered.

With his mind heavy with these thoughts, he left the few celebrators remaining to their vices, and began to walk. He didn’t want to go to the house just yet. Though Treize had promised him something, he wanted to delay the moments between their encounters as much as possible. He often felt at odds with himself in the man’s presence, sometimes a little out of control. That made him nervous. He would wait.

He walked across the blackened fields, none too concerned by what creatures might be lurking, and headed toward the stables. Perhaps he could spend some time with Brandy.

As he approached the barn, a deep, painful moan hit his ears. He stopped. He heard it again. It was coming from inside the barn and the volume was growing rapidly, the sound coming in short bursts. He moved forward quickly, a dozen images of brutality entering his mind. Was someone being murdered, right here under his very eyes.

He came to the side of the barn, his feet quiet in the grass. No, he thought, those were not cries of pain. The more he heard, the more he was certain of that fact. These were noises of pure delight, of ecstasy.

The sounds were affecting him in a way he hadn’t though possible. His groin began to ache and it seemed as if his pants were getting smaller. Who was that? He had to know.

He peeked around the edge of the barn, into its dark interior. It took him a second to make out a figure, but the dim moonlight finally found a pale form writhing against another, pushing it into the wall. Their movement was exquisite. The dark night did not permit him to see their faces or most of their bodies, but their actions were clear. They were billowy clouds colliding in the darkness, their moans and grunts the thunder of their passion.

Trowa watched fixated, and realized he had been touching himself through his pants, his penis solid and twitching, wanting to take part in their affair.

Their moans turned into shouts, their voices indistinguishable. And as the outer figure found its release, it arched its back, bringing half of its body into the moonlight. Waves of long blonde hair fell past his exposed buttocks, skimming over the legs of his partner that were wrapped about his waist. His skin and muscles glistening with the sweat of his exertion.

“Milliard!” He heard the other shout at their own release. The voice was thick with lust that disguised their identity.

Trowa turned quickly away from the scene, staring at the black grass around his feet.

“Milliardo?” he breathed to himself, his heart pounding in his ears. Milliardo. Beautiful, deadly, Milliardo had just been making love to someone. And he had seen it.

The sight was still affecting him deeply. His hardness throbbed painfully at the vision of Milliardo thrusting into his lover’s wanton body. But another thought overshadowed even that.

Who was Milliardo’s lover?

The voice had been too deep to be a woman. The fact that Milliardo would take a male lover was not surprising, especially not after the way he acted with Treize. Trowa’s breath caught a little at the mention of the name. Was it Treize that Milliardo had been tending to? Was it Treize who had screamed the blond’s name in ecstasy?

Yes, Trowa decided. It had to be. The workers called him Zechs, not Milliardo.

His mind supplied more visions of the act, only this time he saw white-gloved hands roam over Milliardo’s torso, ginger hair wisping about his neck. He heard the clumsy lips of a lust-drunken aristocrat shouting his lover’s name.

And then he ran.

“Did you hear something?” Milliardo breathed into the darkness as he withdrew from the sweet warmth of his beloved.

“Yes,” the soft, husky voice purred. It’s owner leaned forward, a slight hint of moon glow gently lighting violet pools, “I heard me, screaming your name.” Duo leaned forward more, hugging the other man’s neck, whimpering as Milliardo’s soft sex was removed from his body.

“Are you going to stay with me tonight?” He asked as he was lowered to the ground, Milliardo settling him to lean against his chest.

“I can’t,” was the regretful reply, “I was supposed to meet Treize.” His hand absently stroked lush curls as he spoke.

“Oh,” Duo returned.

“Don’t be that way,” Milliardo’s voice was soft and he hugged the younger man closer to him, “you know my obligations.”

“I know,” Duo sighed, “but sometimes I just don’t like them.”

In the highest peak of the Khushrenada estate, its master was perched amongst piles of paper, his head bent in concentration, flickering candle light dancing over a soft fall of ginger hair. He looked up.

“Where is he?” He asked the empty room, only to receive the same answer he’d gotten all night. Nothing.

Treize had been pouring over the documents housed in the attic for hours now, looking for something that he wasn’t even sure was there. He was supposed to meet Milliardo at ten o’clock, but he’d been so wrapped up in his work he’d forgotten. It was now half past midnight and neither he nor Trowa had shown.

Perhaps they don’t know where to find me, he thought. Or perhaps they don’t want to.

No, Treize was more than certain that even if Trowa didn’t want to see him, he would keep his promise, and Milliardo - Milliardo would always show. Something must be keeping them.

He set the papers back into their original pile and rose from his seat, stretching his legs and holding his side, his fatigue apparent. Despite his quick recovery, his left knee and a few of his ribs would still bother him if he over exerted himself or kept in the same position for too long. And every ache brought with it the memory of his accident, of what he saw.

Or thought he saw. He had convinced himself it was a delusion and not at all reality, the product of a deliriously maudlin mind. He had lied to everyone about his accident even Milliardo, but he dared not tell them the truth. It hurt to tell himself.

He stood for a second more, allowing the pain to subside, the visions to pass, and then sighed heavily. He couldn’t think about that now. That was too long ago, and too far away.

“And that’s where you’ll stay,” came Treize’s tired voice as he exited the darkness of the room, the candle having been extinguished.

Treize reached Trowa’s room moments later and knocked lightly.

“Trowa,” he called after there was no answer, and then pushed the door open.

Nothing. Trowa was not there and the bed was still made. Perhaps he was still at the celebration. Heero might know.

He shut Trowa’s door behind him and moved further down the hall. Heero’s door was already open and he peered in through the darkness. Again, nothing. Trowa was missing, and so was Heero. He only hoped they weren’t together.

“Damn that boy.”

|Part 9|