by: Shoori

Marking it Down to Learning + Chapter 25

Treize stirred, squeezing his eyes more tightly closed, trying to ignore the piercing, shrilling sound that had disturbed his slumber.

He was having the dream again, the dream where he was out and free and in the sunlight.

The dream where he was with Zechs, and the blond let him touch him and kiss him, lose himself in his tight heat...

The next part of the dream hadn't come yet, the part where his proud Chinese warrior joined them, and they were all together and everything was finally right...

He never wanted to wake from that dream, certainly not to face the reality of his waking life.

But Treize Kushrenada never cringed away from a challenge.

He would wake; he would face whatever torments and humiliations they set upon him.

But regardless of what they did, he would not break. He would never break, he would refuse to feel the shame they tried so hard to heap upon him.

He never would give them that satisfaction. So in the end, he would win. No matter the chains they clamped upon him. They were no freer then he was. Their satisfaction was dependent on his surrender, and he would never, never give them that.

So, however great the control they had over his body, control of the situation was his.

Only his capitulation would free them, and he would never fall.

The shrieking sound came again, and he forced his eyes open, determined not to show either contempt or dread.

But he wasn't in his room, or any of the putrid dens he'd inhabited for the last eight years.

He blinked, as he stared out huge glass windows at the dramatic reds and pinks and oranges streaking the sky as the sun set.

A deep voice spoke to his left, and he froze. He knew that voice.

Slowly, he turned his head. Someone was sitting on the bed beside him, their back to him as they spoke softly into a cell phone. They were unclothed, and as they moved, he could catch glimpses of pale, muscled skin through a curtain of platinum hair.


It hadn't been a dream, then, not this time.

Treize blinked, shaking his head impatiently at himself as the memories flooded back.

The Preventers had raided the Order. Polynices was dead.

He, Treize, had killed the man himself, gaining in one stroke vengeance for himself, and his father, and his mother.

He sighed. Vengeance. After all this time, it was finally his.

So why, he wondered bleakly, wasn't he happier about it? Why was the memory of Polynices' wreck of a face making him feel vaguely ill, rather then fiercely delighted, as it should?

Beside him, Zechs finished his conversation and turned toward him. Treize couldn't help smiling at the other man, the expression widening at the answering smile and pale pink flush across Zechs' face.

At least this was good. One of the few things that had actively frightened him over his years of captivity was the thought that when he finally emerged, Zechs would still hate him, still spurn him.

He hadn't ever hated him or abandoned him at all, so it now seemed. But he had spent so much time alone, so much time in pain.

That thought dimmed the smile. He had failed Zechs, failed him terribly. At least it seemed he would have the opportunity to try to make that up.

Was that for Zechs? Or was he avenging himself, or his lost honor... or something more?

Zechs frowned at him, the relief and pleasure in his pale blue eyes darkening with concern, and Treize forced himself to push those thoughts away. He was out, Polynices was dead, having finally paid for his crimes. Now, there was life.

"That was Relena," Zechs said softly. "She asked if I could come down. She sent... " He stopped, clearing his throat. "She's sent Wufei home to get some rest. He should be here in a few minutes," he said, his voice carefully neutral, his eyes not meeting Treize's.

Treize stared silently at the younger man for a few moments. "Do you not want me to see him?" he asked, his voice equally blank.

Zechs looked up, startled. "No!" he denied quickly. "I do, very much."

"Do you not... What do you want, Zechs?" he pressed quietly. "You said before you didn't want to lose Wufei. Now... " he paused. "You don't seem... pleased with the idea of my speaking to him."

The flush was more prominent now across the other man's almost delicate cheekbones. "I do want you to speak with him... or... whatever you want... I mean... " Zechs broke off, floundering. Treize carefully concealed a smile. "I do want you to be together," Zechs finally managed. "I care about him, Treize. I... I don't know if I feel about him as I feel for you, but... " He looked up again, his eyes meeting and holding Treize's. "I might," he said solemnly. "I might already, and I definitely could."

Treize nodded slowly. "Then why... "

"I want you and him to be together," Zechs repeated firmly. "But... I want to be with you both," the blond managed.

"Zechs... " Treize murmured, his eyes closing briefly. There it was again, that doubt, that lack of understanding of how very important he was. He, Treize, had created the uncertainty. He had to fix it.

"You will, Zechs," he said softly. "I don't know if Wufei wants a damned thing to do with me," he conceded a bit ruefully. "But I will always want you," he said softly. "I love you," he reminded the other man, forcing himself to hide how much that declaration discomfited him.

It was true. But it was the sort of thing Treize preferred to keep understood and unsaid.

Apparently, however, it had not been understood. Treize wondered just how much of what he thought his actions had clearly displayed had gone unknown and uncomprehended by those around him.

But no matter how uncomfortable it made him to speak the words, Zechs definitely liked hearing them, if the joy lighting his pale eyes was any indication. And that, Treize vowed, was worth it.

Compromise. It had never been part of his life.

But much had changed in the last several years. He had changed. Things which had seemed vitally important now paled, other things which he had pushed aside now bore more significance. He could learn to give Zechs what he needed.

He wanted to give Zechs what he needed.

A few minutes later, after Zechs had dressed and kissed him goodbye, Treize stood alone in front of one of the large windows, watching the last of the sunset. He had put the clothes he'd worn earlier back on, though he'd left the shirt unbuttoned. His fingers had fumbled clumsily on the tiny fastenings, and the fabric of both shirt and pants felt stiff and scratchy against his skin. He wondered idly how long it would take him to become accustomed to wearing clothing again. He hadn't worn any in years.

A small sound behind him caused to turn away from the window, and his breath caught in his throat as he saw the man staring at him from the doorway.

Eight years ago, Wufei had been an attractive, appealing boy, proud and fierce and defiant.

Now, he was a man. The defiance that had so characterized him before was gone. He didn't need it anymore, didn't need the coat of brashness to convince others of his ability. Everything about him ­ his features, his carriage, the very expression on his face ­ radiated the same aura of strength, dignity and quiet power.

Wufei as a boy had been arresting, alluring. As a man, he was simply beautiful.

Treize realized that he was staring, realized that the silence was becoming uncomfortable. But he simply didn't know what to say. He had had such a brief time with Wufei, and the Chinese man had obviously changed so much... The speeches he had practiced for years would have probably been what the Wufei who was had needed to hear, needed to know. But Treize was suddenly painfully unsure if this Wufei had the same needs.

Perhaps this Wufei didn't need him at all.

Surprisingly, Wufei broke the silence.

"You're alive," he said softly. "I still can't believe it. I thought you were dead for so long... "

"I'm not," Treize said, a little idiotically. He felt his face heat up. After eight years, that was the best thing he could think of to say to Wufei?

"I hated you," Wufei said flatly. "I hated you for years for making me kill you."

Treize lowered his head, unable to meet that steady black gaze. "I'm sorry," he said softly, and despite everything that had happened, the words were bitter in his mouth. Once a Kushrenada, always a Kushrenada, he supposed. That thought didn't fill him with the pride it once would have.

"I owe you apologies on several counts," he began haltingly.

"No," Wufei contradicted him sharply. "Just that one."

Treize looked up at him again, frowning in confusion.

"You don't owe me an apology for anything but that," Wufei repeated. "After what we had been to each other, to have manipulated me into being your escape route is... almost... unforgivable."

Treize looked away. "I thought... " He paused. "There was some justice in it. I thought you would appreciate... "

"That I would appreciate killing you?" Wufei interrupted incredulously. He took a few steps into the room. "That I would appreciate being left alone to mourn you and Zechs? To be unable to tell anyone of my grief for you? To... "

"Mourn Zechs?" Treize interrupted, frowning.

"For a year, we believed he'd been killed too," Wufei explained briefly. "You were both gone, and in a way, the loss of each of you was my fault."

Treize shook his head, bewildered.

"You, I'd killed myself," Wufei continued relentlessly. "And I blamed myself for the rift between you and Zechs. I thought I had pushed you apart, and that break indirectly led to both of you... "

"Wufei, no," Treize interrupted, aghast. Was there anything he hadn't left in horrible disarray before his "death"? "That's not true, it's... "

"I know that now," Wufei assured him calmly. "But when I was sixteen?" He shook his head. "There was no justice in any of that, Treize. I can't believe you would say... "

"I hurt you, Wufei," Treize interrupted. He had to say it, had to face it, or he never would. "I took you, against your will, when you were far too young to take such a step... "

"I came to you of my own free will... "

"I seduced you," Treize broke in. "I was older than you, more worldly. I knew how to confuse you and manipulate you, and I did it with no thought of integrity or honor. I knew at the time that it was wrong, but I wanted you, and I didn't care. I didn't care then," he repeated, "but when Zechs left... " His voice trailed off. "I had begun to suspect that I was... rotten. That something about me was... wrong. I saw what my family did... " He stopped, laughing bitterly as he turned his back on Wufei and stared out the window. "And to think that at the time, I actually had no conception of what my "family" was capable of... "

"Stop it," Wufei interrupted angrily. Treize jumped, startled, as he felt a hand on his shoulder, forcefully pulling him around. Wufei was in front of him, his hands heavy on his shoulders, his eyes snapping with rage.

"You are nothing like him," Wufei told him angrily. "What others do is no reflection on you. You are not tainted because of your blood, you choose... "

"When have you ever known me to choose that which was honorable?" Treize broke in. He thought he had managed fairly well to keep the despair he felt out of his voice.

It seemed to him that his whole life had been an effort to keep his various weaknesses concealed. It was almost a pity that he was so damned good at it.

"I was young, but I was not really a child," Wufei told him pointblank. "You didn't force me to anything. You presented me with a choice, and I took it. Zechs acted on what his own insecurities convinced him was true. The armies that followed you followed you of their own volition." Wufei shook his head. "Perhaps your motives were not always sterling, Treize. But the rest of us all allowed you to act the way you did. We chose to let you act as you wanted, even chose to sometimes let you hurt us. With you in that role, we had someone else to obey, someone else to blame when things went wrong or when we suffered." He shook his head. "You hold some of the blame for the things you have done. But not all, Treize. Not all."

Treize stared at the younger man, unsure. Unsure of what to say, unsure even of what to think.

Wufei sighed. He turned, and flopped down on one of the sofas. "You still make me tired," he accused flatly.

Slowly, Treize moved away from the window, and seated himself on the other end of the sofa. "Strange... you always rather refreshed me," he mused.

The Chinese man snorted inelegantly. "Why, Treize?" he demanded. "Why me? Why did you make me do it?"

Treize sighed. "I didn't know that it would be you... "

"Why?" Wufei repeated.

The older man was silent for a moment. "I thought I deserved to die. For what I'd done to you, to Zechs... I knew... I knew that my vision for how the world would be would never come to fruition. I believed that it would be closer to what I had envisioned if I were dead, left as a memory and a figurehead for people to rally around. Alive... " He shook his head. "There were too many that opposed me, too many jockeying for control and for my position. And... " He sighed. "There was that... that element in me. That... darkness. I didn't trust myself to rule the world." The silence between them lengthened. "And you... You fought so hard for... justice." Treize laughed briefly, but the sound was bitter. "You fought sincerely for the ideals that I cynically manipulated for my own ends. And I had hurt you. I thought if I allowed you to remove me, I was somehow... Atoning?" He shook his head, grimacing. "I thought that somehow, I was righting some wrong."

"You're a fool," Wufei told him bluntly, but his voice held little heat.

Treize looked up cautiously, and Wufei nodded at him. "A fool," the Chinese man repeated. His face sobered. "But you have, I think, atoned."

Treize laughed again, the same bitter sound. He pushed himself up from the sofa again and moved back to the window. He couldn't see out anymore ­ the featureless blackness reflected the lit contents of the room. "Atoned," he repeated. He shook his head.

"You have suffered, Treize," Wufei said, his voice now almost gentle.

"And that has changed what, Wufei?" Treize demanded.

"You, I think," the younger man replied softly.

The reflection in the window blurred a little, for a moment.

"I can't imagine you there, Treize," Wufei said after a moment. "I know you were, but there's part of me that can't believe it."

There was little, Treize judged, that he could say in reply to that.

"I can't imagine what it was like for you. To be imprisoned by a member of your family, to constantly wonder if you would ever escape... "

"I didn't," Treize interrupted. He turned to face Wufei again. "I didn't wonder that," he explained in reply to the confusion on the other man's face. "I knew that I would someday be out of there. I didn't know when, or how, but I knew I wouldn't die there."

Wufei continued to stare at him, bemused.

"There was too much to do," Treize explained. "Too much to fix, to be resolved." His voice hardened. "To be avenged."

The uncertainty in the other man's eyes deepened to understanding. "Polynices... "

"He killed my parents," Treize said flatly. "My father, he shot, and laughed at him while he died. My mother, he tortured for two years, until she finally escaped him." He looked away, out the window again. "You say you can not imagine me there. It is a million times more fitting for me to be there than for my mother to have been."

There was silence. "He's dead, Treize," Wufei said slowly. "You killed him. You avenged them... "

Treize groaned, crossing the room to seat himself heavily on the sofa, his head in his hands. "What has it changed, Wufei?" he demanded angrily. "It hasn't brought them back. It doesn't obliterate their suffering. I still failed to rescue them. What did it change?"

"Treize... " Wufei sounded more uncertain then he had since the beginning of the conversation. Treize felt a small, petty pulse of satisfaction at having ruffled the calm façade. "You can't change it. But you forced him to pay. You got your... "

"My revenge?" Treize interrupted. He shook his head. "‘Revenge is the abject pleasure of an abject mind,'" he quoted. "It's changed nothing, Wufei, and... "

"There is a difference between revenge and vengeance," the other man insisted. "‘Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged,'" he returned. His eyes were bright now with the light of argument. Treize scowled. Wufei had always been annoyingly fond of an intellectual argument, and even more annoyingly able to hold his own in the course of one. Zechs had never quite been able to argue ­ he would stubbornly insist on a viewpoint, even as Treize slashed his argument to threads with ruthless logic. But Wufei parried every thrust and struck back with one of his own. At times it had been stimulating; at other times, merely irritating. This was one of those other times.

"‘Vengeance has no foresight,'" he insisted. "Nothing has changed, Wufei. I should have..."

"‘Vengeance is mine; I shall repay,'" Wufei reminded him.

Treize scowled. "You can't quote the Lord, Wufei, that's cheating," he objected.

Wufei shrugged. "If it was good enough for him, it should be good enough for you," he pointed out.

"You're taking it out of context," Treize protested. "It's actually saying not to... "

"We could play this game all night," Wufei interrupted, loftily sweeping away Treize's objections. "I'm sure you don't really feel a lot better right now," he allowed more gently. "You're right. Nothing is different. But he had to pay for his crimes, those against you and those he had committed against countless others. He didn't deserve to live, Treize, and you saw that he didn't. It was not a pleasant duty, but it's one you discharged."

"If he deserved to die for what he did, don't I as well?" Treize asked softly.

He was utterly unprepared for what occurred next. Strong fingers wrapped themselves in his hair and pulled his head up. Then, for only the second time in his life, Treize Kushrenada was slapped resoundingly across his face.

"Who is going to feel pain at the loss of Gregor Kushrenada?" Wufei bellowed in his face. "Who?" he demanded. "No one!" he roared in answer to his own question. "No one will mourn him, Treize! No one will weep for his death!" Wufei stopped, his chest heaving, his fists clenched. "When you died, millions grieved," he spat at the surprised older man. "I mourned you, Zechs refused to let himself live as a tribute to you, Une dedicated her life to preserving your legacy... Millions of soldiers and citizens who believed in you felt the pain of your loss... And you dare sit there and bleat about how you deserve to die?" The younger man clenched his fists again, his eyes snapping. "You've come back to us, Treize, come back to me, and all you can do is tell me that you deserve to die? Are you truly that selfish?"

"Yes," Treize responded slowly. "I am selfish, Wufei, selfish and self-absorbed, and... "

"Well, grow the fuck up," Wufei told him disgustedly, in a sudden and abrupt shift in tone and manner.

"I... don't believe anyone has ever told me that before," Treize reflected thoughtfully after a moment.

"Well, it's long overdue," Wufei said sharply, sitting down beside him on the sofa.

"Well... " Treize managed after a few more moments, still rather nonplussed.

"For a man who can casually quote Juvenal, you're an idiot." Wufei repeated sharply. "You've made bad choices. You've done bad things. Who hasn't?" he demanded rhetorically. "Given, yours were on a much larger scale then most people's, but in the end, you do the same thing."

"And... what is that, exactly?" asked Treize, striving for his accustomed urbane tone. No one was quite as adept at knocking the assurance out of him as Wufei. He used to be better at hiding it, though.

"You regret," the younger man said simply. He sighed, and laid his head back against the sofa. "You fix what you can, and you regret what you can't. You go on, and you try to make things better, and you try not to repeat the same mistakes."

"How do you know this?" Treize asked.

Wufei rolled his head to the side so that he was looking at Treize. "I'm better educated then you are," he said.

Treize frowned. "I beg your pardon," he objected, affronted.

"It's true," Wufei insisted. "Your curriculum was a little too heavy on the military history. Not enough philosophy."

"I studied plenty of philosophy... "

"Military philosophy is only one branch... "

"It wasn't just... "

"Anyway," Wufei interrupted. "I ­ and my superior education ­ think you should worry less about what you did eight years ago, and more about what you're going to do now that you have another chance."

Treize sighed. "Eight years is a long time, Wufei. I... I had never really considered that when I was there. I just... " He stopped, sighing. "I don't know the world anymore. I don't know... if there is a place for me."

Wufei sat up, and reached out and took Treize's chin in his hand. The older man froze briefly at this first real contact between them.

The younger man turned Treize's head around until they were staring into each other's eyes. "You will always have a place," he said simply. "There is a place for you with Zechs... And there is a place for you with me ­ if you want it."

"You too, Wufei?" Treize asked, and he could hear the weariness in his voice. "You don't know how I feel for you either?"

"I'm going to let you in on a little secret, Treize Kushrenada," Wufei said tartly. "No one ever had a damn idea about anything that you were thinking. If you want things to be different, you'll need to learn to be a little more forthcoming."

"Is that so?" Treize asked slowly. "Well... " he said, turning on the sofa so he was facing Wufei. "You brought passion and excitement into my life in a time when I was feeling uninspired and unsure. I found your mind exciting, your energy enthralling, your body amazing... You've obviously changed a lot, and I want to find out how, find out who you are. I want to be with you and I want to... "

"That's enough," Wufei said, reaching up and placing one hand over his mouth. "I don't really know you that well either, anymore, Treize. But you... I told Zechs this, and it's true. You brought me myself. If it hadn't been for you, and for what I did with you, I would never have been able to come to terms with the parts of myself I deemed shameful. I would never have found much of the joy I have found in my life."

Treize nodded in understanding, trying to force down the disappointment he felt rising inside him. "The others... You are with... "

"I am with them," Wufei told him calmly. "But I want to be with you and Zechs as well."

Treize stared up at him. In the early days of his association with Wufei, he'd never been at a loss for words. Tonight, he'd lost track of the times the younger man had struck him speechless.

"You've told me how you felt for me," Wufei allowed. "I will do the same." He was silent for a moment. "I wanted you, and I hated that I wanted you. You brought me the most incredible pleasure I'd ever felt, and for a time, that brought me more shame than I could endure. But you also... made me feel... safe." He looked up. "I felt that you were someone strong enough that I could lean on you. There are few people I have ever felt that way about," he admitted with some difficulty. "But you had that strength. Then, I let you control everything ­ when we met, what we did. I don't want that now," he said bluntly.

Treize frowned, a little unsure of what was expected of him.

"I don't need a keeper," Wufei told him frankly. "I would like another partner. I am strong too, Treize," he said calmly, and Treize was struck with a strange sense of duality. Wufei had made that assertion before, in the past, but it had had an air of desperation about it, as though Wufei feared that the exact opposite was true. Now, it was made with such an air of calm assurance that it wasn't boast or swagger... It was just a fact.

Wufei was strong, and he was offering some of that strength to Treize, in return for some of his own.

At one time, that would have been an intolerable offer, an insult even.

Now, it seemed one of the best bargains he could make.

But... He didn't know if he could say it, if he could agree to make himself so... vulnerable.

Somehow, it had been different with Zechs. The other man had allowed his own vulnerability to show so clearly that admitting to the same thing hadn't seemed as major an undertaking.

Wufei was staring at him so calmly, so evenly...

Then, he leaned forward and kissed him.

Treize kissed him back, deeply, passionately. This was their language. He couldn't speak the words aloud, not yet, and Wufei knew that. Eventually, there were no more words, no more thoughts, and they were battling, not for control of the kiss, exactly, but to find the balance, to find the point where they could meet...

And then they were naked, and Treize was sitting back on his heels on the bed. Wufei knelt over him, his knees pressing against Treize's thighs, his hands braced on the other man's shoulders...

Slowly, Wufei lowered himself, pressing down, and Treize groaned as he felt himself buried deep inside the younger man. His hands moved to Wufei's hips, and he buried his face in the muscled shoulder as he helped Wufei lift himself up and down... faster and faster...

Treize heard Wufei's harsh cries in his ear, felt the pleasure building in his own groin...

He threw his head back and shouted aloud, feeling his pleasure erupt, feeling the evidence of Wufei's pleasure hot and wet against his stomach...

Then, they couldn't hold themselves upright anymore, and they fell to their sides, still joined, limbs wrapped around each other, chests heaving and bodies trembling...

And there it was.

The balance.

He'd ­ they'd ­ found it.


[part 24] [part 26] [back to Shoori's fic]