Reverand Maynard
Warnings: 13+6; very mild language; angst; mild WAFF for the particularly succepitble; Noin POV
Notes: Comes after Zechs kills O'Neguil, after they recapture Cinq, an after Otto dies. It's one take on how the "office scene" could have gone
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SS: Sir

As Noin ascended the stairs to the General's office, her greatest friend walking a bit slower than usual beside her, her heart began to sink. She watched Zechs out of the corner of her eye, his own steps mildly labored from his recent injury, or more precisely, his recent brush with death. He always was a stubborn one, her Zechs, and despite the pain that she knew he must be going through, he made all attempts toward normal outward appearances. He refused any assistance in walking.

'Oh Zechs . . .' the phrase echoed through her mind. Was she the only one who saw how truly vulnerable he was beneath that impeccably stern exterior? And why, after years of friendship had he not let her any closer? Did he not know how well she understood him?

Or perhaps it was not any mistrust on his part, certainly not toward her. After all, apart from having never seen the whole of his face, much to her disappointment, she did know him better than anyone in his life, or so she liked to think. No, perhaps it was simply a need, an impulsion on his part, to keep his frailties hidden from her, to save himself from her pity. He never did like pity.

But she would never give that to him. Empathy . . . perhaps--and a certain amount of sympathy as well--but pity . . . she admired him too much.

It was then, as they took those few steps across the landing in front of the General's office, stopping to nod to the guards posted outside the door, that those recurring thoughts came back to her. They included Zechs, of course, and his sadness and frailty and to whom he might show these things, and . . . and a certain nagging feeling that always found its way to the back of her throat. She'd never liked the taste of it--nor the name . . . Treize.

+

"Good to see you, lieutenant Noin," General Treize Khushrenada greeted the two individuals that walked into his office, noting immediately the sliver of resistance in the latter's steps, "Zechs."

"Good day, General," Noin intoned, snapping her heels and saluting her superior; ever the soldier.

"Sir," was Zechs's terse reply.

Treize sat comfortably in the sill of an open widow, one leg baring his weight, the other, stretched to the floor, like a lady riding side saddle. The sun behind him made it impossible to see his features or exactly what he was doing as he leaned slightly forward to retrieve something else spread on the sill, but any trained soldier knew his actions well. He'd always preferred to clean his own pistol.

"I trust you have full reports for me, Noin." As he spoke he lifted a part of the dissected weapon, peering down the hollow barrel instead of looking at his visitors.

"Yes sir," she replied and stepped forward to place a thin, black binder on his desk.

"Very good," he finally looked at her then, "and I thank you,Noin, for your command in Cinq. Excellent as always."

She bowed slightly, "Thank you, sir."

"Colonel Une will be holding a briefing at 1600 hours. I'm certain you may find it enlightening."

She had the distinct feeling she was being pushed out the door, "Yes sir."

"You're excused," and with that his attentions left her and found his weapon again, some spot of burned dust marring it's surface. She moved to leave.

There. There it was . . . that nasty taste again, welling up inside her as she regarded both the inattentive form in the window and her friend beside her with a bow, and left the two men alone.

+

"Is it sweet, Zechs?" Treize asked a few moments after Noin had left. He finally decided to put away his cleaning for the moment and stood from the window sill, removing his slightly dirtied gloves.

Across the room, Zechs saw something he'd rarely seen before: Treize's bare hands.

"What's that, sir?"

"Revenge, Zechs. Is it as sweet as you'd hoped?" He walked around the desk and leaned on its edge, crossing his arms over his chest. They were perhaps a double arm's length apart.

"I had never hoped, sir. It was necessary."

"And the bullet you put in O'Neguil's head . . . that brought you no sense of satisfaction?" Treize sounded sincerely curious.

"Treize . . . please . . ."

With a slight nod of concession, Treize apologized. He always forgot how tender his friend could be at times. His vengeful and stoic mask, much like the metal one on his face, was firmly placed and could be quite deceptive.

"Excuse my harshness, but I thought that was what you'd wanted . . . revenge for your family-- your kingdom."

Zechs raised his head to regard Treize, "Not at . . . such a cost." The flesh visible below his mask was a bit more flushed than Treize remembered it being a moment before, and invisible strings tugged at the corners of his mouth, "I am not fit to have men die in my name."

Treize knew what he meant. He'd read the first sketchy reports of the recapturing of Cinq, of the initial retreat and some injury Zechs had suffered (the younger man never allowed details of that sort into reports), and of a very brave man who'd taken the country on his own . . . dying with Zechs's name on his lips.

"Otto?" he asked softly.

A nod was his only reply, and he watched as Zechs's breathing became a bit harsher, and one of those perfect lips were lightly bitten. He pushed himself off of the desk and stepped forward. He was glad when Zechs did not pull away, and even more grateful that he did not protest when Treize reached out to him and removed his mask.

The face beneath was battling for passivity, the eyes reddening yet harsh and avoiding contact with Treize's, the lips down-turned but not trembling, and the few sparse tears stoic in their solitude.

"Zechs," he whispered, stepping closer and bringing his hand, the bare flesh of his fingers, to touch a hot cheek.

At the contact, Zechs finally looked into his General's, his friend's eyes, and took the last step between them, nearly at a fall. Treize caught Zechs easily, and the blond head fell against his shoulder, a hot face burrowing into the crook of his neck.

Even then, with Treize's arms around him, Treize's body warm and solid beneath his embrace-- the smell of roses and gun oil, the taste of his own tears as they ran hot down Treize's neck, picking up the taste of him before they met his own lips--even then, he did not sob. He did not weep. The tears came singular, coupled only by the pain of loss and the comfort of being held.

Treize bore the weight of his friend easily, rubbing his free hand over Zechs back as if it might alleviate the tremors that the other man was probably unaware of. He decided that he might remove his gloves more often in his friend's presence.

And then she walked in.

+

That damned Lady Une! Who did she think she was?! 'Come, now. Go back! You insolent fools!' Noin scoffed as she thought of the high degree to which she loathed the Lady. Simply because his Excellency looked to her as a valuable asset didn't make her queen of the damned world! That was Relena's job . . . and she at least liked Relena.

But, in most cases, what the Lady wants, the Lady gets. At present, the Lady wanted Noin to retrieve the report she'd left in General Khushrenada's office.

"You fool. His Excellency can't be bothered with such things until I've approved their correctness and pertinence! Is that understood?"

Noin often wondered how she'd come to be called "Lady" when she was anything but. Still, Noin had assented and now stood in front of the General's door. The guards were gone. That was odd.

Later, she would curse herself for not having waited a few moments longer after her quick knock. Zechs had always said she was sometimes too familiar with her superiors. But at this moment, door handle still in her hand, mouth agape, all she could think of was that taste in the back of her throat.

She'd heard the rumors, certainly. Who hadn't? She'd even heard something about an incident in a restaurant months earlier in which Treize and Zechs had all but had sex in front of a crowd of lunch-goers and had been asked to leave the establishment. Still . . . rumors were rumors, or so she thought.

There, in the midst of the General's office, was the man himself, holding delicately in his arms . . . her Zechs. And more than the arm he had around Treize's waist, more than the guess at what he was doing with his face buried in the other man's neck, she was struck most, by the glowing fall of hair, unhindered, for the first time to her virgin eyes, by a certain metal mask. And there it was, in the General's hand. Damn. . . . that was a nasty taste.

+

Treize felt Zechs stiffen against him at the knock on the door, but before he could protest to an entrance, before Zechs could replace his mask, the door opened, and Noin's head came into view.

What can a man hiding his identity from the world do, confronted by such a situation as he was, but bury his face a bit deeper. He heard Treize speak a second later.

"Another time, please, Noin."

She hadn't had the presence of mind to reply, and simply shut the door.

Zechs made move to pull back, feeling foolish for being caught. At least it was Noin. Noin was easily quieted.

"Please," Treize said, pulling Zechs back to him, "allow yourself a moment longer . . . allow me a moment longer."

Zechs sighed deeply and returned to his place against the other man.

"I'm sorry."

That was Zechs, always apologizing. "For what? You've realized the fruition of what was, until now, your life's goal. Your family is avenged. Your days of bloodshed can end, if you wish. And yet, you've lost a loyal man." He felt a fist tighten in the fold of his overcoat, "My dearest, Miriald, I fear the world owes you an apology."

"Treize . . ."

"I know, I won't say it again." He was still holding Zechs, rubbing his back and sides, enjoying the moment, when he became aware of something he had been loathe to notice before.

When Treize pushed him away a little, dropping his mask to the floor, Zechs was somewhat surprised. A moment later, when Treize was unclasping the thick buttons of his Specials uniform, fingers naked and deft, he was near to stunned.

"Treize, what are you doing?"

The other man didn't answer but continued disrobing Zechs. Once he finished with his overcoat he began on the buttons of the white-collared shirt beneath.

"Treize," he said with slight alarm and attempted to pull away. Treize held him fast though, pulling on the shirt so that he was still within reach.

"Hold still."

And for reasons beyond Zechs's comprehension, he did. A moment later and Treize had his second shirt open, touching reverent fingers to the layers of white bandages beneath.

"How badly were you injured?" He tore his eyes from the binding cloth and looked into still-raw eyes.

Zechs looked at the ground, as if the recognition of his injuries was far worse than any ignoble intent he had first suspected of Treize's actions, "A few broken ribs . . . minor heart failure."

Treize breathed a laugh, "Only you, my friend, can make broken bones and coronaries sound like cuts and bruises."

Zechs did not laugh.

"I wish that Otto were still alive," Treize said, voice serious again, "I think I would have liked to thank him."

"Yes."

"And I believe that he was correct in his loyalties."

"Treize . . ."

"I would like to think that I will have the presence of mind to declare mine when my time comes."

"Treize!" The older man had moved away from him now, picking up Zechs's mask and handing to it's somewhat jolted rightful owner.

"Please Zechs, no more on the topic. I think it's nearly time to attend that briefing of Une's."

Zechs took his mask mournfully, turning it in his hands before placing it back onto his head. He stood a bit straighter.

"Sir."

end

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