Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, disclaimer

Two Halves + Chapter 3
Father

"But Sir, what are we going to do?"

Odin's voice sounded almost panicky. He'd faced horrendous magic and gruesome death numerous times, but this was entirely beyond him. It was maybe beyond Zechs, too.

The old woman had certainly had her revenge. There hadn't been a moment in the last four months when Zechs' mind hadn't rung with the agony of what he was going to do. Raise Treize's son as his own? And further along down the road... maybe even put Treize's son on the throne? The man who had murdered his wife, who had killed tens of thousands, who'd let demons rip apart the quiet of his kingdom, and who had put his people to the torch and sword? Let Treize's blood, cursed with power and madness, become the new bloodline of his kingdom?

For every angry pulse that beat through his mind though, his own stand against that revenge stood fast. As he put his - his sons to bed that first night, in his own bed as no nursery hadn't existed in the cold, war-torn castle for ages now- he couldn't question his decision... He'd tucked them in, two sleepy pairs of blue eyes catching his.

"Are you tired?" He whispered (redundantly but hey, he had absolutely no experience when it came to children. He figured they probably weren't as tough as soldiers though, and took it from there).

Two little heads nodded, but the eyes didn't leave his. They seemed - well, of course, they were scared, they'd been torn away from all they'd ever known and taken by an unknown man claiming to be their father. He'd not had the courage to take their nurse Boyce with them. He'd hesitated to do so, while wondering how to get on a horse with two small children latched onto his front, and hearing the woman start to wail as she realised he was taking her 'babies' away. She gave him the creeps, he wasn't sure why, she was obviously as kind and gentle as she was simple, and someone had to take care of the children... But Father Maxwell has said 'No' sharply, his face creased in worry. Yes, Father Maxwell had already sensed a serious problem, and was taking steps to limit the damage though he didn't know how to fix it...

The boys were scared, but not only because of the change of homes. If that hateful place had been a home to start with. They were looking at him as if they were afraid of him, he realised. Not terrified, no. They hadn't -couldn't- understand what her ladyship had said, the history behind them all, the reason why one of them was his enemy. But they seemed nervous of him, as if he were about to punish them for something. Anything.

Something in Zechs' war-hardened heart loosened a bit. Up until then he'd been running on shock, anger, and a sense of right and wrong that was ingrained in him. But these children, these very young boys -one of them being his son- needed something more.

He smiled, a small genuine smile that would have warmed his closest friends all the way through because they hadn't seen it much in the last five years. Sensing them relax a bit he raised his hands gently and touched their faces, cupping the tiny chins in his calloused sword-worn palms. They blinked, as if surprised at a gentle touch from someone who wasn't their simple nurse. Zechs' smile widened as he raised his hands to ruffle long bangs from the small faces. "A couple of young men are going to get a haircut tomorrow." He murmured.

Their faces relaxed even more, and they glanced at each other quickly before catching his eyes again. He could see their bodies pressed against each other under the blanket, hands entwined, tightening as they gathered their courage.

"Are you really-"

"-our father?"

Zechs blinked. The question had come out so smoothly that it could have come from one mouth alone. There had been no hesitation or glance between them. Something trembled within him, echoing Maxwell's earlier worried glance at the two boys, but he couldn't put a finger on it. No matter, the soldier king thought, dismissing the notion until he had some hard facts to face.

That left him with the hard task of answering the question. One day, in a few years time, the full answer would have to be given to them. But for now...

"Yes, I am." He said, gently and firmly. "And you are my sons. I love you very much." He'd been unable to say 'both', I love you both very much. He hoped that, in a few years time when he told the boys the entire truth, he would have faced and conquered his demons by then as well.

The look on the boys' faces almost made him ashamed at his own inner doubts. Hesitant to start with, a look of wonder slowly touched their eyes, tentative trust and happiness. Zechs felt his mouth go dry as his hands idly brushed away the bangs again.

The old woman be damned, let them all go to hell! Whatever else happened, whatever would occur in the future, right now both of these two wounded young children were his sons, and he would kill anybody who would dare to take that look from their eyes again! He started to rise from the bed, his soldier's instincts kicking him to go check the guard on the door, the patrol on the walls, make this place safe, make it impregnable!

Two little hands that had been lying over the coverlets jerked in unison.

"Where are-"
"-you going?"

They both reddened and sank back into the pillows, horrified at their outburst and cringing in anticipation. Zechs almost fell over himself to try to take that fear out of their eyes. "Don't worry, don't worry!" He let small hesitant hands clasp his own, then felt them tighten in a surprisingly strong hold as he smiled again. "It's ok. Don't worry, go to sleep. It's all going to be alright now."

"... can you-"
"-stay with us... please?"

They'd both whispered that last word in unison, their clasped hands under the coverlet tightening again in mutual reassurance. Their other hands held his, in dawning trust.

"Sure." He murmured awkwardly. He watched as sleepy blue eyes closed. He stayed there, sitting on the bed, small hands loosening around his own, watching them. He knew that the next day wouldn't be easy, the rest of his life wouldn't be easy. But for a short time the weary king felt a little bit of the peace that he had fought so hard and lost so much for.

And right on schedule, the next day arrived, with all the complications and emotional turmoil he had expected.

[chap. 2] [chap. 4] [back to Maldoror's fic]