Notes:  The first appearance of Zechs!!  Much angst, and implied - but not yet explained - badness!  Mwahahaha!!  Review, or I'll make you wait another three-and-a-half weeks!!  Ahem...Or maybe I'll just settle down a bit...
by: Shoori

I Know Who I Want... + Part 19

"All right, Q, what's so damned important?" I grumble, flopping down in one of the chairs surrounding the long wooden table.

"Well, lunch for one," he says mildly, smiling at me.

"You got me there," I admit cheerfully, brightening as I survey the spread of goodies on the table. I guess I really don't mind having my sessions with the blood-sucking leeches... err, our lawyers... interrupted anyway.

Wufei sneers at me from his seat next to mine, but I see the amusement in his dark eyes. "Don't even pretend to be upset that your meeting was interrupted," he warns me. "You'd interrupt a conversation with God if it meant food."

"Definitely if by 'food' you mean mashed potatoes!" I agree, reaching eagerly for the bowl of fluffy white stuff. "Mmm, and gravy!"

The door opens again and Heero enters the room. He smiles briefly at us all in greeting, but I see the tension around his mouth and in the way he holds his shoulders. He's getting the hardest workout of all of us from the lawyers, since he gets to be the star player from our side.

You reap what you sow, man. That's what you get for marrying Relena.

I do feel for the guy, though. You'd think he already served his time in Hell what with being married to her and all. Seems kind of unfair that he has to go through all of this just to get out of it.

"How's everything going, Heero?" Quatre asks, concerned, as Heero seats himself in the chair next to mine.

"Fine," he says shortly, lifting the glass of wine by his plate and taking a deep swallow.

Wufei grunts. "This is a misery," he declares. "Be happy you don't have Council business on top of all of this."

I wince, feeling an unaccustomed spurt of guilt. Wufei and Quatre have Council business, and Winner Co. business, plus the same amount of legal lovin' we're all getting. They must be even more tired that we are.

"Anything we can help with, Wu-man?" I ask lightly. Wouldn't do to be too considerate.

He glowers at me. "If you think I'm letting you touch anything that could affect the colonies I represent... " he begins.

"Thank you for the offer, Duo," Quatre interrupts. "But our aides are taking care of most of the Council business at the moment. And since Trowa is taking care of so much of my Winner business... "

I frown, not listening to the rest of Quatre's assurances. Trowa took over some of the Winner work? I knew he hadn't been sleeping - he hasn't really had nightmares because he hasn't been sleeping. With his injured knee, he hasn't been able to practice his routines, or walk around much. Enforced physical inactivity frustrates him, and actually prevents him from sleeping well. It always has. I thought that that, combined with anxiety of the upcoming trials, was what was keeping him up, propped on the sofa in our living room. I didn't realize he was working on Winner stuff...

I shake my head slightly. So what if he is? He wouldn't be sleeping anyway, so he probably figured that he might as well help out Quatre, since he'd be up anyhow. The really amazing part is that Quatre surrendered any of his precious company's work to someone else. And that Trowa knows enough about the business to be able to do it. I didn't know he knew anything about that stuff...

I tear my mind of this disquieting train of thought. Trowa and Quatre were together for a year, after all, while Quatre was learning the ropes... maybe Trowa learned along with him.

I don't really like surprises in regards to my lovers, though. I like them to be their nice, steady, predictable selves.

The door opens, and the last member of our happy little group puts in his appearance. Trowa limps slightly, favoring his injured knee. He nods to us all, and sits in the empty chair across from Wufei, next to Quatre.

He looks awful. His normally pale complexion has gone even whiter, and so the large dark circles around his eyes stand out in stark contrast to the pallor of his skin. His fine features are drawn with exhaustion, and there are lines of strain around his eyes and mouth. He always comes out of these meetings with the lawyers looking like death warmed over. And he's not getting the sleep he needs to recover...

I'm shaken out of my worrying when Quatre replies to Trowa. I missed the question, but there's no missing the guilty look on Quatre's face. He has something to tell us.

"Well, we're going to have some guests," Quatre says vaguely.

I glance at the two extra place settings. I'd wondered who they were for, but figured that a couple of the BSLs (blood-sucking leeches) were going to join us.

"I just got the call this morning... I assure you, I didn't even know he was on the planet," Quatre is telling us.

I frown. Such mystery. Must mean we aren't going to like it.

Heero frowns, having reached the same conclusion. It was probably even easier for Heero to reach it, actually. He doesn't like much.

"Who is on the planet?" he asks suspiciously.

The door opens, and two people enter.

I scowl when I see Lady Une. I'm still pissed at her for that little act she pulled sending Trowa off to Barton.

But I don't have much time to waste glaring at her. I'm too stunned by her companion.

Standing at just over six foot two inches in height, with impossibly long legs, broad shoulders, long, flowing platinum hair, with icy blue eyes shadowed with regrets even I can't begin to comprehend, it's none other than...

"Zechs Marquise," I breathe, shocked.

He nods abruptly at all of us.

My words break the paralysis that had gripped us all when he walked into the room, but doesn't cut the extremely volatile tension.

"Milliard," Heero says, his voice hard. I turn to look at him, and am surprised at the cold expression in his dark blue eyes. I didn't realize he still felt so... strongly about Zechs.

I glance past him at Wufei, and am surprised to see the naked pain in his dark eyes. Quatre reaches out and lays a gentle hand on his arm. Wufei turns his stricken gaze to his lover, stares at him for a moment, then looks down at the table, schooling his features into impassivity.

"Zechs, please," the blond requests calmly, not reacting in the face of his brother-in-law's glare.

"Please sit ," Quatre offers politely. They nod and take the empty seats, Une beside Trowa, Zechs beside her. I glance at Trowa and see the tension in his face.

"Une informed me this morning that she had asked him to come to Earth. She's hoping that he will be able to intervene with Relena, and help settle both of the disputes we're currently faced with," Quatre tells all of us.

"I have doubts as to how much influence I have over my sister," Zechs admits smoothly.

"So do I," Heero says abruptly. His gaze shifts to Une. "Relena's never listened to him," he says bluntly, his voice sharp. "Why do you think she will now?"

Une blinks, probably startled by the enmity in Heero's voice. I know I am.

"I'm hoping that another point of view might influence Relena to... "

I laugh. "Geez, Lady, you ought to know better than that. Noone influences Her Serene Majesty to do anything she damn well doesn't feel like doing."

She glares at me, catching the insult in my choice of address. Zechs looks at me, his eyes narrowing minutely as I mock Relena's title.

Man, I'm just pissing everyone off here.

Oh well. Too bad. See me crying?

"Well, there's always the chance that... "

"Why is he really here?" Heero interrupts.

There's a brief silence. "Um, as Commander Une said... " Quatre begins hesitantly.

Heero shakes his head. "She knows Relena as well as the rest of us. Advice from big brother here isn't going to influence her. What do you want him for?"

There's silence for a moment, then Une sighs heavily. "You're all annoyingly perceptive, you know that?" she asks crisply. "I am hoping that Zechs will support Dufasion publicly. His word, added to all of yours... "

Heero snorts. "You're pulling out all the troops on this one, huh, Une?" he demands scornfully. His lip curls as he surveys Zechs. "So, we're supposed to appeal to all the patriots, and Marquise will pull in... who? The radical element? The lunatic fringe?"

I turn and gape at Heero. I don't know that I've ever heard him talk like this before.

Une seems to have, though. She scowls at Heero, looking annoyed but not surprised. "If you'll recall, Heero, Zechs assisted us greatly in the Eve Wars... "

Heero snorts. "After he tried to create permanent nuclear winter in the Gundam Wars... "

Une defends, "We're all entitled to... "

"I'd call blowing holes in the Earth a little more than a blunder, Une... "

"Errors in judgement," she finishes loudly, glaring at Heero. "You've made a few yourself, 01."

No arguing there. Chalk up one for Une.

"I understand that you may not trust me," Zechs begins.

"I don't," Heero tells him harshly.

"You may think I'm... "

"I think you're weak," Heero declares forcefully.

A small half-smile hovers briefly on Zech's finely shaped lips. Man, whatever he's done, he sure is a fine looking man! "I seem to recall you telling me that a time or two," he murmurs.

"And dishonorable," Heero accuses coldly, his gaze clashing unyieldingly with Zech's.

Zechs stares at him for a moment, surprise and understanding dawning in his pale eyes, then his eyes flicker briefly down the table. He returns his gaze to Heero, whose own eyes narrow as he glares at Marquise even more fiercely.

I glance down the table at Wufei. He has that pained look in his eyes again. Quatre looks distressed.

Looking back at Zechs, I see his gaze falter. His eyes drop to the tabletop, and he pales slightly.

I have the distinct impression that I'm missing something. I look at Trowa, and see he's staring at Wufei as well, a troubled look on his own face.

Yup, definitely missing something. And I have an irritating feeling that I'm the only one who is.

Except for Une, I amend as the boss lady coughs in irritation. And she doesn't seem to be picking up on all the undercurrents, either. So I'm up on her, at least.

Goody.

"We don't really have time for... " Une begins sharply.

"Please," Zechs says softly, waving his hand to cut her off. "Heero is absolutely right to distrust me for... past transgressions," he says, looking at Heero again. The regret in his pale blue eyes is more obvious now, and I wonder what particular regrets he's rehashing this time. I've always kind of felt bad for Zechs. He's always seemed to me to be the unhappiest person I've ever known.

"But... I want to help with the Preventers," he says slowly. "I don't think Relena - or Sanc - should be involved with them."

"Why is that?" Quatre asks calmly. All eyes turn to him, but his focus remains on Zechs. "I want to know where you stand, and why, Zechs-san," he explains, his voice perfectly modulated.

Noone misses the formality. From Quatre, that's a bigger cut than if I'd gotten up and punched Zechs right across that chiseled jaw. Quatre is always excruciatingly polite to people he dislikes.

"As a former member of the Peacecraft family, I believe that it is my duty to intervene," Zechs says quietly. "Sanc should not be involved in a squabble to be in control of a militarily structured organization such as the Preventers."

"A former member of the family, huh?" I muse.

He looks at me. "I have renounced all claims I have to Sanc and to the Peacecraft line," he says quietly.

"But you still try to intervene?" I challenge.

He sighs. "I have a duty to ensure that Sanc retains its role as the example of Absolute Pacifism," he tells me dully.

"So, you'll ride in and share your two cents when you think people are messing up, but you don't want the day-to-day responsibility?" I press. I guess I'm being a little hard on him now, but you could cut the tension in here with a knife. It's making me nervous. I want to know what's going on and if I press him hard enough, maybe he'll crack.

Yeah, right. I doubt Zechs Marquise is suddenly going to turn into a Drama Queen in the middle of Quatre's dining room.

You never know, though.

"No," he says sharply. "It isn't that. I... I'm not fit to fulfill my father's ideals," he admits hoarsely.

"You're right. You're not," Heero agrees unyieldingly.

Zechs lowers his gaze again, his face still impassive. "Agreed. But I can't stand by and allow Relena to tarnish her legacy. She must... "

"Why do you think you'll be any help?" Heero demands. "She won't listen to you."

"She's lost it," I inform the lady in question's brother cheerfully. "She's being a psycho."

He glares at me. "I've heard her behavior has been unusual... ," he begins.

"It must run in the family," Heero shoots back.

Zech's eyes narrow, and a spark of anger kindles in their icy depths. "Who precipitated that behavior?" he demands coldly. "Are you as innocent as the driven snow, Yuy?"

Heero's hands impact the table with a loud bang, and he leans forward angrily, half-rising out of his seat. "Don't even think to accuse me of anything, Marquise," he spits furiously. "Whatever I've done I admit to, but there are some crimes that I never... "

"Enough," Une interrupts sharply.

Damn! Just when it was getting interesting!

"I'm serious," she snaps, returning Heero's glare with equal measure. "You can fight whatever's bothering you out amongst yourselves later. Right now we have things to do."

I look down at the food on my plate. It looks kind of gross, suddenly.

"Zechs has agreed to come to Earth... " Une begins.

"Is Noin with you?" I ask, looking up at Zechs. I always kind of liked Noin. It would be good to see her.

Another shadow crosses Zechs' face.

"No," he replies shortly.

"She still on Mars?" I guess.

Zechs shrugs impatiently. "I presume," he says briskly.

I peer at him, confused. "You presume?" I repeat. "Weren't you with her?"

"I haven't been on Mars in over a year," he replies calmly.

"Where've you been, then?" I ask curiously.

He smiles faintly. "Elsewhere," he replies ambiguously.

A low growl rises in Heero's throat as he glares furiously at Zechs, his hand clenching into a fist.

"Enough!" Une shouts, pounding her own fist on the table. "I don't know what's come over you, Heero, but try to control yourself!"

"This alters our plans somewhat," Quatre muses. "Are you still a Preventer, Zechs-san?"

The other man shakes his head. "I resigned from the Preventers last year... "

"Before you took off for elsewhere?" I ask cheekily, earning myself another scowl from Une.

Zechs nods, smiling faintly.

"Are you planning to rejoin the Preventers?" Quatre asks.

Zechs shakes his head. "I cannot commit to joining them at present," he informs us quietly.

And why the Hell not? We're doing it.

Well, maybe.

Probably.

Maybe.

We haven't really discussed that yet. We should probably work that little conversation into the agenda sometime soon.

Anyway.

"So what good are you?" Heero demands.

I turn to look at him. This is so... surprising to me. I've never seen Heero really be this... aggressive - not in a public-type meeting, anyway. But Une isn't surprised by it, and Quatre doesn't seem surprised... I wonder if this is political Heero. What he's like when he's working.

It's pretty... I don't know. Now he's being unpredictable too. My little universe is all off kilter.

"He's going to speak to the Council. A lot of the same people who respect Relena respect Zechs as well, out of respect for their lineage. He has been a member of the Preventers, so he shares that credibility with Dufasion and Wufei and Heero," she continues, nodding at each person as she speaks of them. "Really, the more prominent people we have speak out in support of our plan the better."

"Relena's going to absolutely freak out if you speak out against her," I point out, observing Zechs narrowly.

He nods calmly. "I'm aware of that," he admits. "I am going to talk to her first, try to help her see my point of view."

I snort. "Good luck," I tell him, my doubt obvious in my tone.

He nods slightly, purposely accepting the words at face value.

Heero rises abruptly. "Thank you for keeping us informed," he says flatly, sounding anything but grateful. "I'm busy now. We can meet again later, at your convenience," he finishes with ironic courtesy before slamming himself out of the room.

"Time for another session with the BSLs," I groan. Trowa rises with me, as does Wufei. They leave ahead of me, without making a comment to anyone.

I stop before I reach the door. I don't know why everyone's being so weird, but I feel strange leaving without saying anything.

"Zechs... ," I begin.

He looks up at me, his face holding an expression of polite inquiry.

"It's... good of you to come to help the Preventers," I manage finally.

Well, it is. He could have stayed... elsewhere. He didn't have to come back here. I sure would rather be elsewhere if I'd been given the option.

He nods. "It is good to see you, Maxwell," he tells me softly.

Well, I'm not going that far. I'm not sure whether it's good to see him or not. So I just nod, wave my hand and let myself out of the room, calling, "See you later!" over my shoulder. Quatre, Une and Zechs can decide among themselves exactly whom I was talking to.

I scowl as I wander back to the conference room, and my own personal BSL. Heero sure seems to have developed some major issues with Zechs over the past few years. I don't recall him being that angry with the man after the Eve Wars, and he didn't try to pull that long, blond hair out during his and Relena's wedding. So what's happened over the last few years to make Heero so angry with Zechs?

I scowl, unable to even guess.

Trowa seemed to have some idea of what was up with all those seething currents of tension and outrage.

Both my lovers have some 'splaining to do.

[part 18] [part 20] [back to Shoori's fic]