by Lara
December 2000

This is a work of amateur fiction and does not intend to infringe on the rights of Sunrise, Sotsu Agency, Asahi TV, and Bandai Visuals. No profit is being made.

My Christmas present for Ceci, who for once did not have to beta read her own gift. Lis did the work this time, thanks!

Lady Une stoically accepted that the steaming mug of tea was thrust back into her hands within two seconds after handing it to the destined person.

"This is camomille tea, Lady Une," Treize said hoarsely, sounding as reproachful as he could. "I told you," a sneeze interrupted him, and he wearily reached for the kleenex box on the nightstand next to the bed. "I told you that I don't like camomilles."

"Doctor's orders," Une said briskly. "You are to drink at least one mug every hour, along with taking your cough mixture and the nose drops."

Treize shifted beneath the blanket and raised a hand weakly. "That is another thing I wanted to talk about with you." He coughed, and Une winced in sympathy as he gasped to get his breath back. "That mixture is vile. I remember having had a different one the last time."

"I have read your medical history, your Excellency, and it indicates that the last time you were prescribed any strong cough medicine, you were ten."

Forked eyebrows rose slightly. "Are you saying that I am too old for that brand?" Treize pushed himself into a sitting position against the headboard, shoving some pillows into place. Arguing with Lady Une was hard when one was lying down and had to stare up at her.

Politely, Une refrained from nodding, knowing very well that he would draw his own conclusions, and that they tended to turn out rather irrational under the influence of the fever he was currently running.

"Lady Une," Treize said, reached for another kleenex and sneezed three times in rapid succession. "I am the General of OZ. I can have sweetened cough drops if I want."

"Of course, your Excellency. I will see the doctor about this."

"Thank you. And please take that tea away." Treize wrinkled his nose, a gesture that made Une's knees weaken. "It smells."

"Yes, your Excellency." From the collection of nondescript bottles and flasks on the nightstand, Une picked up the one containing the cough medicine. "You should lie down again, Sir."

"But my head gets all stuffy when I do that," he complained. "And I don't like that. By the way, Lady Une, should the fever not be gone yet? I seem to remember being told that it would be down after two days at most."

Frowning, Une considered the statement, then put down the medicine and the tea again, close enough for Treize to put on a disapproving look. "This reminds me, Sir. I have to take your temperature." Taking the thermometer out of the bedside drawer, she wondered why she had been this dead set against the idea of a nurse taking care of Treize. By now she was regretting her insistence on seeing to his needs herself. As much as she admired and venerated the man, in his current state he was beginning to drive her crazy.

"Do we have to do that again?" Treize sniffled and grabbed a tissue. His body, however, changed its mind and decided to launch into a coughing fit instead of a sneeze.

Lady Une nodded. "Yes. If you would open your mouth please, your Excellency."

"I hope you washed this after the last time." Treize obediently did as he was told, and Une stuck the thermometer in place. "I do not want to contract any germs. Though, technically those germs would be mine anyway..." he sounded somewhat muffled as he was holding the thermometer with his lips. "But still, germs are not supposed to be allowed back into a body, or are they? Would that not be silly, to let them reunite again when we have already managed to shatter their forces?"

Turning this over in her mind, Une opted for a nod as the safest answer. She had been listening to more or less logical comments for three days straight now, and was beginning to feel lightheaded. The last thing she wanted to do now was argue germ strategies. They had already covered that particular subject during the first night, with Treize's fever-clouded reasoning soaring to levels Une had thought one could only reach through smoking highly illegal substances.

While waiting for the thermometer to finish, Une checked the rest of the medicines to see which ones had to be refilled. Pocketing two empty flasks, she noticed that something was missing.

"Your Excellency?"

"Hm?" Treize was slowly sliding downwards, looking more tired again.

"What happened to the eucalyptus oil?"

"I did not," he sounded absolutely hoarse and broke off to clear his throat. "I did not like the smell of that either. And don't remind me that the doctor prescribed it."

Une sighed deeply; she had enjoyed rubbing the oil onto his chest and back several times a day. It had almost made this whole nursing experience worthwhile. Pushing her disappointment back into a more distant corner of her mind, she focused on the situation at hand. "Time is up," she said, and took the thermometer back.

Treize gave her an almost curious look when she read it off. "How much?"

"One hundred comma nine," Une stated matter-of-factly after squinting at the tiny blue quicksilver line. "It has gone up again, but is still within reasonable parameters." She left for the bathroom to rinse the instrument, and Treize breathed a small sigh of relief. Lady Une was definitely making him uncomfortable right now with her insistence on hovering over him day and night. Treize was getting the feeling that she saw him, or rather his sickness, as a mission that had to be accomplished. And while dedication was fine by him, he really wished she'd leave him alone for once. Dealing with her, along with the cold, was simply too much; she was only adding to him feeling ill.

He blinked a little as his mind supplied the image of Une-headed germs, and picked up a kleenex to intercept the sneeze attack he felt coming. Once he opened his eyes again, Une was back and stowing the thermometer away.

"Lady, you should go and take a rest," he suggested, hoping she would take the hint.

"It is my duty to stay, your Excellency." Apparently she did not.

"But you do look tired. Have you slept at all?"

"There is no need to concern yourself about me, Sir."

Treize was beginning to get exasperated. "Lady Une, I do not wish to have you exhaust yourself because of me. Return to your quarters and rest," he said, as firmly as he could under the circumstances.

Une blinked, then nodded briskly. "Yes your Excellency."

Victory, Treize thought and let himself sink back comfortably against the pillow.

"I will send for Lieutenant Noin, Sir, to take care of your needs."

The joy faded as fast as it had come. He did not want Noin to mother him, and he had the dark suspicion this would happen if she was allowed near him. The female officer had always seemed to have a soft spot for whatever was male and vulnerable, and with the current headache he was nursing, Treize was not willing to find out whether his assumption about her was correct or not. No. No Noin. Under no circumstances.

"Certainly Lieutenant Noin has something better to do." Even as he said the words, Treize knew that the phrasing was all wrong. Suggesting to Une that there were things preferable to fulfilling his every wish would be like telling cousin Dorothy that peace was more enjoyable than any kind of fighting.

The sudden frown on Lady Une's face told him that he had to come up with something better if he wanted to avert the disaster of having Noin on nursing duty.

"Tomorrow is... Tuesday," he said after a slight hesitation, and hoped that he was right about that. Keeping track of time had not been all that easy lately. "And Noin always has training missions scheduled on Tuesdays. We cannot interfere with the training of OZ soldiers, now can we?" He blinked and put on an expression as charming as he could manage. "After all, if the soldiers do not receive proper training, they cannot fight for me and my ideals."

There. Une was wavering. Now he just had to get her out of the room quickly; he felt another coughing attack coming, a bad one, and if Lady Une heard that she would never leave. And he'd had enough of the embarrassment it presented to have her tagging along on bathroom trips, claiming that he might faint and need help. No, Une had to go. Period.

"As you wish, your Excellency," she said. "In that case I will see if Colonel Zechs is available already. He should have arrived from the Singapore base an hour ago."

This time Treize was grateful for the threatening cough, since it kept him from grinning. He merely nodded, not quite trusting his voice not to sound pressed, and watched carefully as Lady Une retreated to the door.

"Good Night, your Excellency."

Treize waited until he had heard the clicking of the door snapping back into place and he could be sure that Lady Une had turned around at least two corners, then he curled up, pressed his face against the blanket, and gave in to coughing.

The next time it might be better to listen to Lady Une and wear a coat when visiting the Trondheim base, he thought, gasping for air. But still, how was he supposed to know that it could become this cold in Norway in summer? His concern were military tactics, not weather forecasts. Though the fact that Lady Une had donned her cape for once ought to have been a hint, now that he considered it. He would have to reserve that particular base for transfers for disciplinary reasons. Nobody who had not done anything wrong should be forced to deal with those temperatures. Even Siberia was harmless compared to this one.

His lungs and ribcase were beginning to ache, and he curled up more tightly, not quite sure that this would help, but feeling a little less miserable in that position. At least he no longer had to make sure that the coughs were muffled by the blanket, there was no way that Une could still hear him.

Black spots were beginning to dance before his eyes, and he gasped for air desperately. Treize did not know if it was possible to cough oneself into unconsciousness, but he was not eager to find out. This was all wrong anyway, he was not supposed to get sick. More importantly, he was not allowed to. There was so much to do everyday; the paperwork had probably already flooded his office. And while Lady Une was surely covering as much of it as she could, there were simply too many issues that required his personal attention.

He was still frantically trying to get his breathing back under control when he registered the feeling of a hand rubbing his back soothingly. Had Une come back? Hopefully not, he thought; there was no way he could stand her hovering right now.

No, the hand was too large for hers. Besides, she usually did not smell of Mobile Suit kerosine. That particular scent was strong enough to permeate even Treize's stuffed nose, and it made him brighten up considerably. There weren't all that many persons who sometimes smelled like that and who would also dare to approach without "Your Excellency"ing him every few seconds.

"Hello Milliard," he eventually croaked, turning his head a little and catching a glimpse of the glorious blond mane.

"Is this the harmless cold you told me about?" Zechs asked, keeping on stroking Treize's upper back.

"I might have," Treize was interrupted by a dry cough. "I might have made a slight understatement. But do not concern yourself about me, Milliard. I hope you had a pleasant journey?"

Zechs ignored Treize's attempts at small talk and took off his silk gloves to hold his palm first against the older man's forehead, then his cheek. Then he compared the temperature with his own skin. "Une was right, you are feverish."

"She has asked you to come, I take it."

"More or less." Zechs smirked a little. "Actually it was more like 'Colonel Merquise, His Excellency is fever-ridden enough to be requesting your presence. Get a move on."

"You have to forgive her. I fear I have been exhausting her nerves." Treize made a move to push himself upright, but Zechs prevented it, his hands on the other man's shoulders. "Milliard?"

"Whatever you want to do, you are not doing it now," Zechs told him firmly and sat down next to him on the bed. The faintest hint of a pout crossed Treize's face, so quickly that Zechs was almost certain he had imagined it. "You'll be going nowhere at the moment."

"I bow to your orders, Colonel," Treize returned, stressing the title just the tiniest bit and making Zechs sigh in response.

"Une said something about medicine. Which one did she mean?" he asked, his gaze wandering across the flasks.

Treize pointed at one of them that contained slightly pink pills. "The ones against a sore throat." He kept quiet about having to take the cough mixture as well, however. What Zechs did not know, he could not insist on.

Reaching for the bottle, Zechs read the label carefully, then took out two pills and handed them, along with the glass of water that sat on the nightstand, to Treize, watching closely as he swallowed. Then he pointedly looked at the grandfather clock near the door.

"You are supposed to sleep, you know." Treize blinked at the comment, and Zechs continued. "It's past midnight already."

Slowly Treize shook his head, the motion almost enough to increase his headache again. "I am not tired. And I have rested through the entire day already."

Sitting down more comfortably, Zechs fluffed up one of the pillows, then tucked it in behind himself and leaned back against the headboard. Treize watched with a small smile, until a sneeze forced him to close his eyes. He felt gentle hands come around him, draw him closer to that wonderful source of heat Zechs presented. Snuggling closer, he moved aching limbs until he found a position comfortable for both of them, his head resting against Zechs' shoulder, the other man's cheek against tousled ginger hair.

Being able to cuddle like this was worth feeling weary, Treize decided as he wrapped the blanket more tightly around himself to keep warm. The feeling of Zechs' arms around him, of having the other man this close, made him almost forget about being sick. Almost, he thought as another cough shook him.

"Here." Zechs held the water glass out to him, and he gratefully took a sip to calm his throat. "You really ought to sleep, Treize," he said, only half successful in suppressing a yawn, which sent a wave of guilt through Treize. It seemed that Zechs had not gotten any rest since returning from the mission, and now he was staying awake just to keep a sick man company.

No, that was not right.

Treize knew that Zechs had to be dead tired to be even showing it. He also knew that there was no chance to make Zechs admit that. This called for strategic proceeding.

He sighed softly, burying his face a little more against Zechs' shoulder, one arm coming to rest across the other man's stomach. "Good night then, Milliard," he whispered. "Be so kind and switch off the light please."

Zechs complied, then brushed a kiss over his lips while Treize concentrated hard on not sneezing. "Sleep tight," the blond man said, then rested his head against the pillow and fell asleep almost immediately.

Quietly clearing his throat again, Treize turned a little in Zechs' embrace, then finally closed his eyes as well and tried to drift off into dreaming. He knew he was not going to get much rest, not with being frequently woken by his own coughing, but at least Zechs might be able to sleep for a few hours. Keeping that in mind, Treize reached for a soft strand of long hair, twirling it between his fingers, enjoying the tender feeling and wishing that he would not ever have to miss it.

The End

La Casa