Lightning Arc 5 - Winter

Fandom: Gundam Wing
Rating: M for references to an intimate Zechs/Treize relationship.
Pairing: Zechs and Treize
Warnings: m/m love and some references to m/m sex, some swearing - if you are hoping for explicit scenes though, you are likely to be disappointed.
Spoilers: everywhere, in all my stories

Summary: Zechs is about to break away from Treize, leave OZ and the Foundation to better fight his private war for revenge. He does not entirely understand Treize's dealings with the Foundation anymore, and to him, Treize has betrayed their ideals. But old habits die hard, and old affections tend to root deeper than expected. Treize coaxes him into spending one last Christmas at the Khushrenada estate in Russia. Memories of coming out and getting together, some lighthearted, some wistful...

Many thanks to Karina and to the anonymous reviewer who let me know that they liked this story - cheers!

xxx

Chapter 1 - Winter Morning

A few days of reprieve, Zechs thought as he took his place opposite Treize at the table by the French doors. Through the bevelled glass, painted with blooms of ice, he could see the snowbound park, bare trees groaning under their glittering load, the fountain grey and lifeless in the midst of this cold splendour.

The drawing room was more intimate and much plusher than the rest of the house, with dark red carpets that swallowed every footfall and walls panelled with matte walnut. This winter morning, a hushed silence filled the room, most guests still in their rooms after a night of dancing and drinking – a Christmas ball at the Khushrenada estate was no trifling matter.

Treize seemed unaffected by the amounts of drink he had downed, and Zechs, who felt the slight twinges of a hangover, wondered enviously how he did it.

Yes, he would spend a few good days here in this place that was as close to a home as he everknew,before taking a leap into the dark. Before he would leave all this behind for good, and become the enemy of the man who had been his friend and companion for most of fifteen years. And Treize had to know. He simply could not have missed all the signs, and then he had confirmed this with his secret visit at the Antarctic base. Zechs shifted a little on his seat as he spread a starched white napkin on his lap.

The Foundation had taken a dislike to his work, to his ideas, to him, full stop, and he had, finally, dared to defy them. By hiding his own gundam and that of Heero Yuy after their latest encounter at the old, cold base in the middle of a white wasteland, buried beneath hundreds of yards of ice and snow. He knew too much now, of Zero and its harrowing side effects, of the Foundation's plans for unmanned warfare against civilians, and he owed them no loyalty. He also knew the solution they had to this kind of problem.

Treize's visit had been as shockingly unexpected as the invitation for Zechs to join him for Christmas. Zechs watched for a moment, wondering how Treize could appear so at ease – he himself had felt tense enough to shatter during their journey into the heart of the Russian winter. Treize had flown his private jet and behaved as if nothing was wrong.

But he knew, Zechs mused painfully, he knew everything. And he was braving the situation with the courage of a man about to die. Determined to buy some time for them together before everything they held dear would vanish in the haze of fire and blood they had managed to stave off so far.

Time to face the music, Zechs thought and suppressed a sigh. He felt ill, without appetite, and had no eye for the pallid splendour of the winter morning.

Treize appeared to be unaffected. He reached for the soured cream (1) and spooned a generous blob onto his plate with currant bread and rose jelly (2). The table, though prepared in haste after he had demanded breakfast be set up in the drawing room for him and Zechs, was decked out with handwoven linen (3) as white as the snow that blanketed the park, and glittered with silver and crystal in the watery light of the winter sun.

Swathes of light brightened the dusky interior. It was cold, the tiled fireplace on one side of the room cleaned of ashes and embers and restacked with applewood, but not lit, and Treize had opened the French doors to the terrace a little. It smelled of frost, stale smoke, leather and wood polish, of tea extract that bubbled away in a tiny silver pot atop a gleaming copper samovar (4) on a side table, of fresh toast and the rose marmalade. The toast being a concession to Zechs because he could never get used to the strong flavour of the rye bread (5) Treize favoured.

Zechs wondered whether his friend did feel the chill at all, but he was loath to disrupt the calm that had settled between them. It was as though they had drifted back in time, right into the cherished memories of happier days.

Suddenly, he felt oddly constrained in this still room. He leaned back, picked up his glass of tea – no larger than a shot glass, finely etched with rose patterns around the rim, and encased in delicate silver filigree (6) that formed a handle – and sipped some while watching Treize eat. Mannerly spreading set honey on a slice of black bread he had picked from the basket, topping it with cream, and cutting small bites to pick up with a silver fork. He could wolf down his field rations like any soldier if need must be, but here, he relished the ritual.

Zechs felt a small smile settle in the corners of his mouth, and even when he thought himself unobserved, Treize gave him a glance from beneath slightly mussed bangs. He was in a state of undress indeed, wearing expensive designer denims and a grey mohair jumper with turtleneck, not to mention his hair that refused to stay in form this morning and kept falling into his face. A brilliant smile, all light and steel, and Treize set down his fork and reached for his own glass of tea. He added brown rock sugar from a small crystal bowl, and scooped a spoonful of marmalade to eat with his tea.

"Now, how do you feel about a ride this morning?" he asked, all innocence, though this time it was a rather heated glance that glittered at Zechs over the rim of the glass. "The horses would enjoy it, and I meant to visit the dacha (7) to indulge in some moments of whimsy."

"Yes."

"You are way too gloomy, my friend." Treize dabbed his lips with a linen serviette and leaned back in his chair to unashamedly contemplate his younger companion.

Zechs felt his face heat up under this scrutiny, not from shame but with a mixture of confusion, sorrow and desire, but he held this gaze and was rewarded with a softening of Treize's features and the familiar passing shade of melancholy.

Treize tossed the wrinkled serviette onto his plate and rose. "Let me try to brighten you up. You will find your riding kit has been brought up to your room. I will meet you in the saddle chamber when you are ready."

xxx

Next chapter: Silent Woods

Notes:
(1) soured cream – is served with and/or part of many Russian dishes
(2) rose jelly/marmalade – made of rose petals and sugar, a traditional Russian sweet to go with tea which is usually taken strong and with lemon, or strong and plain, rarely with milk or cream
(3) Russian handwoven, bleached linen – a tradition and now an exorbitant luxury
(4) samovar – a contraption, either electric or coal operated, of a round kettle on usually three legs, a small tap at the lower half of the 'belly', and a rack for a pot to brew tea extract at the top; can be plain or extremely elaborate, cylindrical or onion shaped; the water simmers in the kettle while the extract is brewing – to prepare tea, some extract is poured into a glass and filled up with water until the desired strength is achieved
(5) Russian bread comes in virtually hundreds of variations, from fluffy white wheat, over fruit loaves and mixed rye/wheat grey bread, to strong black rye, with or without grains, nuts, raisins, almonds, etc. – not to mention treacle, honey and ginger breads
(6) silver filigree – traditional tea glasses are plain glasses encased in a metal weave that provides the handle
(7) dacha – lodge or summer house