The Lilac Princess
Part One

By Lady Dante

Once Upon A Time...

He did it again. Got lost. His mama was going to ground him until he was really old, like 16 or something, and he would never see the forest again. She would convince his father to lock him in the bell tower for the rest of his childhood. Well... that wouldn't be so bad. Next to the forest, the bell tower was his favorite place. He liked sneaking up there to escape the never-ending swarm of grown-ups that invaded his world. Reading his stash of contraband comic books and playing pretend alone for hours in the sanctuary of the tower were two of his favorite pastimes. His mama knew that, so she would come up with a real punishment, such as putting him on bread and water or never let him see Rena again. Those were the worst punishments his 5 year-old mind could conceive. No more sweets and no more play time with his baby sister.

The little boy let his thoughts tumble over each other as he trudged through the brush. Abruptly, he found himself in a particularly dense patch and proceeded to hack at it with his fencing foil. He had cut out of his lesson for this little adventure and he congratulated himself on bringing the rapier with him. He had considered changing into regular clothes and leaving his fencing foil, but decided he needed to be armed should he encounter some nefarious stranger, like a troll or a pirate or a stray ambassador. Besides, he barely had a chance to grab his overcoat before making his escape. He had darted across the perfectly manicured garden, certain his instructor was hot on his heels. Once making it to the edge of the forest, he had thrown himself against a large oak, panting. When he was sure the imperial guards weren't after him, he continued his journey.

And now he was lost. Again. At least it wasn't going to be dark anytime soon. The last time, he had managed to sneak out around dinnertime and wasn't "captured" until well past his bedtime. His mama had actually cried that time and she had made him promise not to run off like that again. He swore to her solemnly. He hadn't meant to lie to his mama, but the forest was just so beautiful this time of year.

The intrepid explorer walked into a clearing and stopped under a small tree to get his bearings. He tried to blow his white-blonde hair out of his eyes. His mother was threatening to have it cut again, claiming it was a crime to hide his beautiful blue eyes. That was actually one of the reasons he escaped this time. He usually managed to avoid the haircuts for several months before being sheared. The boy wanted to let it grow like his father's hair, maybe even grow a beard when he was old enough. Ingrid was his only ally in this-she liked how his hair fell in his face and the way it curled slightly in the back. She would spend a great deal of time combing his unruly mop while telling him stories of dragons and knights or about the people who lived in the forest.

He stood there for several moments, considering his options. Suddenly he was knocked down and pinned to the ground, yelping as he hit the earth. He tried to sit up only to find that what ever had jumped out of the tree-was it a mountain lion?-was on top of him. As he squirmed under the weight, he heard a soft grunt. The little boy quickly concluded that he was being attacked, not by a wild animal, but rather a highway bandit. Alarmed, he struggled free from the weight, whirled around and scooted back, looking for his rapier. He spotted it a few feet to his left and was about to make a dash for it when he spied his mysterious bandit. The boy found himself looking at the stunned face of a little girl, a bit smaller than he, her violet eyes wide with fear. She looked more than a little shaken from the fall. Seeing her frightened expression was enough to quiet the little boy's fear, allowing him to find the courage to speak.

"Geez," he said, rubbing his head, "you should look down before you jump out of trees!" The little girl peered back at him nervously. "Are you all right, Miss?" he inquired politely. He certainly didn't want to anger his mother further by being rude to a stranger.

The little girl just stared at him. The little boy stared back. "Did you hurt yourself, Miss?" He was standing now, and took a couple of steps towards her. She panicked and started running away, but the boy leapt forward and caught her, quick as lightening. "It's all right," he told the little girl, "I'm not mad. I fall out of trees all the time. Mama says it's a wonder I don't break something." He grinned. That seemed to calm the girl somewhat, so he continued, "Ingrid says I got rubber bones and it's amazing I don't bounce." The girl, her head cocked to the side, seemed to be listening to him intently, but she was frowning slightly. "Anyway, I think we're both all right, hmm?" Still no response. Maybe she couldn't talk. "Are you lost, too? My mama's gonna have a fit when I get back. I bet they already sent the Iggies after me," he said, using the funny nickname his nanny, Ingrid, had made up for the Imperial Guards, "and they are NO FUN! The last time I got lost, they had to send out, like 50 of them and they got their uniforms dirty...they hate that.... and one of them fell in the stream and ripped his pants and had to hold the back of them up when he walked and he looked really mad but it was funny." He illustrated the last part by making a funny face and mimicking how the guard had to walk home. He was rewarded for his efforts with a light giggle from the little girl. That pleased him immensely. He decided to make her giggle again. "The Captain...he's in charge of the Iggies...he was trying hard not to laugh at the other guard and his face turned all red and he snorted, like this," he said and proceeded to make a loud snorting sound. The little girl laughed outright that time and the little boy continued with his mostly made up story, enjoying having an audience for once. By the time he finished his wild tale, full of funny faces and noises, the little girl was laughing gleefully. He laughed, too. It was contagious.

When their laughter died down, he took a moment to survey his companion. Her hair was almost to her knees and currently filled with bits of lilacs and grass. Her green dress, actually it looked like a tee-shirt, several sizes too large, came down low, covering all but her lower legs. She wasn't wearing any shoes. Except for the color of her hair, she looked a little like Tinkerbell. A thought suddenly occurred to him. "Are you a fairy or a sprite or something? Ingrid told me about them. I think she said fairies can't talk...or only talk flower languages, or something. Father doesn't like me to believe in stuff like that. He said I'm a genius and too smart to believe in fairies and stuff but Ingrid says you just have to believe in magic sometimes and here you are! You look like the pictures in her fairy storybooks. There was Peter Pan and there was the story of the fairy queen...are you a fairy princess, is that why you have flowers in your hair?" He said all of this in a mad rush, ending his speech by reaching over to pull a lilac bloom out of the girl's dark hair. She jumped a little at the sudden move, but when she saw what the boy was doing, she relaxed and even smiled a bit. The little boy took that as an affirmation of his suggestion. "Cool! I've gotta show you to Father, so he'll believe in magic now. Come On! Oops...I mean, 'Please allow me to escort you home.'" He added a slight bow to the last statement. The little girl just stood her ground, not knowing what to do. The boy suddenly realized he hadn't bothered to introduce himself. She certainly wasn't likely to follow a stranger through the woods, so he stepped forward and said, with more dignity than a 5 year-old should require, "Forgive me, Miss. Where are my manners. I forgot to introduce myself. I am Milliardo Stefan Nicholas Peacecraft, the 6th Marquise of Avann, Crown Prince of Cinq." The girl blinked once and, latching on to the only word she had understood so far, pointed at the boy saying timidly, "Zechs?"

This, naturally, startled Prince Milliardo. She hadn't spoken since the encounter began. He recovered quickly and said, "No, 6...6th Marquise of Avann." The girl smiled, pointed at him again and said, "Zechs Marquise!" with more certainty. "Uh...sort first name's Milliardo, my family calls me Milli...well Father calls me Milliardo and my little sister can't quite say 'Ls' yet, so it sounds like Me-wee, but Mama and Ingrid both call me Milli..." The little girl was starting to look confused. He decided it was better to save the explanations for later. "What's your name?" he said, pointing at her. The little girl reacted strangely to the simple question. She looked down and instinctively grasped her left wrist. He noticed she was wearing some kind of bracelet. Reaching down, he took her hand, gently pulling it towards him for a better look. The bracelet was a rather plain metal band with one word inscribed on its surface, "Noin." Milliardo knew that "noin" was German for 9, but since it was on the bracelet he concluded that it must be her name. He turned her hand to grasp it and said, "How do you do Miss Noin, I am very pleased to know you." Milliardo said with genuine delight. His smile was rewarded with the same from his new friend.

The wind suddenly picked up and Miss Noin shivered. Already the perfect gentleman at the age of 5 (thanks to his mother's instruction), he removed his overcoat and helped Noin put it on. He smiled, once again just a little boy, and grabbed the little girl's hand. "Let's go home," said "Zechs Marquise" as he led "Miss Noin" back to the Peacecraft mansion. At least he hoped that was where they were going.

************* end part one*******************

Umm...well? What do you think? Keep in mind that since they are 5 years old, this occurs BEFORE Cinq falls, so if Zechs/Milliardo seems OOC, it's because he is only 5. Don't worry, I'll explain Noin eventually. I'm hoping this will be part one of a longer story. Let me know what you think. If it sucked, I'm not going to finish it and I won't bother anyone anymore.

P.S. Yeah, yeah, I know. Noin and Zechs weren't supposed to meet until the Academy. I'm not the first (or last) writer to tweak the timeline a bit. And there is NO OFFICIAL explanation as to how or why Zechs chose the pseudonym "Zechs Marquise," so my version is as good as any. Yes, I know I spelled it "Marquise" instead of "Merquise." I did that on purpose because the title "marquise" is spelled with an "A," and that is the basis for my theory of where he got the name he used later. One last thing, in case you didn't figure it out (and if you didn't, I failed in my duties as an author), "Rena" is Milliardo's nickname for Relena. I thought it sounded like the kind of nickname a little boy would come up with. My brother called me something MUCH worse.

Oh yeah, the disclaimer thingy...{ahem} I do not own, nor do I claim to own, Gundam Wing or anything associated with the Gundam Universe. This story is for entertainment purposes only, not for monetary gain. In other words, It AIN'T Mine and I AIN'T Makin' Any Money Off It !! Come on, If I DID own GW, I'd have legions of animators chained to their desks cranking out more episodes. Not to mention paying the top robotics engineers in the world to make a life size animatronic Zechs doll for me to play with...