The Other Side
by Lara
October 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.

"I was dead. But I can't sleep quietly in my coffin while the ghost of Treize is roaming around." - Zechs, Endless Waltz

"Milliard, I'll be waiting on the other side." The gentle voice strangely full of emotion, blue eyes darkened with something that could be either sadness or elation. Then the so familiar figure smiled one last time, turned around and disappeared in the darkness.

Zechs struggled to follow, to hold his beloved back, keep him from disappearing in the shadows, but no matter how much he strained to get forward, his legs wouldn't obey, wouldn't move, desperately he reached out for the fading silhouette...

... and jerked awake.

For a moment he lay still, trying to get his breathing back under control, before he untangled himself from the sheets. He felt uncomfortably hot, pajamas sticking to skin, damp hair tickling his face. Unconsciously he tucked those erratic strands back behind his ears, reaching for the small drawer of the nightstand and retrieving a hair band, but then deciding against it and instead taking the glass of water he'd placed there in the evening, knowing only too well that he'd appreciate the cool liquid a few hours later.

Every night. He would have the same dream every night, in slight variations. Sometimes they were in a blizzard, or at the edge of a cliff, or simply surrounded by nothingness. But always the same would happen: Treize would stand there, taciturn and unreadable, regardless of what Zechs said or did. Then repeat his last words, the transmission Zechs had heard over a crackling comm channel, grace him with a smile, and vanish just a moment before Zechs managed to stretch out his arm and touch him. And always there was this light of mixed emotions in his eyes, making them glitter suspiciously as if Treize were holding back tears for which Zechs was responsible. But he could not console him, could not hold him, no matter how hard he tried.

From what he remembered from the psychology lessons in his youth, these constantly repeating dreams came from his mind not quite being able to process the particular bit of information that was Treize's death. Eventually they would weaken, and he might be able to rest peacefully again. At least that was how it ought to be in theory.

Zechs knew that he would never be able to forgive himself for killing Treize. Never.

After taking another sip of water, he slowly sank back on the bed again, drew up the sheets and curled up on his side. The amount of sleep he had been getting during the last weeks had not nearly been sufficient, and he was beginning to truly feel the fatigue tugging at him during his waking hours.

If only he could close his eyes without having the dreams return almost instantly. He had come to dread sleep by now, knowing that it was something he could not possibly escape. At the same time he refused to take tranquillizers that would have prevented his body from switching into R.E.M. sleep, not allowing him to dream. On some level Zechs was utterly certain that he deserved the miserable existence his life had turned into, in order to atone at least partially for what he had done. Nothing could ever clean his consciousness completely, of course. That was plain impossible. Not with the knowledge that he had killed his supporter, friend and lover when there could have been other solutions to the battle. Other outcomes. Treize would not have had to die in order for the war to stop. If only Zechs had allowed himself to be drawn into the other man's ideas one more time...

All that was left now were the dreams. And while Zechs hated them, he did not want to let them go. It was the only reminder of Treize he had.

His eyes were falling shut as he turned his head to the side in an attempt to curl up in a more comfortable position. Reality faded away, and the last thing he was aware of as he sank back into darkness was a feeling as if a cool hand were stroking his cheek.

Most of the year that had passed since the destruction of Libra and the White Fang Zechs had been spending in a hangar, bent over screens showing acceleration curves, fernier outputs and stealth data. The few technicians and mechanics who did the manual work were used to seeing him around for entire days, it did not surprise them any longer if he suddenly entered the vast hall in the middle of the night, looking as if he hadn't been sleeping for days.

It had become a method for Zechs to escape his conscience, with the added effect of the works proceeding a lot faster than expected. Uniting features of Mobile Suits between whose designs lay twenty years of development and which had both been created by minds more than a little twisted was not an easy task, but that was one of the reasons why Zechs had taken it on.

The second was that at least in this way he could have a part of Treize with him.

And true to Treize, the mechanics and technologies designed by him and his technicians were the ones causing most problems. Epyon was probably the Gundam farthest away from the original design; while all the other Mobile Suits had been heavily based on the Tallgeese, and in the case of the Gundams even constructed by the same scientists, Treize had strayed from the basics when planning Epyon, and now Zechs was working hard to create compromises wherever possible.

Most of the exterior design had been taken from the blueprints of the Tallgeese; the bulkier frame of the Mobile Suit could accommodate backup systems more easily than the sleek Gundam. To the casual observer this new suit was Tallgeese rebuilt, until one noticed the heat rod coiled on the ground, half hidden behind broad legs. That and the golden headpiece were the only visible inputs from Epyon; the truly significant additions lay hidden beneath the metal plates. Circuits, relays, chips; they were the true legacy of the last Gundam. Systems far more effective than those of normal Mobile Suits could ever hope to be, a filigree of supraconductors and capillary tubes that surpassed the Tallgeese's hydraulics by far.

It had not been easy at all to accomplish this task, but Zechs had stubbornly refused to give in, moving switches around and redesigning power lines until the plans had finally fitted his expectations. And now the machine was ready, the mechanics had been laying the finishing touches on the coloring during the afternoon.

White and blue. Not quite the color scheme of Tallgeese II, but a close variation thereof.

The Mobile Suit stood in the hangar, and for the first time no cables were attached to it, no platforms surrounded it. Waiting.

Now Zechs only had to figure out what to do with it. He had been concentrating on the construction only, never thinking beyond the point of completion; it had not seemed necessary to do so, and the intricate problems of the design had kept his mind more than occupied. Finishing the Mobile Suit had appeared to be the most important task; what to do with it afterwards had not mattered.

He was standing in front of the new suit, Tallgeese III as he had called it - another reference to Treize, acknowledging that he was following in the footsteps of his friend with this machine. Staring up at the head, Zechs gingerly touched the freshly painted leg, feeling the smooth, cool surface beneath his fingertips. It was a good Mobile Suit, he knew it. Maybe not as elegant and lanky as the Gundams, but Tallgeese III too was beautiful in its own deadly way. Suddenly Zechs yearned to try it, to feel the handles in his grip again; he had not been flying since the Eve War, had not missed it until now. The suit seemed to beckon him to just climb into the cockpit and fire up the thrusters for the first time, to test the limits of its abilities. So tempting...

But Zechs knew better than to go on a training flight just now; he had not been sleeping for forty-eight hours straight, and there was no way that he would be able to concentrate on controlling a machine as finely tuned as this one. He would only cause damage if he took it out now.

Better to admire it from the ground, to feel the satisfaction warm his body at the sight. Even trained engineers might have despaired if they had been the ones building the newest Tallgeese, but he had stubbornly continued, taking step after step, until it was standing in front of him, a glorious achievement.

Treize would have been proud.

Zechs sighed, then tore his gaze from the small golden horns on the metal forehead. If he closed his eyes, he could even imagine hearing Treize's words of commendation and appreciation; but at the same time he was painfully aware that there would never be any praise coming from this particular mouth.

He had silenced it forever. Maybe he had not been the one giving Treize the deadly hit, but Zechs knew that he was responsible for driving the other man into the Gundam pilot's arms to receive death. The duel had not been supposed to be taking place between Treize and Chang Wufei, the true enemy should have been Zechs himself. And he had backed out of it, making Treize seek a substitute for the declined battle.

Zechs was walking in a spacious garden, the freshly cut grass soft beneath his bare feet. The smell of blooming rhododendrons was heavy in the air, mingling with the scent of pine trees; a squirrel hushed across the lawn right in front of him and scurried up the broad trunk of an old oak.

On some unconscious level he was aware that he was dreaming, that his surroundings were just a tint too perfect, the grass too green, the smell too clean. Remembering the normal turn those dreams would take, he struggled to wake up, to stop this before it took the usual course.

Too late. An all too familiar figure emerged from the shadows, approached him slowly; the uniform immaculate, the thigh-high boots polished as always. Nearly always, Zechs thought, remembering only one single time when Treize had looked actually scruffy. That had been in this very garden; now he recognized his surroundings. The park of the old manor house at which Treize had been staying so often, where he and Zechs spent some wonderful times.

Why here? Zechs had hoped to be able to keep at least these memories safe from the dreams.

Treize was slowly drawing nearer, his steps measured carefully, not too fast, not too slow. Not quite ambling, not quite walking. Zechs drank in the sight, trying to remember every little detail; the tight white pants, the golden highlights in the tawny hair. It was all precious to him.

He wanted nothing more than to reach out, to catch his friend, his beloved in his arms and never let go again. But it would be as always, they would be caught in the perpetual circle of Zechs' dreams. Treize would leave as soon as Zechs would strain to touch him.

Still he tried, and was completely incredulous when his legs obeyed him and did not seem to have sunken into the ground. Out of sheer surprise he stumbled forward, struggling to regain his balance, to keep from falling, and suddenly found himself caught securely in strong arms.

Zechs fought to keep breathing.

His mind was only registering that Treize was holding him, that the other man had not disappeared like all those times before, but that he was here, solid and alive. Raising his head, he sought Treize's gaze, found the expressive blue eyes looking at him, full of something which might have been friendliness but which Zechs fervently hoped to be love.

"Milliard," Treize said softly, steering him back onto his own feet. Zechs hurried to shift his balance, he had not even noticed how heavily he had been leaning on his beloved. "How nice to see you." The polite, hollow phrase sounded like music in Zechs' ears, all that he wanted was that this smooth voice kept talking, no matter what was actually said.

"I must be dreaming," he whispered, fingers touching Treize's chin, his cheek, his lips.

"That is correct, my friend." The other man smiled at him, then caught Zechs' hand in his and raised it to his face.

"Then never wake me," Zechs begged as cool lips pressed a kiss against his skin. He did not wait for Treize's reply, rather caught him in a crushing embrace, intending to never let him go again. This was real... the slim figure in his arms was reality in this particular dreamscape that was nothing like the nightmares that usually haunted his sleeping hours.

Burying his face against the juncture of Treize's shoulder and neck, Zechs concentrated on the scent of his beloved, the smell of rose fragrance overshadowing a hint of musk. Unique; he would have recognized this everywhere, it was so purely Treize. His chest constricted at a sudden, his throat became tight, and before Zechs knew what was happening he was shaken by sobs. Tears of happiness, tears of relief that he was once again able to hold Treize in his embrace, tears of guilt for his role in Treize's death.

Something nudged at the back of his mind, but at the same moment a hand began to gently stroke his back, a cheek came to rest against his head, brushing over his hair softly. A voice murmured sweet nothings into his ear, that everything was alright, that he need not cry, that he was not alone. And the tears kept running down his face, he could not stop them, had to let them out, the self-loathing and guilt and frustration of an entire year.

He could not say for how long they had been standing there, locked together in a close embrace, Treize holding him like a lost child who had found home again. Oh yes, this was home, here in these arms, surrounded by his beloved's scent, feeling the sheer solidness of him when it had seemed so certain that he would be denied this favor forever. But Treize suddenly drew back a little, a serious expression on his face that made Zechs frown in response. Something was bothering his beloved, he knew it; this look on his face had always meant that he was facing a problem he was not quite sure how to deal with. A rare expression, but Zechs had come to recognize it over the years, and it had also dominated the last video transmission he'd received from Treize, just before Tallgeese II had exploded.




"What are you?" Zechs demanded. He knew he was asleep, Treize had even confirmed it, but this whole situation felt too real to be a true dream.

"I beg your pardon, Milliard?"

"You are dead," he said, in a voice that pleaded for Treize to deny this, to reveal that the last year had not happened, that it had all been a hallucination.

"That is correct." Treize did not appear bothered by confirming his own demise. As far as Zechs could recall, Treize had never seemed flustered, no matter what had happened.

Zechs was at a loss of words. While he had not really expected a negative answer, it was still shocking to hear the affirmation. In the back of his sleeping mind he wondered if he could have been drugged or something similar. It would explain this entire situation. Shaking his head, he pinched himself, which ought to determine whether this was a dream or not. According to forensic experience regarding this matter, he should be awake. The throbbing pain in his lower left arm seemed quite clear about that.

"Please stop hurting yourself, Milliard," Treize requested, laying a hand on the hurting spot and rubbing gently. "I assure you that this can be explained."

Motioning for him to go on, Zechs drew his arm back, breaking the contact. If he wanted to understand this, he would need a cool head, and that was close to impossible as long as Treize massaged his skin comfortingly.

"I need your help with an important matter, my friend, that was the reason for me to come to you. A war is going to begin, a war that should not be taking place. There is nothing I can do, but you have the means to prevent it from turning into a major bloodshed. Milliard, I..."

"Wait," Zechs interrupted. "When you said you would explain, I thought you were talking about why- how you are here."

"I see." Treize seemed mildly surprised that he would be interested in this. "I suppose you can pick your explanation. Depending on your favorite eschatology I could be a wraith, or an earthbound soul. Perhaps I have been granted the state of a kami. Maybe I have been denied entrance into both Heaven and Hell." He smiled, and shook his head. "Do not concern yourself about this. I have found that it is of no importance."

Zechs looked at him incredulously. "You are saying that you are a ghost?"

"In the broadest sense, yes." He paused, appearing to gauge Zechs' reaction. "Do you have further questions, Milliard?"

"No... yes... I mean, why have you come now? Why not earlier? Is it only possible for you to do this right now?"

Treize took a few steps to the right, into the shadows of the trees, and sat down on a bench that had been placed against one of the broad trunks. "It seems that I can go wherever I please, whenever I please," he explained. "All I need to do is concentrate on a location or a person in order to be there. But I have been degraded to a mere watcher, standing at the rim of reality without being able to interfere."

Zechs blinked. "Is this why I see you now, when I am asleep?"

Sighing, Treize nodded. "That is part of the reason as far as I have been able to discover. Mental barriers are lowered in sleep, and your conscience is switched off so it can't fight things you should not normally see."

"But why only now?" Zechs asked, frowning a little. "What made you wait for so long?" Had Treize been wondering whether speaking to him was worth the effort after what had occurred between them in the final battle?

"Milliard, I did not realized you had survived. The explosion that killed me was weaker by far than what your suit has been put through. A collapsing fusion reactor and a shot from Wing Zero's buster rifle... I did not expect you to have survived." Treize gave him a pleased smile. "It seems that I have underestimated the Epyon and its pilot."

"How did you find out about me? That I am here?"

Treize leaned back, looking up at Zechs. "I thought about you. Then I found myself here." He shrugged. "This happens sometimes."

Settling down on the bench next to Treize, Zechs ran a weary hand through his hair, smoothing long strands back into place. This was so hard to believe, but in some twisted way it made sense, as long as he was willing to distance himself from the rational part of his mind that kept trying to convince him that ghosts and suchlike did not exist.

"I feel like Hamlet," he eventually said.

Treize offered a smile. "There are more things in Heaven and Earth," he quoted, "than are dreamt of in your philosophy... and indeed there is something rotten in the state. Which brings me back to my original concern."

"The war," Zechs murmured.

"The war," the other man repeated. "Milliard, surely you remember Mariemeia Barton."

Nodding tiredly, Zechs leaned back, fighting the urge to massage his temples, and eventually losing the battle. Even though he was dreaming this was causing him a headache. And being reminded of Mariemeia did not really make it any better; Zechs had never been completely sure what to think of the girl, whether Treize felt obligated to her or not. It had not seemed so, considering that he had never taken any steps to meet her. In his opinion, as he had explained to Zechs once, his world of politics and soldiers was not suited for a child, therefore she was better off with the family of her mother.

"What is happening?" Zechs asked, seemingly studying the grass at his feet. "And why is she involved? Surely she is too young to play politician yet."

Treize sighed again. "Maybe, but she is not too young to serve as a symbol for the Barton Foundation."

Zechs raised a pale eyebrow, encouraging the other man to continue.

"It appears that Dekim Barton is launching a second attempt to reach his goal, and this time the chances of success are higher by far. He is already gathering troops who are willing to sacrifice their lives for Mariemeia, to make sure that she takes the place she has, in their eyes, rightfully inherited." Treize paused, closed his eyes. "I should have foreseen that my becoming the World Nation's Sovereign would have those consequences. There was no possibility that the Barton Foundation would ever let this opportunity slip through their hands, to crown the next Queen of the World."

"But what is he trying to do? Use her as a figurehead and take over the Earth?" Zechs frowned. "This has not worked with Relena either, so why now?"

"Your sister, Milliard, was old and stubborn enough to resist the attempts Duke Dermail made at controlling her, and she had his granddaughter at her side. Mariemeia has no faithful allies to rely on."

Zechs frowned even more. Treize's view of Dorothy seemed to be somewhat different from how he recalled her. "The Preventers must have noticed. I can't imagine that Lady Une is that blind."

Crossing his legs, Treize settled into the customary position and gave Zechs a long look, as if he were trying to read something in his expression. Zechs had no idea what it might be, but he nevertheless defiantly made a blank face.

"Lady Une may be competent, but she does not have the imagination to see those things." Treize paused, running a white-gloved hand through his hair in an exasperated gesture that seemed completely out of character for him. Exasperation and Treize did not fit together. "And for once she did not listen to me. I rather wish she would have chosen a better first time for this."

Trying to make sense of this, Zechs eventually reached the only possible conclusion. "You have gone to her already?" He was not quite sure why he felt hurt by knowing this; maybe because it seemed that Treize had rather confided in Une than in him.

Treize nodded slowly, but nevertheless firmly. "She was the most obvious choice. But other than you she does not have any faith in things that are beyond her comprehension. She believed me to be just another nightmare from a past she only dimly recalls." Treize sounded as piqued as it was possible for him, and Zechs couldn't help a small grin hushing across his face. His beloved just was not used to being ignored.

"And so you decided that you should rather talk to me?" Zechs asked, the grin having softened into a smile.


Zechs' eyebrows shot up.

"I spoke to Chang Wufei. But he did not understand what I was trying to tell him, and has by now joined the ranks of Dekim's soldiers. He thinks that in this way he can atone for winning our last duel, and assure that my malicious spirit will not torment him." Treize shook his head. "I wish he had not made such a rash decision."

"So what you are saying is that the Barton clan is trying to gain control over the World Nation by using your daughter and your name as a way to rectify their doings, that they have a Gundam pilot on their side, and that nobody on Earth suspects?" Zechs hid his face in his hands wearily.

"That is correct," Treize said calmly. "And they also have Gundam 05, together with the resources to build a quite impressive number of highly developed Mobile Suits."

"Treize, the Earth cannot face this, they do not even come close to having the means of fighting this threat." An edge of desperation was sneaking into Zechs' voice; he had been trying to destroy the Earth before, but had finally made his peace with the planet that had left him so angry and disappointed. Nobody had the right to destroy the fragile peace for which Zechs had fought. For which he had given up so much. For which Treize had died...

"You are absolutely right, my friend. The Earth's weapons policy has left them defenseless and vulnerable. But there are always warriors left whose purpose of existence is to defend those who cannot fight for themselves." Treize was falling back into that soft tone of voice he had always used when talking about his philosophical views. "The people cannot take more bloodshed, thus the soldiers left from the wars, and those who are soldiers at heart must stand up to protect them. And they must win, for if they lose, the faith in the ability to maintain peace will be shaken to the bone."

"Maybe it is like this," Zechs slowly replied, "but you are overlooking something. There are only six true soldiers left."

"You and the Gundam pilots. But that is enough. You can be the knights in shining armor whom the Earth needs. The pieces will soon fall into place."

Zechs looked up at this again questioningly, hoping that Treize would elaborate. Listening to his beloved's thought processes was something he had always enjoyed, and this time was no exception. Once again Treize seemed to be the only one who knew all the intricacies and the players of the game, while the rest of the world was left to guess for themselves.

"Heero Yuy is beginning to look into the right direction, what the Barton Foundation is doing will not go unnoticed by him." Treize folded his hands around one knee. "And once he knows, he is going to do whatever he deems appropriate. And the remaining pilots will know, and will follow his lead."

"But aren't you afraid that he might decide that killing Mariemeia is the easiest way to prevent the war?" Zechs asked, remembering only too well his own shock at hearing how close Heero had sometimes gotten to executing Relena.

Treize's expression turned thoughtful, and he remained silent for a few moments. "Assassinating her would only postpone Dekim Barton's ambitious plans, and it would turn the Gundam pilots into the targets for the hatred of the people. There is a difference between killing the leader of an army," once again Treize seemed to be absolutely untouched by referring to his own death," and a young child. I can only hope that they know this, but I have faith in their intelligence and their sense of justice. Mariemeia is one of the innocents in this war, one of those who need to be protected. I trust both Chang Wufei and Dekim Barton that they will take care of her, either out of the need to gain redemption in my eyes, or to reach long-pursued goals."

"You may be right, Treize," Zechs said softly. "I hope you are, I would not want to see her suffer either. But there is so little that can be done, facing an army without having any weapons."

"There are the Gundams. That they have been hidden from public view does not mean that they have been destroyed. And then there is the new Tallgeese model." Treize smiled at him. "A true masterpiece, my friend. To say that I was impressed when I saw it for the first time would be an understatement."

There it was, the praise Zechs had been so yearning to hear, and so convinced that it would never come. Appreciative words from Treize had never been too hard to receive, since he had made a point of honoring even the smallest achievements. But to hear true pride shimmer through the words for once...

"At least half of the suit is your merit," Zechs finally said, looking into Treize's face and searching for acknowledgement.

Treize bowed his head, not breaking eye contact. "Epyon may be part of the Tallgeese, but we are only talking about the mechanics here. You designed it, so it carries a piece of your soul, the many hours of thought you have poured into the plans and blueprints. You asked the right questions to find the solutions. You supervised the hermeneutic process, Milliard. So do not attribute the new Tallgeese to me."

Zechs shook his head firmly, then lowered his gaze to the ground. "I built the suit so I could have a part of you with me all the time. Don't destroy this thought for me just for the sake of saying that you like my work."

"As you wish, my friend." Treize paused for a moment, apparently pondering whether to say something else, and eventually deciding. "I have noticed that you did not install the Zero System."

At this Zechs looked up sharply. "I don't need it."

"I am not reprehending you, merely making an observation." Treize reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder, and Zechs all but trembled at the touch. "In fact I would have been considerably surprised if you had included it."

"The system is not necessary any longer," Zechs said, his voice sounding raw even to him. "There are no more Mobile Dolls, so there is no reason for me to use it."

"So you understood in the end." Treize seemed pleased.

"Perhaps I did," he replied. "What does Dekim have against us? What machinery?" He was falling into the old line of pre-battle proceedings again, habits returning to the surface. Habits were comforting. They kept his mind off the weirdness of this situation and focused on more graspable things.

"The Barton Foundation has no Virgos, but they have been designing a new Mobile Suit model." Treize was definitely not content with this. "The thirteenth zodiac sign, they call it. Apparently they believe this to be a fitting analogy to my name." This was said with slight disgust in his voice, and Zechs shot him a small, comforting smile, knowing that his beloved must loathe to be used as a symbol like this.

They remained silent for a while, just keeping each other company. In the past they had so rarely had time to simply relax, with Treize's plans progressing so fast that they both had sometimes been struggling to stay ahead of them. But those small moments when there were no strategies to pursue, no pieces to be shoved into place, those moments were what had kept them together. And back then, just like now, the time was never enough. Zechs knew that he would have to decide what to do, whether to believe what he was experiencing or to put it down as a dream. And Treize... he could only guess that his beloved would not simply sit still and do nothing. Treize was not a passive bystander.

And neither was Zechs himself, now that he thought about it. He could have very well stayed out of the war if he had chosen to do so. Disappearing in space would have been easy after leaving Romafeller; but instead he had agreed to lead the White Fang just to do something.

"Tallgeese III," Treize suddenly said into the silence. "The sum of model I and II. You and me. Did you ever think about this?"

Slowly Zechs shook his head. Treize's love for symbolism in names sometimes baffled him. The man could read a meaning into everything. "It was the logical number to add."

"Oh, of course," came the assurance. "But still it is a beautiful coincidence."

Zechs tried to blink away the blurriness that was beginning to cloud his gaze. He didn't quite feel as if he was about to cry again, but his eyes seemed to try to tell him differently.

"You will need to test the suit," Treize said. "I have noticed that you have refrained from doing that until now." He raised an elegant eyebrow. "Is there a particular reason for it?"

"No." No, there was no reason for it, apart from Zechs working himself to exhaustion, and from not wanting to admit that all he had done since the achievement of Treize's glorified peace had been building another weapon, superior to those he knew. Testing the Tallgeese would only have confirmed that; as long as the suit was not officially declared functioning and in working condition, Zechs did not have to think about what monster he had created. Again he blinked, but it didn't help at all.

"You should better do it soon. I do not wish to see you injured because of a flaw in the suit that could have easily be noticed in a proper field test."

"There will be no tests," Zechs stated firmly.

"Why not, Milliard?"

"The Tallgeese is complete. I will not alter anything any longer... if I have made a mistake, I want it to be my last." He hesitated, refused to meet Treize's eyes. "I have made so many mistakes."

He knew exactly what look Treize was giving him right now, didn't have to see it in order to be able to describe it. The exact expression his beloved had always used to wear when Lady Une had done something wrong. Forgiving as if whatever had happened did not matter in the least. Mildly reprehending, but more a formality than a true admonition.

Sometimes he really wished Treize were not this understanding when it came to mistakes. Believing that the flaws of human nature were beautiful in their own way was fine with Zechs, but there were days when he just wanted to loathe them for being the errors they were. Treize, on the other hand, tended to cherish imperfection as long as it came in a wrapping glorious enough.

"Millard, the Tallgeese has to be operational. We must not risk it." Treize grasped his wrist in a loose grip. "Its being as strong as I know it to be is what will be a major factor for the outcome of this conflict. We must assure that Dekim Barton's troops meet their match, and the Gundam pilots cannot be depended on to be there yet."

"Why are you involving yourself again?" Zechs asked, beginning to feel weary. "Surely you could do other things." He couldn't help the thought crossing his mind that Treize viewed his death as a minor nuisance in his plans to bring peace to Earth and the Colonies, and he did not like this particular thought at all.

The hand holding Zechs' wrist moved upwards to cup his chin and to exert gentle pressure to make him look at Treize. "The current events are results of my actions in life. I feel that it is my responsibility to deal with them, since I have been the one to cause them in the first place." He smiled. "For lack of a better explanation, I am tidying up the mess I left behind."

Zechs blinked once again, then raised a hand to rub at the corner of his eye. The blurriness just didn't go away.

Treize was watching him. "You are waking up," he said.


"Your body is leaving the R.E.M. phase, and you are stopping to dream."

"No," Zechs whispered as the implications of this sank in. "Please... I don't want you to leave..." He desperately reached out, caught Treize in a tight embrace as if he could just prevent his beloved from leaving like this. Treize let himself be held, even moved closer to rest his arms around Zechs' waist. "Treize, please..."

Treize raised a hand to stroke long strands away. "Milliard, the next time you sleep, I will already be waiting for you if you want me to." He leaned forward, brushed his lips lightly across Zechs', the gesture immediately answered, Zechs putting all his despair, his relief into the kiss, deepening it and not letting go, not ever wanting to do that. More than a year since he had last been able to do this, since he had held his beloved, his Treize in his arms. To feel him as a solid presence once more when this had so surely been lost forever.

They finally drew back, both breathing hard, and Zechs yearned for this moment to last forever, but already began to actually feel his body surfacing from the depths of sleep.

Anguish in the movements of his hands as he reached for Treize again, as his mouth was claimed once more in a kiss by his beloved, leisurely this time. His hands desperately trying to hold onto the newly recovered, miraculous solidness of a body thought to be lost to him forever, even as he felt his own conscience fading. The feeling of fingers combing through his hair, tucking the strands behind his ears, was the last thing Zechs was aware of, together with Treize's taste on his tongue, the sound of his breathing in his ears.

Zechs woke up with a start, looking around quickly, fervently hoping to find Treize there with him yet knowing that this at least was an impossibility. Of course, the room was empty save for him. Nobody else was there. But he could nevertheless still feel the arms around his waist, the lips against his mouth. Could still hear the beloved voice.

There was nothing to convince Zechs that he had not just experienced a most intense and real-appearing dream, nothing at all; yet he was absolutely certain that Treize had not been a hallucination. His beloved was far too complex, too unique, to be a figment of his imagination.

Reaching for the switches on the nightstand, he scheduled a general meeting with the technicians in the morning, to carry out all tests necessary to confirm the Tallgeese's operability and capacities under battle conditions, and also gave out the order that this project would end within the next 24 hours, that he would leave with the Mobile Suit and that nothing of this was to be mentioned to anybody.

For the first time since leaving OZ and Treize behind, Zechs actually felt at peace.

The End

La Casa