Titan and Hercules prowled around his feet, purring and rubbing their heads against his legs as Milliardo prepared their dinner.
"I'm taking Mister Scruff on a walk," Relena called out from the entry.
"Wait, Lena, I'm going with you," he told her. It was getting late and he didn't want her to be out there on her own at this time of night. "Just give me a second."
He set the two food bowls down and the felines pounced at them like they hadn't been fed for a week. Milliardo's eyes fell upon the dishes piling up in the sink as he filled the water bowl, and he sighed. They would have to wait till the morning. He just didn't have the energy to deal with anything else tonight.
"Hurry up!" Relena urged as she popped her head through the kitchen door. "I think Mister Scruff needs to go really badly."
The dog gave a single bark as though to confirm her words.
"I'm coming." He grabbed his coat and slipped it on as they headed for the door.
Mr. Scruff pulled on his leash. He was a mud who looked like he had every dog breed known to men in his family tree; the size of a Great Dane, the shaggy fur of a Komondor and unfortunately the appetite of a Mastiff.
Milliardo pulled his shoulders up and buttoned his coat. There was a chill in the air; yes it was definitely turning autumn. Which meant, that soon he would have to worry about the heating bill. And Relena needed new school clothing. The girl was growing like it was nobody's business.
Ever since their parents had died in an accident nearly two years ago he had been providing for both his sister and himself. In order to do though he had quit school and taken a full time job. It wasn't like their parents had left them with nothing. But he had to think long term. So he had put most of the money they got from the insurance and such into a trust fund for Relena. If the tragedy had taught him one thing, it was that life could change in the blink of an eye and nobody, including himself, was immortal. So if anything was to happen to him at least his sister was taken care of. There was enough money to pay for her education and give her a good start in life. Selling the house they had grown up in and buying a smaller two-bedroom condo instead had been a though decision, but it made sense. In the long run he wouldn't have been able to afford the property-taxes for the large house.
"Are you alright, Miri?"
Relena looked up at him, and he forced himself to smile. "I'm fine, he assured her. "Just a little tired."
They headed for the nearby park, which was deserted at this time of the night. Relena let Mr. Scruff of the leash, and Milliardo settled down on one of the empty benches, draping one long leg over the other. A soft smile tugged on his lips as he watched his sister play fetch and tug-o-war with the large dog. It was moments like these when he realized that life wasn't that bad after all.
Mr. Scruff ran after the stick Relena had thrown, but suddenly stopped, tilted his head and took off barking.
"Scruff…Mister Scruff, come back," Relena yelled as she chased after him.
Eventually she caught up with him, or so Milliardo assumed, because both his barking and her yelling stopped. A few moments later Relena came running back, alone, calling his name. "Miri, Miri, come quick, Mister Scruff found something."
"No more dogs and cats, Relena. We can't afford it, and I have run out of friends to give them to," he told her, even as he allowed her to pull him along.
"It's not that," she replied. "See!"
Indeed, it was neither a stray dog nor a cat lying behind a group of brushes, but a man. He was wearing only a pair of black slacks and a white shirt, no coat or jacket. Although he was dirty he didn't look like a homeless person.
Milliardo suspected that he had probably a few drinks too many and lost his way home. His first instinct was to call the police and let them deal with the drunk. But then he noticed a patch of dried blood in the stranger's ginger-colored hair. He frowned as he crouched down and reached out to check the man's pulse.
"Is he dead?" Relena's voice was trembling. She had grabbed Mr. Scruff's collar with both hands. Her brother wasn't sure if she was trying to hold him back or just needed something to old on to.
"No, he is only unconscious. Looks like the blood isn't fresh."
"What should we do; call the police or an ambulance?"
Milliardo shrugged. "That's probably the best. We can't just leave him here. He will freeze to death lying here all night. His body feels cold already." As he reached out to touch the man again the stranger stirred.
He came around slowly. There were voices, but at first he didn't understand what they were saying. Once his mind had cleared somewhat he could make out a female and a male speaking.
As he slowly opened his eyes he gazed into the most handsome face he had ever seem. Pale skin, high cheekbones, framed by long silvery hair; stunningly beautiful crystal-blue eyes partially hidden beneath frisky bangs… His first reaction was: Oh god, I've died and gone to heaven. There was not doubt in his mind that the gorgeous creature hovering over him had to be a celestial being.
He didn't realize that he had spoken out loud until the blond laughed. "Sorry, to disappoint you, but you are not dead yet." The voice, deep and smooth as velvet, fit the appearance. "What happened to you? Did you get mugged or something?"
He blinked as he tried to sit up, and his angelic Samarian reached out and helped to steady him. "I…I'm not sure what happened…" He looked around puzzled. "Or how I got here for that matter."
"Are you hurt?"
He raised his hand to touch a sore spot on the back of his hand and winced. "My head hurts, but other than that I feel alright."
"Do you think you can stand up? The ground is cold; you will catch pneumonia or something worse if you keep sitting here."
He nodded. "I think so."
"Easy now," Milliardo told the tawny-haired man as he rose unsteadily to his feet. He could feel that the man was shivering, so he slipped off his coat and hung it around the stranger's shoulders. "You must be freezing."
The man gave him a nod of gratitude. "Thank you. Who…who are you?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. My name is Milliardo, Milliardo Peacecraft. This is my sister Relena, and the walking carpet beside her is Mister Scruff. He is the one who found you. What about you? You got a name?"
"I'm …" the man started, then confusion crossed his face, and Milliardo saw a flicker of panic in his eyes. "I… I don't know…I can't seem to remember much of anything."
"It's alright," the blond calmed him down. "It looks like you either hit your head or you got knocked out or something. Maybe your memory loss has something to do with that. It's probably just temporary. Check your pockets for your wallet or some kind of ID."
"Right!" the stranger nodded. He went through the pockets of his pants and shook his head in a mixture of disappointment and frustration. "Not even as much as a house key."
"Alright then. Why don't you just come with us for now? The place we live at isn't very far from here."
"Are you sure? I really don't want to cause any more trouble that I already have."
"It's no trouble at all," Milliardo assured him with a soft smile. Any last suspicion he initially had about the stranger vanished. The man just didn't act like some kind of crook. "Besides, what else would you do; wander the streets with no place to go? You think you can walk? It's only about a block and a half."
The tawny haired man nodded. "Thank you."
"How do you feel?" Milliardo asked as he closed the condo door behind them. He took his coat from their guest and hung it up, while his sister unleashed the dog. "Should I call an ambulance to take you to the hospital and get you checked over?"
The tawny-haired man shook his head cautiously. "I don't think that's necessary. I'm still a little cold, but other than that I feel fine."
"Are you sure?" the blond eyed him skeptically. "You don't feel dizzy or nauseated?"
"No. Really, I'm alright."
"Fine then… But let me at least take a look at that wound on your head. Relena," Milliardo turned to his sister. "Do me a favor and fetch the first aid kit from the bathroom upstairs."
As she ran upstairs her brother prodded their guest into the kitchen, and gestured at one of the dining chairs. "Have a seat."
Moments later Relena came back, followed by Mr. Scruff who was looking to snatch up the leftover cat food. "I'll make some tea," she offered.
"Good idea." Milliardo opened the first aid kit to remove a package of sterile gauze and a small bottle of peroxide. "This will hurt a little," he warned as he started to dab at the blood-crusted gash.
The tawny-haired man winced.
"It's alright. How does it look?"
"Actually, not as bad as I thought," Milliardo admitted. Once the dried blood was removed he could see only a relatively small cut. "I can put a couple of butterfly bandages over it, but if you go to the hospital they'd be able to give you a few stitches and …"
"I'm sure the bandages will do," the older man interrupted. "Like I said I feel fine."
The blond shrugged. "Very well." He carefully cut away some of the hair around the wound then pulled the cut together and closed it with three small bandages. "Would you like to take a shower while the tea is brewing? You still have blood all over you," he asked once he was done.
"That would be great, thank you."
"Then let me show you the way." He led the way upstairs to the major bathroom. "Here we are," Milliardo opened the door. "There is soap and shampoo in the shower." The young man grabbed a couple of clean towels for the linen closet and put them next to the sink. "Let me see if I can find something for you to wear, your clothes have blood stains all over them."
He walked back into his bedroom to grab a pair of boxers, a long-sleeved t-shirt and a pair of sweat pants. "It's not much, bit at least they are clean and they should fit you."
The tawny-haired man nodded gratefully as he begun to unbutton his shirt. "Thank you."
"When you're finished, just come back downstairs," Milliardo told him before he left. "Oh, and maybe you shouldn't lock the door, just in case."
Relena was still waiting for the water for the tea to boil when her brother walked into the kitchen. "How is he?" she wanted to know.
Milliardo shrugged. "He says he is fine."
"But you are still concerned, aren't you?"
"Well head injuries can be complicated, and the fact that he can't remember anything worries me somewhat," he admitted.
"Couldn't you call Doctor Po and ask her for some advice?"
Dr. Po was one of the emergency physicians at the trauma center he worked at as an ambulance assistant.
"I don't think she could do much without actually seeing and examining him. He refuses to go to the hospital and it's not like I can, or want to, force him."
"That's true, I suppose," Relena agreed thoughtfully. "It has got to be scary to suddenly not to remember who you are. But maybe he just needs some rest and in time his memory will return."
"Yeah," Milliardo nodded. "That's what I'm hoping for too. Now, about that tea... Why don't you let me finish it? You still have homework to so, don't you?"
"And Relena," he told her firmly. "Don't sit on the computer for too long. It's a school night, remember."
"Yes Mother," she smirked at him.
Her brother huffed playfully. "Teenagers!"
Relena laughed as she threw her arms around his neck to kiss him good night. His statement was especially funny considering that Milliardo himself had turned twenty only a few months ago. "Good Night, Miri."
"Good Night, Lena."
Milliardo turned his head at the sound of footsteps. He had just settled down on the couch in the living room. For some reason Milliardo's heart almost skipped a beat as he watched the older man walk down the stairs. How can anybody look this graceful in a tee-shirt and pair of sweats? For a moment he wondered if his guest perhaps was a model or actor, considering the way he carried himself. He certainly had the face for it too. But then again if that was the case, he would probably remember seeing him in a movie or advertisement.
"You look a lot better."
"Thank you, I feel better too."
"Come here, have a seat. Tea?" the blond asked, gesturing at the pot and cups on the table.
"Please." The tawny haired man settled down in the chair across from his gracious host.
"I guess it could take a while till your memory returns, but it would help to at least know what to call you." Milliardo commented as he poured the tea.
"How about Treize!"
"Treize?" The blond looked up, baffled.
His guest took off his wristwatch and showed it to Milliardo, holding it so that he could see an engraving on the back of the watch. It was only a short inscription, reading 'To Treize Happy birthday' "I discovered it when I took the watch off to take a shower," he explained. "So, unless of course I stole that watch from somebody..."
"I don't know, but you don't seem the kind of person who goes around stealing watches of people." Milliardo remarked. "I think it's safe to assume that it is your watch and your name on it."
"Well thank you for your vote of confidence." A tiny smirk tugged on the corners of the older man's mouth.
It was the first time Milliardo had seen Treize smile, and he couldn't help but think that it looked good on him. For a few moments the two men sat silently, sipping their tea. The cats were chasing each other up and down the stairs, and Mr. Scruff strolled over to the table and curled up next to Treize, using the man's feet as a pillow.
Treize bend down to pet him. "You are a big guy aren't you? – What is he anyway?"
Milliardo shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. All I can tell you, it's a dog."
The older man gave a quiet laugh. "Are you even sure about that? Seems to me as though somebody sold you a polar bear instead of a puppy."
The blond chuckled. "Yeah I have been wondering that too when we first got him and he was growing like 5 inches a day."
After a couple more moments Treize looked up. "You don't have to answer this if you don't want. But I was wondering… How old are you?"
"I just turned twenty in August."
The tawny-haired man raised one eyebrow in surprise. "Yet, you live here by yourself with your sister?"
"Yeah, well, it isn't by choice. Our parents died a couple of years ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that. And I'm sorry to have brought it up. I didn't mean to wake painful memories."
"It's alright. It's been a long time," Milliardo assured him, but his eyes told a different story, as he stared down into his half empty tea cup.
Treize felt an instant flash of sympathy, and guilt for having caused that pain. "Nevertheless, I'm sorry."
He hadn't realized until now how worn out he was. Perhaps the herbal tea has something to do with it too, but Treize felt suddenly dog tired. He tried to stifle a yawn, but the other man noticed it anyway.
"You must me exhausted. It's getting late too. Why don't we call it a night? You can sleep in the bedroom upstairs. I'll take the couch."
"That seems hardly fair," Treize objected. "You have already been kind enough to take me in; you shouldn't have to give up your bed as well."
"It's alright," Milliardo laughed. "This couch is actually quite comfortable. I made sure of that when I bought it, since I have the tendency to fall asleep while watching TV."
Milliardo wasn't sure what woke him. Hercules was lying rolled up by his feet; while his brother, Titan, was probably sleeping in Relena's room as usually. The young man yawned and blinked a few timed before he was able to make out the clock on the wall. It was shortly after three thirty in the morning; way too early to get up. He rolled over to go back to sleep, when it occurred to him that it might be a good idea to check on Treize.
Hercules meowed in protest as Milliardo pushed away the covers and rose to his feet. Quietly the young man made his way upstairs. He stopped and listened for a moment outside the bedroom, before slowly opening the door. He slipped into the room and walked over to the bed, relived when in the soft light of the moon he could see Treize's chest rise and fall slowly and steadily. The tawny haired man was sleeping peacefully. As he watched the slumbering face, Milliardo suddenly felt the urge to touch him. He reached out slowly, hesitantly and brushed his fingertips gently over the other man's lips before he came to his senses and jerked his hand away. What the hell am I doing?
He turned and fled the bedroom, his heart pounding vigorously in his chest.
Feedback is greatly appreciated, constructive criticism is welcome :-)