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The Portrait

Epilogue

"So, are you ready to meet my whole, nutty family?" Milliardo asked as he pulled into the private road leading to his parent's property where his graduation party was being held.

"Would it make any difference if I said no?"

"Sorry," the blond grinned. "Too late for cold feet now."

As he stopped in the curved drive way in front of the main house, one of the hired valets hurried over to park the car. Milliardo thanked the young man with a nod and handed him his keys while Treize let Cabal out of his doggy seatbelt. With Alexander gone they had also lost their 'live- in' dog sitter. Rather than leaving him at home along, Milliardo had decided to take Cabal along to his party. The puppy had gotten used to driving in the back of the car and seemed to love it. He usually pressed his nose against the window watching the scenery fly by, and the faster they drove the more he seemed to enjoy it. The two men liked to joke about how the inbred 'need for speed' in a Borzoi apparently also included car racing. Treize snapped the leash onto Cabal's brand new collar before letting him out of the car.

The front entrance was wide open, but music and voices seemed to be coming from the garden in the back.

"Milliardo!" Relena was on her way up the stairs as they walked into the house, but turned on her heels and hurried back down to greet her brother. She hugged him then took a step back, holding him at arm's length to study him for a second. "You look good. Doing nothing really seems to become you," she teased.

"I could get used to it," he laughed. "Relena…Treize…I don't think I need to introduce each other, do I?"

"Ah Professor, it's nice to see you. I almost didn't recognize you." His sister exchanged handshakes with Treize. "Being used to seeing you only in a suit and tie all the time."

Looking down on himself at the short sleeves polo shirt and slacks he was wearing the tawny haired man almost grimaced. "I am underdressed, aren't I?"

Milliardo rolled his eyes. "You are not underdressed. Relena, tell him."

"Absolutely not, Professor. If you go outside and run into a guy wearing shorts and a tank top, that's my father." The young woman grinned. "After all, Milliardo didn't want a fancy party."

"That was a misunderstanding," her brother insisted, his eyes sparkling with mirth. "When I was talking about guests not wearing tuxedos, I was thinking more along the line of inviting the Chippendale dancers," he remarked dryly.

"Could you imagine that?" Relena laughed. "Aunt Marry would have a heart attack, and Great Aunt Melanie would have latched on to her 5th husband before the day is over." When she looked down she suddenly spotted Cabal who had been hiding behind his master's legs and she almost squealed in delight. "Oh my gosh, is that the puppy you told me about? He is just the cutest little thing I have ever seen. Can I look after him?"

"Knock yourself out." Milliardo replied as the professor handed the leash off to her. "But keep an eye on him; he will let you know when he needs to go outside."

"Don't worry. I'll take good care of you, Sweetie."

"Um… Relena, his name his Cabal. He is a boy, so try not to scar him for life by dressing him up in pink bows or fluffy tutus."

Rolling her eyes his sister gave a playful huff. "You know, you are rather prejudice for someone who …"

"Someone who what?" Milliardo asked.

"Ah, never mind. Come on Cupcake, don't listen to him. Pink is not a girly color, you know." She kept ranting, directed at the puppy, as the two of them skipped up the stairs. "In fact even James Dean had a favorite pink shirt, and I bet no one ever questioned his 'manliness'."

Treize chuckled quietly. "She is definitely your sister, no doubt about it. Which of your parents did she get her sharp tongue from?"

"Definitely my father."

"And you, did you get your good looks from your mother?"

"That's what they say. But why don't we go and meet them, then you can see for yourself." Milliardo suggested.

#

"So, have you met any of my relatives yet?" Milliardo asked as he walked over to the small table where Treize was sitting. Since it was his party the blond had to mingle and make sure to not neglect any of his guests, which of course meant that the professor was on his own every now and then.

"Oh yes," the other man nodded as he set down the drink he was sipping. "I was just talking to your Uncle Kelly and Aunt Robin…or was it Aunt Kelly and Uncle Robin…? Before that an uncle of your father's was giving me investment advice, and the elderly lady across the pool keeps sending me these mint juleps…"

"My mom's Aunt Melanie? I'm starting to feel jealous," the younger man smirked as he picked a glass of iced tea from a passing waiter's tray. He took a long sip before continuing. "Great Aunt Melanie has a thing for good looking gentlemen; but be warned. She married four times already, and outlived all four of her husbands."

Treize snorted. "You really enjoying this, don't you?"

Before Milliardo was able to answer a woman in a blue summer dress, apparently another aunt (the resemblance to his mother was hard to miss), approached them. "Milliardo, there you are." She gave him a hug then stepped back. "Look at you. I can't believe you graduated from College already. It doesn't seem that long ago when you just started kindergarten." She looked at Treize then back at her nephew. "Will you introduce me to your guest?"

"Oh yes, of course. Meet Treize Khushrenada, Treize this is my Aunt Kimberly, my mother's sister."

"It's a pleasure, Ma'am."

"The pleasure is mine. So, you must be Milliardo roommate. I've heard about you."

"Well actually," Treize gave the blond a quick smirk before he continued. "I'm not just his roommate."

Milliardo paled and almost chocked on his iced tea. He wouldn't, would he?

"Oh?" his aunt asked.

Treize flashed her the most charming smile he could master. "I'm also his…history teacher. Or at least I used to be."

"Is that so? History, what an interesting subject."

"Indeed it is," the professor confirmed.

"It was sure nice meeting you, Mister Khushrenada. But you'll have to excuse me; I'd better check if my sister needs any help in the kitchen."

As the woman walked away Milliardo glared at his lover. "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"

Treize blinked innocently. "Just what do you mean, Dear?"

###

"Is he still sleeping?" Milliardo threw a look back over his shoulder as he unlocked the door. Behind him, his lover was carrying Cabal, curled up and fast asleep, in his arms.

"I don't think anything that could wake him right now." Treize replied, and he was probably right.

The puppy was exhausted from playing with and chasing around all the children at the party, which was a good thing. His little round tummy was stuffed with all kinds of table scraps, which was probably not so good. He had fallen asleep the minute they had put him into the car. At the moment he seemed to be dreaming, his little pawns where moving as though he was still chasing after something or someone and he was making funny sounds.

"Let's put him right into his pen," Milliardo suggested. "If we are lucky he will sleep through till the morning."

Treize nodded. "He just might." He set the puppy down on his doggy bed and stood watching him for a few moments before he turned around. "It's still too early to go to bed, should we do anything tonight?"

"Actually, I'm exhausted too. Let's just watch TV."

"I can live with that," the older man agreed with a little shrug.

"I think I'll make some popcorn, you want some, too?"

"How can you still eat anything? I don't think I won't need another meal for the next two days."

Milliardo laughed quietly. "That's because I only ate one steak and couple of sausages, unlike someone else I know."

"What was I supposed to do?" Treize protested. "Your father kept filling my plate every time he emptied the BBQ."

"All you had to do say: 'No thank you.'"

"And risk upsetting the man who might potentially become my father-in-law? I think not."

"Father-in law, huh?" Milliardo gave another laugh.

"You find that idea…funny?"

"Well, let's just take it one step at a time, shall we?" The blond reached for a pack of popcorn and opened the microwave.

With a smirk on his face Treize left the kitchen and walked into the living room. "You forgot to turn off the TV when we left," he called out over his shoulder.

"Did I? Sorry, force of habit." Ever since Alexander's departure they were normally leaving the TV on, so Cabal could hear the voices and wouldn't feel lonely when they left the house.

Treize reached for the TV guide as he dropped down into his recliner. By the time he had checked the evening schedule the quiet pop pop pop sounds coming from the kitchen had almost faded. Moments later Milliardo walked in with a big glass bowl. "So, what are we watching?"

"There is a romantic comedy on channel 7 or we can watch that new court drama, or a two hour special about ancient Egypt on the history channel." The professor reached out for the remote, but before his fingertips ever touched it the TV changed to of all things 'Mystery Theater'. Treize froze.

"Or we can watch 'Mystery Theater'. I like that idea." The blond seemed to think that he had changed the channel.

His eyes narrowed slightly as his hand stretched out further, but suddenly the removed moved, sliding across the table and out of his reach. This time even Milliardo realized what was going on. His eyes went wide and he almost dropped his popcorn.

"Alexander?!"

Now Treize could feel it too, the ghost's familiar presence to his left.

"Alexander, you are back? When did you… and how…" The younger man smiled. "Ah, who cares? Welcome home!"

Treize huffed as he rose to his feet. "Alright, that's it!"

"Wait, Treize, where are you going?"

"I'm calling the cable company, of course," he announced. "If he is staying, we will definitely need a second connection upstairs in the attic."

Milliardo burst into laughter; it was a warm and bubbling sound. And just like that the gloomy aura that had been hanging over the house like a dark cloud since the day Alexander left, was suddenly gone. "Yes, I do think that might be a good idea."

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The End

Author's Note: Here we are, at the end what was supposed to be a short 2-3 chapter Halloween story; and I only went about 20 chapters over my goal. :)
I hope everyone, especially those who had been 'mourning' about Alexander's departure, enjoyed the little surprise at the end. I'd like to thank everyone for their wonderful reviews and feedback along the way, they really kept me motivated. Some people were asking about a sequel. Well, there is always a possibility, but first I have to work on some of the other stories on my to-do list.
Which reminds me… I'm looking for someone interesting in doing some research for me for a future fic. It will be a historical, adventure type story set during or around Victorian times. Anyone interested, please contact me for more information. There is an e-mail link on my profile page.

Thanks again.