Paradigms
by Lara
November 2001

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.

Warnings: angst, somewhat disturbing imaginiery

Lots of thanks to CC for beta reading *hugs*


The room felt wrong. The moonlight that fell through the wide window was painting everything in a pale colorlessness, and it made the place look far too bright to sleep. And the room was too large, and did not look as if somebody really lived here with all its tidiness and lack of anything personal. No familiar scents, nothing recognizable. Not even the name he had been given just hours ago, with the firm instruction to not use his real one even in his own thoughts.

Zechs shivered a little beneath the blanket. Even the air was wrong, colder than what he was used to. He badly wanted to draw the curtains to shut out the moonlight, but at the same time he could not get himself to move because it would mean crossing all that open space of the floor to get to the window, and then walk back to the bed in darkness. To think of this was scaring him, so he rather stayed where he was, curling up and trying to keep warm.

If he were home now, then he could just go to the closet and take out the additional woolen blanket that the maids stored there. He knew how it would feel like to touch that cream-colored fluffy warmth, and he wanted to have it here as a small bit of comfort. But even if there were blankets stored somewhere, he didn't know where to look for them. Or whether he was allowed to do so. This was not his house, after all. And his parents always said that guests should not do anything they had not been told to do.

His parents... Zechs closed his eyes, pressed his face against the too soft pillow. How he wanted to be with them and not here in this unfamiliar place, all alone and without knowing what would happen now. Deep down he knew that they would never come back to him, that he was alone because he had not tried hard enough to stop the soldiers. He should have been prepared, should have fought them instead of hiding. But his mother had told him to run to the old palace chapel that they never used anymore, and to make sure nobody found him and Relena there. He had obeyed, had stayed there with his sister until the smell of fire and smoke had reached them.

Beneath his cheek, the pillow was wet, and Zechs realized that he had started to cry. He wasn't supposed to do that... Boys didn't cry. But he couldn't stop it, no matter how hard he tried. So embarrassing... he furiously wiped at his cheeks in an attempt to dry them, but it did not help at all. If his mother were here now, she would give him a tissue and tell him that there was no reason for tears. But she wasn't here, nobody he knew was here, and to think of that only made the sobs come faster until he was trembling.

He wanted to go back home, wanted to leave this unfamiliar place and be back where he belonged. If only he could remember the way... For a moment Zechs wondered whether he would be allowed to return at all. When he had led Relena out of the castle and into the gardens to get away from the fire, some people had seen them. Familiar persons, fortunately, and Zechs had been so relieved when he had recognized one of the senators who often came to visit his father. But they all had been in a hurry to get away, and before Zechs had really been aware of what was happening, the senator took Relena to a car and left him behind. Had that been because of Zechs' cowardice? It only seemed logical to him that this had been the reason. Relena had been brave, had not cried and had done all that she had been told.

The man who had brought him here had been familiar to him too, but Zechs could not remember his name, and he hadn't dared ask about that, or where they were going. They had been on a plane for a while, and then a car again, but it had been dark outside so Zechs hadn't been able to see whether he knew the area.

Zechs sat up in bed and backed up to lean against the headboard in an attempt to get his breathing under control again and fight the sickness he was beginning to feel. There was no way he could allow himself to be weak now, not when he had to find Relena again, when he had to find his parents.

Somehow Zechs knew that his mother and father weren't waiting for him at home, but he couldn't quite remember why, no matter how hard he tried. There was a blank in his mind right after he and Relena had left the chapel; all he knew was that he had seen something bad. If only he could remember what it had been, then things might be clearer to him.

A sudden noise somewhere to the right made him flinch before going completely still. Was there something in the room? Holding his breath, Zechs listened as hard as he could, tried to sense any movements, but there was nothing. Or maybe whoever was there knew that Zechs was awake, and was waiting for him to relax again.

No, he couldn't let down his guard at all. Very cautiously Zechs drew up his legs, feeling a little safer with his arms wrapped tightly around his knees. He really, really wanted to be back home, where everything was safe, where he knew that nobody could be in his room. There were just too many shadows here where someone could be lurking; the moonlight did not illuminate all the corners.

He did not dare turn his head when he heard the noise again, a sudden, momentary creaking, almost as if someone were walking on wooden floorboards. Someone had to be in the room, had to be making this noise... but what was Zechs supposed to do about it? Try to find the intruder? The idea scared him, and he knew that he would fail if he attempted to do it, simply because he was not brave enough for it. Maybe he ought to tell the man who had brought him here... yes, that would be the best thing. His host would know what to do about it.

Nevertheless Zechs hesitated for a moment, trying to decide whether it was really alright to wake a veritable stranger because of something like that. But this could be another attack, and if he warned the people here soon enough, maybe they could escape in time... not like his parents...

Decision made, Zechs took a deep breath to steady his nerves, then uncurled and cautiously set his bare feet on the floor. The plush carpet tickled his toes with every careful step he took towards the door, a dark rectangle that stood in sharp contrast to the pale walls. It seemed to take ages until he finally reached his destination, and every moment he expected to be grabbed from behind, to finally spot the source of the noise.

Zechs almost hoped to see it, because then he would not have to make his way through the dark house in search of somebody to tell about this. He didn't even have an idea of where to go... all he had seen of the house had been the entrance area, the stairs leading up to the first floor and the hallway that led to this room. A woman had been waiting at the door for him and the man who had brought him here, and together they had escorted Zechs to the room where he was now. She had been kind to him, had helped him wash the dirt and soot out of his hair and off his skin, and then had tucked him into bed and switched off the light, saying that he had to be tired because it was so late. And Zechs had been tired, still was, but there were so many things on his mind. He was still struggling to comprehend just what was happening here.

The door opened easily when he pressed the handle, and Zechs found himself looking across the hallway he remembered. It was illuminated enough to walk, and he kept touching the wall with one hand as he slowly stepped forward. He felt uneasy to be wandering around in a place he did not know at all, but it was still better than staying in his room; hopefully his hosts would not be angry with him when they found out...

In front of the door next to his own he stopped, not sure whether to knock here or not. There were several other doorways further down the hall, but certainly there had to be another person somewhere here. He would just have to try.

A little uneasily Zechs reached up to straighten the too large pajama top before cautiously knocking at the door, the sound terribly loud against the silence of the night. No answer came from inside, though. Zechs was just wondering whether simply opening the door to see whether this was the right room would be too impolite when the low sound of steps made him freeze.

He wanted to rush back into the familiarity of his own room, but he didn't dare move, just pressed himself into the doorway in the hope of hiding in the shadows there. The steps were drawing closer, but they had turned quieter; whoever was coming was trying not to make any noise.

Zechs was certain that his heart was beating loud enough for the approaching person to hear; the only thing he wanted was to be away from here, to be somewhere safe. Still he stayed where he was, instincts having taken over. Somehow he knew that if he tried to get back to his room he would be spotted, and that it would be a Bad Thing.

The sound of the steps came closer and closer, until Zechs was sure that the person would see him in a second. Desperately he shut his eyes, wishing fervently to be anywhere else than here.

Suddenly a hand touched his shoulder, making him flinch. Caught, his mind whispered to him, and he tried to retreat further into the shadows, but the wall behind him didn't give way.

"Wer bist du denn?" came a whisper of surprise. Zechs didn't understand what was being said, but it did not sound threatening, so he cautiously opened his eyes again and looked at whoever had found him.

An older boy was standing in front of him, with mussed honey-colored hair and eyes that looked like they were gray or blue; it was hard to say, the moonlight was not strong enough to see it clearly. Zechs was staring up at him, completely at a loss for what to do now. This didn't seem to be dangerous, but he had absolutely no idea of how he was supposed to react.

"Was tust du hier?" the boy whispered again, and it sounded like it was a question.

Zechs could only shake his head. "I don't understand you," he said a little helplessly, feeling ridiculously close to tears because of it.

"Ah!" The boy smiled down at him. "What is your name?" he asked, and Zechs felt a rush of relief at hearing words that he could comprehend.

"Mi-" he began, but then broke off as he remembered the instructions from both the man who had brought him here and the senator who had taken Relena away. "Zechs," he said quietly. The name sounded so strange to him, as if he weren't introducing himself but another person he did not know.

"Zechs," the boy repeated carefully, then tilted his head to the side slightly and gave him another smile. "My name is Treize." Zechs noticed that there was a bit of an accent to his words, but it wasn't too bad, merely sounded different from what he was used to.

"Do you live here?" he asked shyly, still trying to make sense of this situation. It was a relief to be in the presence of someone else who was not a danger. And Zechs was rather certain that Treize did not pose a threat to him.

"Yes, I do." Treize looked hesitant for a moment, then reached for the handle of the door against which Zechs had backed up. "Do you want to talk more? Because we will wake my parents if we stay here." He grimaced lightly. "And they are not happy when I am awake at this time."

Zechs weighed his options, and decided that he'd really prefer to be in the company of the other boy. Returning to his room, to the darkness and the noises there, made him feel more than a little uncomfortable.

But what if there truly was someone hiding in his room? Zechs was less certain about it now than he had been before, but the possibility was there. He ought to tell someone... His gaze flicked to Treize for a moment, not entirely sure whether he should say something or not, but then the memories of the previous day came to his mind. Better to mention it and be wrong than having something like that happen again.

"Excuse me, Treize, there... " he started hesitantly. "I think there is somebody in my room..." As he spoke them, the words sounded childish to him, like something young boys and girls would say. This almost was like admitting that he was afraid of the dark. Almost fearfully he looked up at the older boy, not certain what to expect now.

There was no real reason to worry, though. Treize appeared thoughtful for a moment, then nodded firmly. "You sleep there?" he asked, indicating the door to Zechs room.

Nodding in confirmation, Zechs breathed a small sigh of relief at being taken serious about this. The maid that had watched over Relena and him had always put up a smile when he had told her about noises and moving shadows. But he had been younger then, and those impressions had never felt as real as this one had done.

Treize walked over to Zechs' room and pushed the door open cautiously, turning completely still for a moment before taking a step inside and flicking on the light. The intensity of it was almost blinding to Zechs' eyes that were used to the darkness for now, and he couldn't help blinking a few times until he had adjusted again. Warily he followed Treize into the room, not wanting to look like a coward in front of the other boy.

Nobody was there, which made Zechs feel both relieved and embarrassed at the same time. The heat was rising in his cheeks, and he looked down to the floor, studying the pattern of the carpet in order to avoid having to meet Treize's eyes. He should have looked for himself, shouldn't have gone wandering around and bother someone else with things that he had only imagined. And now Treize would think him a little boy who was scared of the dark and who thought that there were monsters lurking in the closet.

"What sort of noise did you hear?" Treize asked, scrutinizing the room still.

Zechs looked up again at this, startled a little by the question. "Creaking," he said, not quite certain how to describe the sound. "Like someone walking on a wooden floor?" he tried hesitantly.

"I see..." Treize turned back to him, and Zechs breathed a secret sigh of relief when he saw that the older boy was still looking serious about it all and was not laughing. "Those noises came from the window. The air is cold outside and quite warm in here, and that makes the old wood creak. Father said that he wants to have the windows replaced as soon as possible because of it." He walked over to Zechs again and patted his shoulder in a friendly way. "Dorothy thought too that there was someone here when she stayed in this room the last time. Don't worry about it."

Dorothy? Zechs wanted to ask who that was, but somehow he couldn't bring himself to do it. His mother had always said that it was impolite to ask questions about persons who were not here. So he just settled for a nod to show that he had understood what Treize had said.

"Thank you," he murmured, then cleared his throat and continued more loudly, "I am sorry that I dragged you here when there was no reason."

Treize made a dismissive gesture. "You just were cautious. That is not a bad thing." He paused for a moment, then took a step towards the door. "You must be tired," he said. "It's late... I'll let you sleep."

Once more Zechs nodded, though what he really wanted to do was ask Treize to stay. The thought of being alone wasn't making him as uneasy as before anymore, but nevertheless he would prefer it if someone were keeping him company.

"Do you have to go?" The words were out of his mouth before he could do anything, and Zechs felt the heat rise in his cheeks. Treize had already said that it was late, and that his parents did not want him to be awake in the middle of the night. So Zechs would just get him into trouble if he prevented him from returning to bed, and that would be the wrong thing to do. Treize had been nice to him, hadn't laughed because of his imaginary intruder, and Zechs truly had no right to make him stay.

Looking at him, Treize raised an eyebrow - they looked somewhat strange, Zechs noticed, with those split ends. "I thought you would want to sleep. You came here late tonight, did you not?"

"Yes," Zechs said, taking a few tentative steps away from the door and further into the room. Then, feeling that more than a one-word answer was expected from him, he added, "a man brought me here, but I am not sure who he is."

"That certainly was my father," came the explanation from Treize. "I haven't heard anyone else come here this night, and I was downstairs until now." He slowly, quietly closed the door, then crossed the room to sit down on the foot end of the bed. "He has been in Sank until today... did you come from there with him?"

So they were not in his homeland any longer? Zechs felt more lost than before at those words; in Sank he would have known how to get back, and everybody there would have helped him to find home. Everybody knew him there, and they were always friendly to him. But here, wherever 'here' was, maybe nobody would have an idea where he belonged.

"I did... where am I?" Zechs asked, the question burning in his mind. Most of the trip had been during the night, and he had fallen asleep sometimes, so it was impossible for him to say how long they had traveled, or in what direction. And that they had been on a plane for a short time did not make it easier at all.

Treize studied his face briefly. "We are near Munich, in Germany," he answered. "But why didn't you know that? Surely you knew where you were going when you left home, didn't you? Someone must have told you... my father, or your family..."

At the mention of his family, the tears came back to Zechs' eyes, and no matter how hard he tried, it was impossible to fight them. He shook his head to answer the questions without having to speak, and raised his hands to try and wipe away this childish dampness. He wasn't supposed to cry...

"Does your family know that you are here?" Treize asked somewhat worriedly.

Wonderful, now he had managed to make the older boy think that he was a baby. Zechs concentrated fiercely on calming down, but the more he tried, the harder it got. His family... just being reminded of them was painful. In his mind he heard his sister's fearful cries as she was carried off to the car, he smelled the fire that had filled the hallways. His throat felt sore at a sudden as he remembered how the smoke made him cough, how it had burned and stung in his eyes.

Vaguely he heard Treize say his name, but he didn't react to it; he was too caught up in memories of the last hours. There had been screams coming from upstairs when he had dragged Relena out, horribly loud, terrified screams that had carried on until shots had made them stop. Strangers in dark green uniforms had been running through the hallways, and Zechs had instinctively ducked into a doorway to hide Relena and himself as they passed.

An explosion had rocked the ground and Relena had fallen, her little dress smeared with dirt from the floor as she had scrambled to her feet again. She had clung to Zechs' hand tightly, and he promised her that he wouldn't let go, that he would keep her safe from everything that was happening. His mother had told him to do so when he had seen her for the last time.

No, not the last time... he had seen her once more, but he didn't want to remember that. If only he could stop remembering the scene, maybe then he would be able to stop the hot tears from flowing down his cheeks. But the images simply were coming, too strong for him to fight. There had been so much blood, and he'd held Relena's wrist in an iron grip to keep her from running over to their mother. No, no longer their mother; she had never been so pale, had never looked like that, her dresses never stained with deep red blood.

"She is dead," he whispered, more to himself than to Treize. Somehow it became more real when he said the words, as if he were speaking the final confirmation that was necessary to make it reality. "They all are dead... Father, Mother, everyone is dead..." Inside himself he felt the anger grow; those soldiers had simply come and started their destruction, even though everyone in Sank was peaceful and harmless. The soldiers had just killed all those friendly and kind people, and no matter how hard he tried, Zechs could not understand why. But what he had learned was that this time weapons had been stronger than all his father could ever have said about peace.


The End


La Casa