Author: Anria Lalumin
Disclaimer: not mine. Well, duh!
Warnings: yaoi, light violence, Treize-bastardisation (NOT Zechs-bastardisation! Please remember that!)
Pairings: 1x2, 3x4, and now 6x13.


[Lizards] = flashback speech

Past Encounters + Part Sixteen
Deception

"It is time for our bid for takeover," Treize had said to him. "Time for you to exact your vengeance." And so he was here.

Lieutenant Zechs Merquise, second only to King Treize in Juki's army, sat astride his horse with the ease of long practise. His cool blue eyes peered out through the slits in his mask, regarding the twin towers guarding the northern entrance to the capital of Ylloh with dispassion.

The army had rapidly cut a wide swathe through Ylloh's defences, thanks to the expertise of J and G. They were now at the centre of the kingdom's government, and soon that too would fall, and with it the kingdom of Ylloh.

He expected some sense of satisfaction. He expected a fierce joy that soon he have completed his vengeance on the murderers of his family.

What he got was a numbing coldness.

Perhaps Milliardo Peacecraft would have exulted, despite his family's pacifist ways. Zechs Merquise, though, was a different story.

It had happened almost four years ago, shortly after the trial and subsequent disappearance of Duke Maxwell and Prince Yuy. The Sank kingdom had been attacked; as a peaceable nation, no one had been expecting it, and the army had been on the palace before any news could be brought of the impending attack.

Old, familiar pain welled up inside him as he recalled the deaths of his mother and father.

He had entered the chamber intending to speak to his parents about Relena's depression following Yuy's desertion, and had been greeted with a horrid sight. A man in a torn and bloodied uniform stood above the mutilated body of his father, sword in hand. Beside him lay his mother, as dead as her husband, another soldier carefully arranging her limbs into some semblance of decorum, while two others looked on.

Horrified, Milliardo had taken in the bodies of his parents before he registered the bodies of two other men, in another uniform. His mind refused to acknowledge the crests on the uniforms, refused to believe that they could be betrayed so --

["Milliardo!"]

He had swung around, shocked to see King Treize of Juki approaching him with a worried look on his face.

["M-my parents -- "]
he had stammered out, too much in shock to do anything.

["I'm sorry you had to see this. Come into the next room -- ah -- there."] Treize had manoeuvred him into a chair, and begun speaking earnestly with him. ["I'm afraid the Sank kingdom has been attacked. I tried to get here in time, but the reports of the army on the move came too late to prevent this -- "]

["They're dead."] He couldn't quite believe it.

Treize had placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. ["I know, Milliardo,"] he had said gently. ["And I am so sorry that I have to report to you that it was the treachery of Ylloh and Yeltneb that caused this."]

["WHAT?! They would never -- "]

["They spawned Maxwell and Yuy, did they not?"]


It had silenced him. Treize had pushed a knife into his hands. ["It is not safe for you to be unarmed here,"] he had said. ["Your parents are gone -- I must now ensure you do not follow them."]

["My parents . . . gone . . . RELENA!"]


He had torn out of the room like a bat out of hell, running at the incredible speed his long legs and athletic build gave him. Relena had been all alone, there was fighting in the halls, he had to get to her before she was killed, too. . . .

Dimly he had heard Treize calling after him in the distance, heard running feet pursuing him. All he had been able to think of was getting to his sister, and protecting her like he had failed to protect his parents. He had heard a shrill scream, abruptly cut off, and recognised his sister's voice.

He hadn't thought. He just plunged into the room and plunged the knife into her attacker's body.

He had been fortunate that there was only one. His shock at seeing the body fall beneath him and realising that he had been the one to end a life had been too great to warn him of other dangers.

The only blessing there had been was that his sister was unconscious, but alive. The knife had clattered to the ground from suddenly nerveless fingers, spattering the stone with the blood on the blade, while Milliardo had dropped to his knees and clutched his sister's unconscious -- but alive -- body in his arms.

Treize had found him like that, weeping into his sister's hair that he had forsaken all his father -- his dead father -- had worked so hard to accomplish, so hard to get other people to acknowledge, and taken a life. He had committed a sin that was anathema to all his family's values.

And he would do it again.

He had dimly heard Treize ordering some men into the room, and then the King's strong hands were on his shoulders. ["I am sorry,"] he had said, and his voice was so gentle and compassionate that when Treize's soldiers gently tugged on Relena's body to remove it from his arms he let them.

Treize had got them out of the palace alive. Treize had sat by him, offering no empty platitudes while he grieved -- both for his family and for his own fall from grace. His sin.

And it was Treize who had given him purpose.

["It is hard, is it not,"] Treize had said one night as Milliardo, as usual, sat staring into the flames of the hearth-fire. ["To be betrayed,"] the older man had qualified when the Prince -- now King without a realm he was worthy of -- had looked at him questioningly.

Treize had reclaimed Sank from the invaders. He had shielded Milliardo and the unconscious Relena from the fighting, had them sent back to Juki to remain while he secured the Sank kingdom for their return.

Milliardo had moved his gaze back to the flames. ["I cannot become King,"] he had said abruptly.

["You believe that you are not worthy of the throne because you have killed a man,"] Treize had guessed shrewdly.

["Am I not?"]

["That is for you to decide."]


Silence had reigned for a long while. Then Treize had broken it. ["Relena remembers nothing."]

Milliardo's head had jerked around to stare at him. ["What?"]

["She remembers nothing. The blow to her head robbed her of knowledge of family, of birth, of lineage . . . even of name."]

["Perhaps . . . perhaps it is best that she does not know."]


Treize had inclined his head thoughtfully. ["Perhaps. . . . You wish to spare her pain?"]

["If she does not remember her family she cannot grieve for them."]

["True. What would you have me tell her, then?"]

["Tell her. . . . Give her to someone you trust. Tell her they are her parents. Let her live in peace."]

["Then what of Sank?"]

["What of it?"]

["You have said you do not feel worthy of its rule, and then you request that your sister not be told who she is. Who will rule?"]


Milliardo had scowled into the flames. It took him a long time to think of the only solution there could be.

["You will."]

["Then what of you?"]

["What of me?"]

["Surely you do not intend suicide. What will you do with your life, now that you have given up all responsibilities?"]


Put like that he had sounded like a lazy child. But there was no other way, he had been -- and still was -- sure of that. ["I . . . I don't know."]

Treize had stood and poured them both shots of some strong liquor Milliardo's father had abhorred, and therefore he had had none of before. He accepted the drink and took a sip without bothering to look at it. ["I have need of a leader for my army."]

Milliardo's head had snapped up, long blond hair whipping around him. Surely he couldn't mean . . . could he?

Treize had smiled at him gently. Such a handsome man! ["You have refused the Sank monarchy because you have killed a man, am I correct?"]

Of course he was. Milliardo had just looked at him.

["Yes, a stupid question. But tell me this -- could your 'lack of worth', as you feel, be also because of a desire to kill others?"]

["Treize, what are you -- "]

["I do not suggest that you are turning into a common murderer: far from it! But you have seen your parents killed through treachery and betrayal, and your sister almost given the same. I would be worried about you if you did not desire that your parents' death be avenged."]


And to that, Milliardo could think of nothing to say.

["The desire will never abate,"] Treize had told him calmly. ["It will never be gone. You cannot rule a realm thirsting for your neighbour's blood."]


He had carefully set his glass down and seated himself, calm blue eyes boring holes into his.

["But perhaps,"] he had said, ["you could command an army to quench the thirst."]


It was a frightening prospect. The son of the renowned pacifist, forsaking his father's teachings and realm for the death and destruction of war?

But I have already forsaken him. I have killed.

["Why? What do you get out of it?"]

["You think you are the only one to want revenge?"]
Treize had demanded, suddenly angry. He had smashed his fist down on the arm of his chair. ["No! You are not! I, too, wish for revenge against the murderers of such a noble family, the ones who destroyed such a peaceful nation -- "] He had cut himself off abruptly, visibly calming himself. ["No,"] he had continued, much more calmly. ["But unlike you, I do not have a realm that I can walk away from. I cannot give out the punishment so desperately deserved -- but that does not mean I do not want to. If . . . if you were the one to lead the army against them, I would feel that justice would be carried out. None other has more reason to do it that you do."]

The decision was so easy.

["I will do it,"]
he had said, ["on one condition -- that it not be known who I am. I will not sully my father's name by having it known to all that his son rides to . . . to war."]

["How will you accomplish that?"]

["I -- I will change my name,"]
he had said. ["I will wear a mask so that no one will recognise me. I will . . . I will only be known as your Lieutenant."]

["Not General?"]
Had he not known better, he would have said there was amusement in the man's voice.

["No,"] he had replied softly. ["Not General. And in return for my service, you will ensure that my sister has all the comfort and happiness that she deserves."]

["I shall,"]
Treize had promised solemnly. ["That will be the price of your service."]

And so had Zechs Merquise been born.

"Lieutenant?"

Zechs looked down to see a messenger beside his horse, no doubt come from one of the captains, edgy that he had not given the order to attack yet. He suppressed a moment's irritation -- this was his moment, and no one was going to take that away from him. "What?" he demanded.

"My Lord, the captains wish to know when you will give the order to attack," the man said. Zechs had to give him credit -- most men would have cowered under the harsh tone and appearance of a bird of prey that the hated mask gave him.

"Soon enough," Zechs told him. "Tell them to wait for my order or be court-marshalled."

The man bowed his head. "Yes, my Lord," he said, and hurried off to deliver his message.

He and Treize had become closer over the years spanning their gradual war against Ylloh and Yeltneb. They ate together. They spent all the time they could together. They confided in each other.

And then came the night it had all changed.

Zechs had been slumped in a chair, weary to his soul of maps and strategy and supply routes and all the things that went into commanding an army. It had been one of the times when he wondered if it was all worth it.

Treize had sat down across from him, as he so often did. ["You look tired,"] was the observation.

Zechs had barked out a harsh laugh. ["I am sick of it all,"] he had declared. ["Sick of it. What is the point? Where are the results? I begin to feel I am more suited to the battlefield than playing strategy games with old boys who have yet to use a sword on another man."]

Treize had picked up his limp hand and cradled it between two of his own. ["You sound as though you are in need of some comfort,"] he had said, and then his next actions had shocked Zechs to the core. He had raised his hand to his lips, and gently kissed each knuckle before turning it over and softly kissing the palm, tongue flickering out to gently taste the skin. When he had raised his blue eyes to Zechs, the invitation in them had been obvious.

["You are a hypocrite,"]
Zechs had said flatly.

It was clearly not the response Treize was expecting. ["A hypocrite?"] came the startled reply.

["A hypocrite,"] Zechs had confirmed, removing his hand from Treize's grasp. ["You make no move to speak out against the laws against the love of two men, and yet you make advances on me."]

Treize's face had cleared. ["You mistake me, my Prince,"] he had said, despite Zechs' growl for him to 'not call me that'. ["If I had the slightest hope of winning my complaint, I would speak out against them. But I am not a fool, and the prejudices of men and women at this time are clearly set. A relationship between two men that is more than platonic is sinful. Those who practise it are the spawn of the devil."] He had eyed Zechs critically. ["It is as sinful as killing. As sinful as a man lying with a woman out of wedlock."] He had spread his hands in equanimity. ["That does not mean it does not happen. Just that narrow-minded people cannot understand why this, more than any other, should not be a sin. They cannot understand the why of such a thing."]

Zechs had been silent, eyeing him cautiously. He himself had nothing against two men together -- such things happened all too frequently in the army, when there were no camp followers allowed -- but he was not sure of what to make of Treize's speech.

The older man had sighed, and reclaimed his hand. ["You are weary, sick to your soul, and hurting,"] he had said bluntly. ["You need companionship and a friend. I am offering you all of that and more."]

As with his decision to become the commander of Treize's army, it had taken only a moment to come to his conclusion, and accept the King's offer.

He had not regretted it since.

It is for Treize that I do this, Zechs thought, staring at the towers. Treize, and my sister, and my parents. But most of all for Treize, because he understands the why of it.

He gave the order to attack.

++

notes: In case anyone was confused -- it was Treize who attacked the Sank kingdom, and took advantage of Zechs' confusion to get him on his side by telling him that he was there with his soldiers to counterattack Ylloh's and Yeltneb's invaders. By the time his grief would have receded far enough for him to think straight, the preconceptions would have been set in. And so Treize is now proven a total bastard.

[part 15] [part 17] [back to Anria's fic]