By Roo
Warnings: Alternate Universe. Angst, sap and lemon.

The Prize + Part 4

Wufei tried his best not to hyperventilate. Where had Treize gone already!?! Not half an hour before the ball, and still no sign of his licentious, incorrigible, egotistical master. Wufei started to panic. He had been just about to dash out the door and hunt down Treize himself, when he ran smack into Zechs Marquise.

"Zechs!"

The man in the exquisite white tux carried boxes wrapped in blue satin ribbons. "Hello, Wufei. You're looking extremely pale. And call me Milliardo, please."

"Milliardo..." Wufei's eyes danced between the man and the door. "Have you seen Treize... I mean, my master?"

"Why, yes. He is finishing up some last minute things. He sent me to help you get ready."

Wufei grumbled and peered at the box. "But I am ready."

Zechs assessed the boy. "That old thing? Treize would kill me if I let you downstairs in those old white rags."

Wufei's eyes turned into imperceptible slits. "I was married in these old white rags," he hissed.

"Well, I'm sure they were lovely three years ago, but they're out of fashion, and if I know Treize Kushrenada, and I do, it simply wouldn't do to have his little dragon in out-of-style attire. Now march yourself over to that mirror and be a good boy."

"Fuck," Wufei muttered under his breath. In truth, he felt really curious. What were in all those boxes? Were they all for him?

"Strip!"

Wufei turned beat red. "Ano..."

"Oh good God!"

Wufei just did as he had been told. He got used to just giving in; things went smoother that way and he could save what precious little energy he had if he did so. He carefully placed his silk tunic on the bed.

"Zechs?"

"Hm?"

"He'll let me keep it, right?" Wufei motioned to the worn outfit.

"You heard him say as much himself. He can deny you nothing. Now, try this on." Zechs held up a black two piece tuxedo -- tailored sharp at the waist, with a crisp edge along the neck and extra room to cover the ankles. It looked really, really damned expensive. Wufei caught his breath.

"That's for me?"

Zechs nodded with a grin. "Nice, eh? Only the best!"

"But... But how did he know my size?"

"Um, it could be on your records... or it could be because staring at you has become his favorite pastime... Let's see if he guessed right?"

Wufei's head spun. He had been aware that the General looked at him often, but he didn't think he had been regarded that closely.

He slipped into the pants, which were slightly snug at his inner thighs, but this, apparently, had been a good thing, considering the way Zechs stared at him. Zechs' eyes raked up to his naked abdomen. "Shirt!" came the command.

Wufei tucked in the white shirt and Zechs helped him tie the string bow. "And now the final touch. Let's hope this works..."

The ebony jacket clung to Wufei, a perfect match, becoming a second silhouette. As Wufei looked at himself in the mirror, Zechs stood behind him and buttoned up his jacket. His form looked sleek, muscular, and sexy. He simply couldn't believe he looked at his own reflection. Zechs slipped the hair tie off and his soft, jet-black hair fell down to his shoulders, rogue wisps resting on his cheeks.

"Shoes. Spit shined by yours personally."

"Ano... Thank you, Milliardo."

"There we are. Not quite regulation yet though soldier." Zechs picked up the last box and held it before Wufei. "Would you do the honors?"

Wufei pulled the blue ribbon and the box lid fluttered off, to reveal a single, perfect pink rose bud. "A rose?"

"A corsage," Zechs corrected.

"I'm not a damned woman!" Wufei spit out.

"Don't be so quick to sneer at this, Wufei. In Treize's culture, flowers are like a secret language. Different flowers communicate different things. A rose is a symbol, sure as any banner. Do you know what a pink rose means?"

"No..."

"It means a young and innocent love. By wearing this, and your necklace, Treize is showing his guests that you are both his, and treasured. Wearing this will keep you protected from what you fear -- "

" -- What makes you think I'm afraid of anything!?"

Zechs sighed. Both of his favorite men had such a delicate sense of pride. "Are you not nervous that these people will reject you? You are, after all, a former Gundam pilot. An enemy, like myself. Y
ou probably attacked the homes and bases of many of the visitors here tonight."

"So? It was war."

"You do not worry over animosity then, Wufei?"

"I expect it. It doesn't make me nervous one bit." He lied. "I don't care for their good opinion -- "

"Why are you nervous then?" Zechs slipped the question in as if he didn't care.

"Because Treize..." Wufei looked up.

"Ah. Because Treize."

"You tricked me."

"Yes, yes. Out with it."

"I mean my master... I'm not sure if I can..."

"I see. You don't want to make a fool of yourself in front of Treize."

"I've been humiliated enough in his presence for one lifetime."

Zechs chuckled. "I know what you mean. Do not worry, Wufei, I have a feeling that if you just be yourself, it will be enough to impress Treize. It has worked so far, ne? Now, will you put this on?"

Wufei looked for a long time at the outstretched rose and then into the caring blue eyes before him. "Help me Milliardo," he whispered. Zechs moved quickly and pinned the rose to Wufei's breast lapel.

"Are you ready?" Zechs offered his arm.

"As I'll ever be." They walked out the door, a milestone having been reached.

+

A soft minuet wafted over the long staircase of plush red carpet. Treize paced at the bottom of the stairs like a lion in a cage. He hoped the clothes fit. He wanted Wufei to feel as relaxed and confident as he could while at the ball. It would not be easy to win over a room full of OZ officers, but if anyone could do it, then his little dragon would. All the weeks of tutoring in academics, manners and etiquette would help. The little extra shove would come from Milliardo and Treize himself. His people may not like his prize, but they best not show it. Treize became so deep in his thoughts that he had been startled by Zechs's slight 'ahem.'

Treize looked up to see a shy nymph staring down at him from the top of the staircase. The sight arrested his heart with a mixture of intense pain and exquisite pleasure. His dragon seemed a thing of true beauty.

Slowly the gorgeous creature descended the stairs, and came to rest before him. His dark child's eyes shimmered and for a moment he became lost in their coal black depths. Then, recovering himself, he took Wufei's hand in his and kissed the back of the boy's palm, murmuring, "You look amazing, my dragon Fei."

Wufei blushed and drew his hand away quickly. Treize only called him dragon Fei when they were alone, and when he had been very pleased with the way Wufei had done something. He knew he should return the compliment, but he could do no more than stare at the man before him.

Treize Krushrenada wore a tuxedo of such dark blue, that in certain lights it looked purple and in others it looked black. The suit seemed to be an extension of the man, always changing its colors when appropriate, but never predictably. His sandy-brown hair trimmed delicate waves around his face, and his cape fluttered about his heels. God rested in His kingdom and all was right with the world.

Treize's attention focused on something, and Wufei froze as he watched Treize gently finger his corsage with a fierce gleam in his eyes. "Indeed, you are amazing, Chang Wufei. Shall we go in? Our guests are waiting."

Wufei remembered to breathe and reached for Treize's arm. Zechs caught his hands, however, and it had been Zechs who motioned him to the ballroom, behind Treize. Wufei almost shook with rage. At himself, or Treize, he felt unsure. Clearly, he had to play the part of war prize tonight and what other part could he have imagined for himself?

Baka! You are nothing to him. Nothing but a toy. Remember it. Wufei's back stiffened and he held his head as high as any gilded horse when he entered the ballroom. When Treize spun around and offered his arm to Wufei, he merely looked away. Treize frowned and for a minute Wufei thought he would order him to accept it.

"What is wrong, my dragonling? Will you not take my arm?"

"I would not dare to offend your guests by touching their host, my master, in such a familiar manner."

Treize's frown deepened and he whispered, "Would you prefer I left you to handle them yourself?"

Wufei looked out into a sea of swirling colors. Adult and child faces ranging from curious to angry to disgusted all stared back at him with a chilling precision. Wufei didn't look at Treize as he took his arm and swallowed hard.

Treize's frown melted and a warm, contented smile was quickly plastered on his face. "Here we go, little one."

"Don't call me that." Wufei breathed as he walked out onto the floor.

"Oh General Kushrenada, what a lovely ball this is! Even better than last year's!"

"Thank you for inviting us tonight, General."

"Oh General, what a charming young man! Is this the Gundam pilot?"

As if on cue, Wufei bowed politely and waited for his introduction.

"This is Chang Wufei from L-5. He was once the pilot of the Gundam called Shenlong. Now he remains at OZ as part of a security measure to ensure long lasting peace. He is my attaché, if you will."

Of all the things Wufei expected to be called -- slave, token, sacrifice, war prize -- attaché never crossed his mind. He wanted to burst out laughing his heart ached so badly. He felt like a piece of meat under inspection as all of Treize's officers and their wives crowded around him to get a closer look at Krushrenada's new pet. He refused to show any weakness. He bowed to everyone as politely as possible and said as little as he could.

"Wufei, you said? Whatever does that name mean?"

"It means five, madam."

"Did you really pilot Shenlong? Where is the Gundam now?"

"I do not know sir, though I assume all Gundams were destroyed before OZ could reach them."

"Weren't you in your Gundam when OZ won the victory battle?"

"No." Wufei would not speak more on this matter and the crowd sensed this. Treize's brows crinkled in curiosity.

"How have you enjoyed your stay here young man?"

"Very well, madam."

"But, what do you do... as an attaché I mean?"

"General Krushrenada is generous enough to allow me tutors. I study."

"Study?"

"Greek," he said with a profound sense of sarcasm. "And Latin and French. And all other academics."

"Someday, Mr. Chang will play an even more important role in keeping the peace, I am sure of it. Therefore I have undertaken his education personally," Treize explained.

Wufei felt a little surprised. He thought Treize had merely been tutoring him as a means of pricking at him, amusing himself with Wufei's newfound trick. He never knew the General had any plans for him.

"An excellent notion, General," a leechy little man said.

"Oh?" sung Treize.

"Yes. How better to conquer an enemy, but in his mind?"

Wufei, for his part, didn't even change his breathing pattern. He expected the conversations to take this turn and actually felt relieved that they had finally gotten around to it. One thing he hated had been the waiting. Now he could take his bereavements and then dance once or twice and run back up to the bedroom and bury himself under the covers.

"Chang Wufei is neither an enemy, nor of a mind easily subverted, I assure you, Captain Asbury." Treize's tone had just enough ice in it to freeze the April flowers, and only the children missed the underlying meaning of his words.

It looked for a moment like Captain Asbury might press Treize further and Zechs, out of habit, came right to the General's side, easily smoothing over the situation with diplomacy and tact. "Indeed, Captain. Your victory has ensured the peace and we are all enemies no longer." He bowed deeply. "You and your men are to be commended on the success of your skill." It had been a calculated remark, for Zechs and everyone else in the room knew it had been the faster production of super weapons, and not skill, that had won the war.

"I fear you over compliment our skill, dear Peacecraft," the man smiled and pointedly refused to use a suffix when speaking to the prince. "I think our victory had something more to do with the lack of skill of the five Gundam pilots."

That had Wufei's back arching. They could insult him all the liked, but little Quatre, Trowa, Duo and Heero were off limits and Wufei had no problem 'going medieval on their ass' as Duo put it.

"Wufei, may I have the honor of this dance?" a young woman asked. Wufei spun around to see Lieutenant Noin smiling sweetly at him. He almost climbed the walls. A woman a woman a woman a woman calm down!

Zechs beamed at her, adoration filling his eyes. Noin had come here to back them up. Noin would bridge the gap. God, how he loved her.

Wufei tried to speak but his voice wouldn't work. Briefly looking at Treize, who nodded his assent, he bowed to Noin and offered her his arm.

He led Noin to the floor thinking, a waltz, great, that's simple. One, two, three, pivot; I can do that. The song abruptly ended and the orchestra struck up a tango. FUCK! This would to just sink into misery, he thought. Oh well, might as well go at it like a true warrior.

Noin seemed a little shocked when Wufei's arm snaked around her waist and roughly pulled her to him. His arms locked her into a tight frame with just enough pressure for her to spring off his every cue. They danced, and every head in the room snapped to see them. Wufei, for his part, felt extremely grateful to have something to concentrate on, something to immerse himself in other than painful memories and cold-blooded accusations. And Noin seemed gentle and unassuming. Not like the others. She didn't scare him really. He dared to look into her eyes.

[cont]