Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, disclaimer

Two Halves + Chapter 4

The problems facing Zechs and his newly found family were numerous. The first and most urgent; what to call the boys? His son would have been called Milliardo, and hopefully this time the name would stick, Zechs had thought darkly. Treize's choice for his son's name was anybody's guess, but even if someone had dared to make a suggestion to their king's face -even a fiend from hell would have hesitated to do that- that left the second immediate problem looming ever larger. Which one would be called which?

In the cold light of the new day, Odin, who was taking on the role of devil's advocate here with the same hard-headedness he brought to all unpleasant tasks, had carefully scrutinized each boy as they were bathed and clothed by a servant. Not only could he not guess which was which -and he had known both their fathers and mothers- he couldn't even distinguish between the two children before him. They weren't twins, they weren't even fully first cousins, but they were identical. It was as if the five years they'd spent under the cruel bony thumb of her Ladyship, with no love, no identity and no distinction, had merged them together. Zechs thought the older warrior would chew his lower lip off in sheer frustration.

Washed and dressed, the boys were ready to leave the king's room, which led to the next hurdle. What to tell everybody? Four people knew the truth -they discounted Boyce and the other nuns, they would say nothing as long as her Ladyship forbade it and they didn't think the old woman would ever stir again from her little corner of bitterness in the convent. If she did... Zechs would deal with her then.

In the meantime, he made no announcement and let it be known the boys were children that Father Maxwell had taken in. This hurt him, but until he and his advisors could come up with some plans -or at the very least names for the boys!- he wanted to keep his doubts and confusion private. He knew rumours would run wild, and so he talked things over with one more person - his chief spy- who slowly started leaking rumours that the princes had been found. Yes, princes, didn't you know? Apparently previous rumours had been inexact, and the queen had actually given birth to two boys...

A few trusty servants were charged with helping the king with the boys. Helping him, because the children had apparently decided to fasten on him like limpets. Zechs was busy, he had a kingdom to rebuild, an army to reorganise, pay and disband, a harvest to manage, a future to build for his people. But he found himself unable to sacrifice this last little inch of personal happiness that had been miraculously dropped in his lap. With Father Maxwell's help -and his presence explaining the boys'- Zechs took the children with him in his duties.

They were very well behaved, almost chillingly so. Zechs didn't have any experience with children but from the little Odin and Maxwell were saying, these two were way too calm and polite for comfort, considering they were five year old boys. All three, yes, even hardened Odin, felt a burning anger towards the bitter old woman who had visibly raised the boys to be little more than shadows. Zechs often found himself giving them reassuring smiles just to be certain they knew they would no longer be punished for shouting, talking, breathing, whatever. He was often rewarded, when the courtiers and generals left, by finding two little hands grabbing his own for a few minutes, until someone else showed up to occupy his time, and the boys would retreat to Father Maxwell once more.

The days were long and occupied but the boys never complained, falling asleep in Maxwell's and Odin's lap -much to everyone's amusement except for his own- until they were carried by the exhausted king back to his quarters to lay together in the small cot he'd had set up in his room.

Together, always together. And that was when the next big problem had pointed its ugly head, and this was the one that Zechs felt completely hopeless against.

The names Craft and Darlian had been tentatively touched upon, the names of the original founders of the kingdom. Craft had given rise to the Peacecraft lineage, while Darlian had strengthened the kingdom and given it its peaceful philosophy. They were good names, and avoided any mention of who was whose son, since both Zechs and Treize's bloodlines flowed from those two men.

The royal tailor dropped off the order of a dozen set of pants and shirts of the right size in two sets of colours, brown and blue, matching hair and eyes (and different from the green and black of Zechs' and Treize's battle colours). Zechs and Nancy, one of the few servants that the very shy boys had taken to, picked up a boy and a colour each and had started to dress them, throwing out the simple beige robes the boys had been wearing previously.

Darlian would be the one in blue and Craft in brown, Zechs decided on the fly, feeling both stupid and scandalised that he had to take such a crucial decision as his sons' names so lightly but what choice did he have! There wasn't anything else to go on, and they needed to establish names and identities for the boys as quickly as possible.

The boys had taken one look at themselves, dressed in different colours - and started screaming like wounded animals.

It was the first loud noise he'd ever heard them make, and it wasn't a five-year-old's temper tantrum! It was the agonized wail of someone who'd lost all his bearings in the world. Odin, hanging around in the doorway, had his sword drawn and his eyes darting about for attackers before he could catch himself, and Maxwell came thundering down the hall from the study in panic. After thirty minutes the children were still wailing and screaming, and a horrible look of strain and shock was twisting their young features. Nothing could calm them down, Zechs could barely hold them, even gently pushing them into each other's arms, normally a sure-fire tactic to reassure them, failed to work. Finally Father Maxwell, tears in his eyes, snapped: "For the love of god, Milliardo, it's no use, give them the same clothes!"

Once Craft had been dressed in blue as well, the boys started to calm down, clutching one another tightly, their sniffles and sobs echoing in the silence. The three men were alone, Nancy had finally broken down and run to cry in the kitchen. They looked at each other with heavy foreboding. It looked like the old woman might have done more damage than they'd thought, knowingly or not.

[chap. 3] [chap. 5] [back to Maldoror's fic]