Warnings: Very Mild WAFF; 13+6; Skewed Timeline
Disclaimer: Not Mine.
Notes: Special thanks to Dim Genesis and Olympia for reading the first
draft of this so long ago.
Black. White. White. Black.
Not a speck of red or blue or even gray to be seen. How very perfect.
And all of it--each and every dancing couple, every single semi-drunken
aristocrat, the whole and consummate gathering of every person who ever
had or ever would matter to her coalescing into one black and white blur--was
her doing. As the hostess to such an (in her mind at least) important
gathering of enemies and friends and those which would soon change from
one to the other, she sat at the head of the longest, most crowded table
in the hall, and smiled.
It still amused her, the amount of power she held over these people. Her
husband, long dead, was the real power behind it of course, but it pleased
her to no end that tradition could be so staunchly held as to allow an
old, powerless woman to dictate clothing and etiquette. Or perhaps it
was simply her charity toward their respective organizations that they
sought. No matter, it amused her nonetheless.
"Mrs. Marat, how ravishing you look." It was the Khushrenada
boy, or perhaps 'man' best suited him now. She had known him since . .
. well since before he was born, had helped his mother choose a christening
gown. She had kept up with him too, finding that he, even at the tender
age of seven, had a strange sense of fairness. Waging war against an anthill
in the estate gardens, he'd refused to use pesticides and instead fed
them ground corn, saying that gluttony would be their downfall. Chemical
warfare was an ignoble tactic. He had been victorious.
Now he was a General, though she would never allow him to be called that
in her presence. That was the reason for the black and white. War, armies,
enemies or allies, would not enter her house. They were all equals here.
Still, the man bowing easily at her side, politely lying about her beauty
(she was practically his great-grandmother!), was a force in himself.
He was tall and broad, built like his father, but unmistakably, especially
with the handsome grace of his face, his mother's son. Power and elegance
in one fetchingly neat package, and despite the same sense of fairness
she knew he still held, she struggled to see the grinning boy of her too-old
memories. She did not entirely fail.
"Treize," her rickety voice called sweetly and the young man
lifted her gloved hand to kiss the back.
"Dearest Treize, you are dashing! But I must say it's been far too
long since you've had the good graces to visit me. Are you well?"
Treize smiled. "Yes madam, though I know how you loathe the uniforms
and, much to my dismay, it has of late become a constant in my wardrobe."
"Yes, yes," she conceded with a nod and a flurry of her wrists,
lace as delicate as her aged skin ruffling at her movement, "all
this business of war going about, and you at the helm. It's a wonder you
don't look as old as me."
"No, no." She chided, noticing the ease with which he took the
command. She was probably the first person to tell him that in a very
long time, "No more fibbing from the likes of you, young man. I am
old," the last word was drawn out and heavily emphasized, "and
every crease carved into my old skin is a day, a year, a memory of my
age. I wear them as proudly as you wear your medals, only mine will pass
Treize was still bending over her, "Forgive me then, madam."
"Oh pah!" She exclaimed, reaching out to him, beckoning with
her thin and wrinkled fingers that he embrace her. He did.
"You are still the sweet boy I always knew," she said quietly
as she held him warmly. It must have been uncomfortable for him, she knew,
but she enjoyed her children's company, even if they were hers only in
"I'm afraid you are a bit partial, Madam."
She laughed at him then and let him stand once more but taking his hand
to keep him near, "Perhaps you are right, child, though I daresay
I wouldn't mind having another of you running about . . . or even two."
Treize smiled warmly, bent forward again to whisper something to her that,
a moment later, made her eyes light with something akin to glee. He kissed
her cheek, bowed and excused himself, melding back into the crowd.
She watched him go, a smile on her thin lips. On any other occasion, had
their conversation been so brief, she might have been mournful, sad at
the short visit with one of her cherished young ones. Now, however, with
his last soft words playing over in her head, and the possibility of their
meaning warming her beyond the comfort of her lace and satin gown, she
was only saddened at one thought: that she might not live to see his promise
Still, she played it again in her mind, thinking that perhaps her happiness
at the prospect might lengthen her years. Sadness was counter productive.
"Madam," Treize had said once he'd leaned close enough to her
ear, "perhaps you will not be disappointed."
Zechs walked stiffly beside the Lady. He felt awkward out of uniform (though
his mask had been allowed), and even more awkward that the Lady was out
of hers. If her beauty was not deceptive of her violent nature enough,
seeing her in a delicate and slim-fitting, black sequined gown was. He
had thought when he had first seen her that evening that perhaps she was
not always the hard-hitting, unyielding Colonel. Then again, perhaps he
"You look lovely, Colonel." He had told her when she approached
him. She narrowed her eyes and seemed none too pleased.
"His Excellency is on the balcony and wishes to speak with you,"
she said in a tone that evidenced her disapproval.
"Certainly," he replied, excusing himself from some half-idle
company, and turned to follow the Lady who was already heading away from
It took several minutes to navigate the length of the hall, the crowds
of people, but finally they came to a set of elaborately decorative doors,
closed against the din of the hall, their sashes hung heavy, obscuring
any view to the outside. With a curtness belying her graceful beauty,
Une opened one.
"Thank you," Zechs said as he stepped into the cooler air of
the night, and a beat later, the door shut behind him, and a slight clicking
sound indicated that it was locked. He knew she would stand guard.
Some forty years earlier, Madam Marat thought as she eyed the pretty brunette
who had just stepped into the hall from one of the balconies, and she
might have giggled.
She had watched Treize go out that door just moments ago, the lady in
tow, and now, all too quickly, she had returned. Ah, young love. How fleeting
it can be. Still, she hoped, more for her own sake than Treize's, that
the young woman would be forgiving for whatever tiff had put that scowl
on her face. My . . . she did look stern.
Then, a strange thing happened. Madam Marat was still silently watching
the mini opera, glad to have her guests entertain themselves so that she
might indulge in her curiosity, when a new player entered the stage.
The young lady from the balcony had found another fellow. Of course, it
took the Madam a moment to realize he was of that gender. She frowned.
It was that masked man. Now what would that pretty young thing want with
such a serious looking young man when she had charm incarnate waiting
for her on the balcony? Really!
So she watched as the lady spoke, the man responded and then she led him
away from his table. They were heading for the balconies. Just imagine
her surprise when he, not the young miss, stepped into the night air,
leaving the lady to stand guard.
Oh no, she thought as she formed an impotent fist in the lace of her gown.
She knew exactly what this was. The signs were unmistakable and she would
not have it. Not in her house.
"Good evening, Zechs." A soft, familiar voice called from the
shadows of the bench flanking the building, and he regarded it with respect.
"Sir." Silence followed for a moment and Zechs could feel himself
"You look even taller out of uniform," the shadows said, the
tiny red flare of a cigarette following.
"I'm afraid that tuxedos don't call for the exaggerated shoulders
our uniforms do. I'd suspect you look rather changed yourself."
At that, the shadows moved and Treize stood from where he sat on the bench,
stepping out of the darkness and into the wan light of the balcony's only
lamp. He had shed his coat, gloves and bow-tie. The pristinely white dress
shirt was stark against the night and making up for any lack of his usual
decorations. His left hand was tucked neatly into his pants pocket, his
right held a glowing cigarette, and all about him, that aura of elegance
that no absence of clothing or addition of vices could mar.
Zechs smirked, who was he kidding? This was Treize.
"It appears you still have all of your fingers, I trust Lady Une
didn't bite too hard."
Zechs reached to his mask before replying. No one could see them from
the grounds, it was simply too dark, and Une would not be back until Treize
called for her. He started to remove it.
"Do you mind?" He asked, uncertain as to why.
Treize was smiling, "I'd like nothing more."
Mask off, having pointedly ignored Treize's comment, he finally spoke
of the Lady, "She doesn't appear to like me very much."
"On the contrary," Treize replied, leaning against the balcony
railing next Zechs's side, staring into the velvet blackness of the grounds
below "she absolutely loathes you."
"Yes," Zechs agreed, "she does. It's as if we're rivals"
"But you are."
"And how is that? I hardly know her."
Treize took one last drag of his cigarette and turned away to snuff it
in a provided receptacle, a tiny mint procured from a tin in his shirt
pocket taking its place. He didn't reply until he stood directly before
Zechs. "For my affection, Millard. For my affection you and she are
the fiercest of rivals--or so she sees it."
"I see . . . but I don't remember fighting for such to begin with."
Treize's smile was back and Zechs could smell the mint in his breath,
"And that's precisely what irks her so--that she has worked tirelessly
to gain ground, yet has long since lost the battle, whilst you've not
tried at all, and won the war."
"Must you always speak in tactics?"
"Must you always ignore me when I'm trying to confess my love for
Zechs's mouth went a little dry and he was suddenly at a loss for actions
or words. Treize, who obviously was not, stepped closer to him, placing
his hands on the railing to either side of Zechs body, pinning him in
place. But this was all so familiar.
"I've asked you not to say that," Zechs said flatly, as if the
other man's mouth, the sweet-smelling breath, were not inches from his
"And I don't take kindly to being ordered by a soldier. Tell me,
Zechs, are you so insolent?" Treize was even closer now and they
breathed the same cool air.
"Only when you lie."
Treize stepped back, "Pardon?"
"There are rumors, Treize . . ."
The General sighed in defeat and spun to walk the length of the balcony,
"Yes. Rumors that I am to be kept in check, and that you are the
man to do it, " Zechs's voice was calm. He hadn't intended on telling
this to Treize, but one good turn deserved another, "I can understand
the higher-ups and their want to monitor my movement, but . . . Treize
. . . are you listening to me at all?"
The older man was staring out across the dark lawn.
"I know they're observing you. I've known for some time. They're
waiting for Milliard Peacecraft to make his debut." Treize turned
back to Zechs then and continued, "Not everyone is as ignorant as
you might suspect . . . and I think their timing is not far off."
Zechs was quieted by that. He leaned back against the railing and watched
the floor as he spoke, "I'll be going into outer space next week
as an ambassador of Peace for the Sanq kingdom . . . as a Peacecraft."
Treize was beside him again, "I expected as much," and then,
"will you return to me?"
Zechs's gaze did not waver, he did not know if he could face Treize and
say it, "I'm not certain."
The silence was heavy for a while, only the faint sound of shrubbery quivering
in the breeze and muted raucous from inside the palace sullied the quiet
night. Then, in a breath, Treize was in front of him again, as close--no
closer than before. One hand tangled in Zechs's hair, and Zechs had no
choice but to look at him.
The kiss they shared then was not the spontaneous maelstrom that had taken
place at the restaurant some months ago. This one was languorous and soft,
sweet and deep, and seemed to last a fraction of an eternity until they
had to break for air. And then they kissed again. And again, until some
ten or fifteen minutes had passed and Zechs was glad he stood against
a railing for support. That was when Treize backed off a little and regarded
him with that perfectly blue gaze.
"I can order you to come back."
"But I will not be Zechs Merquise or an Oz soldier. I will be an
Ambassador of peace," Zechs marveled at how calm and urgent Treize
could look simultaneously, while he found himself rather breathless and
his cheeks must be pink!
"I'll order you to stay then . . . to remain Zechs Merquise."
"You know I cannot do that."
"You would defy your General?"
"Treize . . ." and in that moment Treize's resolve softened
and Zechs could see the truth plain on his face.
"I do not lie, Zechs . . . Milliard . . . ," Treize said, still
so close before he leaned in to take one last kiss, this one a bit more
chaste, ". . . not to you."
When they parted again it was Treize who spoke first, and with the last
thing Zechs might have expected, "Put your mask back on."
Zechs gave a questioning look.
"We're being watched--quickly now."
Zechs did as he was told and then looked around the lawn. How did the
man know? He could see nothing.
"That window there," Treize said, pointing to an empty window
that had been dark when they had begun their discussion and was now glowing
pale with lamp light.
"Who do you think it was?" Zechs asked.
"I don't think," Treize said with certainty. He had moved away
entirely and was redressing in his coat, tie and gloves, " . . .
I know. You'll have to excuse me." He rapped on the glass door thrice
and there was a light 'click' before Une opened it smoothly.
"You won't leave for space without seeing me again, will you?"
Treize asked from the half-open door way. Somehow, to Zechs, it seemed
as if it were not an easy question for the General to ask.
"I will try."
Mrs. Marat sat quietly in her study, the dining hall having become far
too noisy for her aged ears. As well, she had come here to gather news
from Lucinda about the goings-on on the balcony and had simply decided
upon staying. Uprooting one's self too often was also counter productive.
"Madam," a smooth male voice interrupted her rest. She had not
entirely expected him but then Lucinda had said she'd been caught.
"Yes, Treize dear, come in."
"I'm afraid that my business is not entirely pleasant, Madam,"
Treize said as he stepped into the room, noting its excessive warmth,
"It seems there are spies in your palace, Madam. You might have them
Lucinda, who had been standing some five feet behind Ms. Marat, stepped
back even farther, hanging her head a little lower.
"I trust your lady-in-waiting saw something she liked?"
"Oh hush now, Treize. I'll not be spoken to so derisively,"
she sighed heavily, the closest that Treize knew she would come to an
apology, "I simply thought that you and your young gentleman friend
might have been talking war and battle plans. How was I to know Lucinda
would run upon a tryst."
"Perhaps you might have trusted me more than that."
She eyed him speculatively, "And how am I to do that when you fill
me with false hope? I have no trouble with your . . . preferences, Treize,
but you might have made them clear before you gave an old lady ideas about
. . ." Oh heavens! She had gotten so emotional with age!
"Do not cry, Madam," Treize offered from where he knelt beside
her, "It was not my intention to be misleading." He stroked
her hair and she calmed considerably.
"What I said was true," he began to wonder how many times would
he say it in one night.
Mrs. Marat looked at him with confusion, "But . . . Lucinda . . ."
"And what Lucinda saw was true," he explained.
"Yes . . . ?"
Then, remarkably, the Madam began to laugh through her tears and pulled
Treize to her, "My dear boy, you are as complicated as ever!"
"Moreso, I would hope."
"Indeed!" She was smiling largely now, wishing she had a drink.
Something about the evening smacked of celebration . . . Oh yes! What
a silly old fool she was! She was missing the last of her ball! Suddenly
she felt like joining it again.
"Well," she began, "with that settled, shall you escort
me back into the main hall?"
"Certainly," Treize replied and Lucinda came to assist him in
rising her safely.
"And I'll meet this friend of yours . . . what is his name?"
Just then they made their way into the main hall, Treize's eyes skimming
the crowd for the unmistakable glint he had grown to seek instinctively,
and finding the man in question listening in silence to an intimate group.
He seemed distracted at once, and then looked their way and graced Treize
with a small smile.
"Well, Madam . . . that depends."
[back to the Reverand's fic]