Alright everyone it's the last chapter. And remember this is a canon story so you should have an idea of what's going to happen but first the responses.

Ryua Malfoy: No you had a response but my part got erased or something. Fei's part didn't though. Glad you enjoyed the story! n.n Also I wanted to thank you cause me just realized you've reviewed five of the stories moi have posted! (hugs) And I swear I'm working on my stories if you were curious!

Ellrohan: (scratches back of neck nervously) ummmmm… we'll seeing as its canon… yeah.

And to Rune Essence: Hope that you enjoy the ending.

Now chances are you'll need some tissue by the end so have some handy! Enjoy everyone.

Chapter 14: Separation

Responsibility was a terrible weight, crushing all the joy and spontaneity out of Treize's life. Everywhere he turned, people needed him to take command, issue orders, make decisions. He did what was needed because he was good at it, and because he believed he was the best person to be taking charge, especially of Oz. But the unwavering loyalty of so many innocent soldiers unnerved him. These people were ready to die for him. All he had to do was ask. They loved him. They trusted him. And he had a responsibility to honor that trust. He just didn't see why he had to give up his own happiness to do it.

Une watched him from the other side of his desk. She had brought him the latest set of reports from Pancevo. After the death of Dalken Curzon, Treize had stayed in Luxembourg to let the dust settle. This was where his power base lay, so he stayed while the Alliance senior command tried to figure out what to do. The messy relationship between the Alliance and Romafeller had been exposed. If they did nothing to Treize for killing a fellow officer, it would send a very bad message to other aristocrat-soldiers in the ranks. On the other hand, they could hardly send Treize to prison. It seemed likely that they would ask him to relinquish his command. However, he would retain his position as Commander of Oz, so in the end it would mean little.

Except for one thing: Zechs.

Une sighed in exasperation. "As long as Count Zechs is with you, people will speculate. You need to reassign him, for his sake as well as your own."

Treize glared at her. "There's no reason for that, Lady Une. I proved that there is nothing between us."

"All you did was kill a man who deserved to be killed." Une took off her glasses and leaned over the desk. In her eyes, Treize could see the old Une he remembered; the kind, compassionate woman whose opinion he trusted. "Whatever you may feel for him, Treize, it cannot be about just the two of you any more. The general is dead. The whole world is depending on you now. You must step forward and lead us. We need you."

Treize didn't want to listen to her, but he knew she was right. He was being selfish. But knowing that didn't stop his heart from breaking. He would have to give Zechs up. The thought crushed him. He wanted to weep. He wanted to tell her how much he loved Zechs, how much he needed him, but he couldn't. He could never tell anyone, because it could be used against him. Even Une, in her dark and angry persona, might use it against him. And if he was to be an effective leader, he could have no weaknesses, no Achilles heel, to drag him down. He met her gentle gaze and nodded.

"Of course, Une, you're right. Transmit coded orders at once that I will be assuming permanent command of the Specials." He rose, standing ramrod straight with his shoulders back and his head up. "I'm placing Cole Vernon in command of this unit. I'll transfer Zechs Merquise to the Victoria Base Academy to train cadets in the new Aries mobile suits."

"And what are my orders, Sir?" Une slipped her glasses back on her face.

"You'll stay with me as my second." He smiled, but it was a sad smile. "You have always backed me up when I needed it most, Lady Une. I'm going to need that now. We'll both have bloody hands before the end."

- - - - - - -

Treize sat for a long time at the small desk in his room, staring at nothing. He should be working, but he couldn't concentrate. He wanted to see Zechs. It was all he could think about. He'd sent for him, but he wasn't sure if Zechs would come. Zechs knew what was happening. It was very late when Zechs finally knocked on his door. Treize knew it was him from the way he knocked.

"Come in, Zechs."

Zechs entered. As he closed and bolted the door behind him, Treize noticed something tucked under his left arm.

"What's that?"

"It's a mask." Zechs held it out so Treize could see it. It was as much a helmet as a mask, designed to cover his head as well as the upper part of his face. "I bought it a few days ago." He looked unhappy. "Someone called me by my old name the other day. That hasn't happened for a long time." He studied the mask thoughtfully. "I decided that if people couldn't see my face, maybe they would finally forget my ancestry, as I've tried to."

"Do you really want to forget?"

"I can't be a soldier and a Peacecraft, Treize."

Treize nodded without answering. His path wasn't the only difficult one. He looked up at Zechs and couldn't think of anything else to say. "Will you stay?"

"I shouldn't."

"I know, but I need to be with you right now."

Zechs put the mask down on the dresser at the foot of the bed and crossed the room to Treize. He put his hands on Treize's shoulders and leaned over to kiss him deeply.

They made love looking into each other's eyes. Treize let his fingers catch in the silken strands of Zechs' hair, lost in the azure depths of his beautiful blue eyes. Zechs wrapped his arms and legs around Treize and held Treize tight against him.

"Never in my life have I wanted anything as much as I want you, Zechs Merquise," Treize whispered. "I treasure every moment I've spent with you."

Zechs didn't answer him. Instead, he lifted his mouth to Treize's and kissed him gently.

They both knew it would be a mistake for Zechs to spend the night. They made love until the early morning hours, but finally, exhausted and fulfilled, they rose and dressed.

Treize looked out the small window above the desk, lifting his eyes to the stars. "War is coming and loyalties will change. Know that I will always love you, Zechs, with every breath I draw, including my last."

"I will always stand by you, Treize."

Treize shook his head. "No, don't promise me that. I don't want you to become like Une. Promise me that you will always do as your heart tells you, and if you find that you must take a different path from mine, don't hesitate." He turned to look at Zechs. How would he ever find the courage to end their affair? After so long, how could he bear the emptiness of his life without Zechs at his side, in his arms, in his bed? He drank in the sight of the handsome Count: the beautiful face, the strong muscular body, the shimmering cascade of his silver hair. He could remember every curve, every hollow, the taste and the scent of him. There was no denying the necessity of what he must do, but he hated it. He hated duty. He hated honor. He wanted to throw it all away and spend the rest of his life making love with Zechs.

But he couldn't do that. He had not been raised to put his love and his passion above the honor of his name and his station in life. But for a moment, he closed his eyes and imagined it. He let a lifetime of happiness flow before his closed eyelids. Then he opened his eyes and met Zechs' soft blue gaze.

"We cannot be lovers any more, Zechs," he said softly. "It is time for me to remember my place in society, in Romafeller. I have to take up the duty for which I was raised and guide Romafeller and Oz into the future. And I cannot do that when I care more about you than the future of the world."

Zechs nodded. There were tears in his eyes. "I know." He looked forlornly around the room for a moment, then spotted the mask he had brought with him. Slowly, he moved to pick it up. He stared at it for a moment, clasped between hands that trembled slightly, and drew in a long breath. He looked up at Treize. "I respect your decision, Treize, and I accept it. I understand why you must do this." He turned the mask slowly in his hands. "My face is the last thing that ties me to the Peacecraft family. Although I have not used that name for a long time, it is time for me to let it go completely. As long as I wear this mask, I will dedicate my life to the service of Oz." He started to lift the mask over his head, but then he stopped. "Will you kiss me one last time?"

Treize didn't hesitate. He immediately stepped close and enfolded Zechs in his arms. He pressed his lips against Zechs', his tongue stroking lovingly across Zechs' lips and tongue in a kiss that was more familiar than breathing. They held each other for a long time, reluctant to let go, reluctant to end that final embrace. But at last Treize drew his mouth away and looked into Zechs' eyes.

"I will never say these words to you again," he whispered, "but let them echo in your heart for the rest of time: I love you, Zechs Merquise."

"I love you, Treize Kushranada," Zechs whispered back. He stepped away from Treize's embrace and lifted the mask over his head. It settled into place, hiding his face from Treize's intent gaze. Then he saluted smartly, turned on his heel and marched from the room.

As the door closed behind him, Treize felt something warm on his cheek. Lifting his hand to brush it away, he discovered he was weeping. He stared in amazement at the moisture on his fingertips. He had only wept twice in his adult life and both times had been because of Zechs Merquise. He bowed his head and let the tears fall.

"I give my life to the future of the world, Milliardo Peacecraft. I give my death to you."

The End

(Sniff) That's all everyone