Warning: This chapter contains some sexual content. It is also the last one.

-o-o-o-

Chapter 14: Separation

General Oswald regarded Treize with a worried frown. "The situation is escalating uncomfortably, Lord Kushranada. I can't order my staff not to file a grievance over this incident. Commander Curzon had friends."

"I understand, General." It was not lost on Treize that the general used his title rather than his rank to address him. "But if I were you, I would make a note of the people who protest the most loudly and perhaps do a little investigating. While I do believe Curzon was acting alone, for the most part, I would not be surprised to find he did have a little help. You may have other traitors to deal with."

"That is an unpleasant thought." General Oswald turned to gaze out the window of Treize's office. "But if Curzon was acting out of hatred toward you and Zechs Merquise…"

Treize brushed his hair back from his face. "That may have been his initial motivation, but Curzon harbored a deep animosity toward all nobles and the Romafeller Foundation. You know as well as I do how pervasive Romafeller's influence is in the Alliance, but it was probably not something Curzon would have been aware of until after he received his commission. But he knew that Romafeller and its members had a lot of clout at the Academy. Imagine how disillusioning it must have been for him to discover it was not just at the Academy." Treize smiled humorlessly. "Perhaps it was that and not his hatred of me or Zechs that turned him into a traitor."

"Perhaps," the general murmured. He turned to face Treize again. "But that still leaves us with our present problem. You killed a fellow officer under questionable circumstances. Even if we later find irrefutable evidence that Curzon was a traitor, without such evidence to produce right now, your act feels uncomfortably close to murder."

Treize chuckled softly. "It would hardly be the first time, General, for myself or an officer in the Alliance."

The general frowned again. "But that does not alleviate the present situation."

"I know."

General Oswald cleared his throat and looked away. "There is an additional area of concern."

"Oh?"

"Zechs Merquise."

"What about him?"

The general looked decidedly uncomfortable. "While I personally accept your statement that you have not been conducting an illicit affair with Lieutenant Merquise, I know for a fact that there are others who are all too ready to believe that you are and that you murdered Curzon to cover it up."

"If Curzon's statement was true that everyone at Luxembourg is aware of my so-called affair, killing him would hardly cover it up." Treize waved a hand dismissively. "I'll tell you the truth, General: I killed Curzon because he was a traitor. His accusation merely gave me an excuse."

General Oswald sighed. "I suspected as much. But that doesn't change anything about what people are saying. There is a lot of speculation. People are questioning why you had him transferred into your unit in the first place."

Treize snorted. "He's the best pilot in the Alliance Military, a superior tactician and a skilled diplomat. He's also one of the smartest people I know. The real question is why everyone else wasn't trying to get him."

"Lieutenant Merquise has… history…" the general began uncomfortably.

"And those who can't see past that are nothing more than fools."

General Oswald nodded, but his unhappy expression didn't change. "As long as Zechs Merquise is on your staff, you will be under constant scrutiny."

"What do you want me to do, General?" Treize growled.

"I know how things are in the Alliance Military, Lord Kushranada. With your position in Romafeller, you could do nothing and probably get away with it." The general fixed Treize with a stern glare. "However, that may play right into the rebels' hands if it causes divisions within the Alliance. And I fear it will."

Treize moved behind his desk and settled into his chair. "I hear you, General Oswald," he said quietly. He leaned forward and rested his chin on one hand. "I knew when I made the decision to kill Curzon it would probably end my military career. But understand one thing: I shall retain control of the Oz Organization whether I'm an officer in the Alliance or not."

"But, Lord Kushranada…"

"I am adamant on this point, General." Treize held General Oswald's eyes until the man nodded. "I am loyal to the Earth Sphere, but I no longer place my complete trust in the Alliance or its military forces. General Catalonia was lost because of treason, don't forget."

"But it is most improper for a civilian to directly command military forces!"

"Then don't let my command become public knowledge. I can keep a low profile." Treize leaned forward and smiled coldly. "You need me, General Oswald, and you know it. General Catalonia's only mistake was not giving the Specials a free enough hand. If they are commanded independently from the normal chain of command, they will be utterly free to respond to any situation. I will defeat the rebels, General. Count on it."

Treize and the general stared at each other for several minutes without speaking. Finally, General Oswald dropped his gaze and blew out his breath in a long sigh. "Very well, Lord Kushranada, I will recommend that you be allowed to resign without disciplinary action. However, before then, you need to openly put distance between yourself and Zechs Merquise to leave no doubt about the nature of your relationship with him."

Treize inclined his head in acknowledgement. "I will consider your advice very seriously, General Oswald."

-o-o-o-o-o-

During the weeks following Curzon's death, Treize assisted in the transition of the new command at Pancevo. He left Zechs in Luxembourg, as General Oswald had advised, but the separation left him miserable. He called Zechs every night, doing his best to sound upbeat, but Zechs could still hear the heartache in his voice.

"How is Commander Fenadine working out?" Zechs asked.

"She'll do," Treize replied. "She doesn't have a sense of humor, but Pancevo needs someone with a no-nonsense attitude right now."

"When do you think you'll be coming back?"

"Next week, I hope. How are things going there? Who's angling to replace me as Base Commander?" Treize spoke lightly, but Zechs heard the frustration in his tone.

"No one wants to replace you, Treize."

"Senior Command can't leave me in charge of Luxembourg, Zechs."

Zechs didn't answer.

"You know they can't," Treize continued with a sigh. "Remember, many of the senior officers are not part of Romafeller and are as resentful of Romafeller's influence as Curzon was. It will be better for everyone if I step down. In fact, it will leave me free to act as I see fit as commander of Oz."

"I understand all that," Zechs said quietly. "But those of us serving at Luxembourg are still loyal to you."

"I know and I'm grateful. That's why all of you are members of Oz."

"I wish I could see you," Zechs whispered.

"I'll be back in Luxembourg next week. We can talk about what happens next then."

"Very well." Zechs let the conversation end without saying anything else. He knew he sounded as heartbroken as Treize did.

-o-o-o-o-o-

Treize accepted the necessity of his new role in the Oz Organization, but the responsibility wiped all the joy and spontaneity out of his 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. Giving up his commission and command of Luxembourg didn't really bother him. The thought of giving up Zechs crushed him.

Une sighed in exasperation as she watched him from the other side of his desk. She had returned with him from Pancevo earlier that week, along with the rest of the unit. She had been much happier with Zechs in Luxembourg while Treize was in Pancevo, but now that they were back together, she had become cold and hard again.

"As long as Count Zechs is with you, people will continue to ask questions," she said flatly. "You need to reassign him, for his sake as well as your own."

Treize glared at her. "General Oswald has already given me that advice, Lady Une. I am considering it."

"You need to do more than consider it." 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 anymore. General Catalonia is dead. Everything depends 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 and the thought nearly brought him to tears. 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 steady gaze and nodded.

"Of course, Une, you're right." He rose, standing ramrod straight with his shoulders back and his head up. "I'll be resigning my commission and recommending that Cole Vernon be placed in command of this unit. But before I resign, 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 onto her face and came to attention.

"I'm placing you in charge of the Specials. In that position, you will continue to report to me as commander of the Oz Organization." 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."

-o-o-o-o-o-

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 crossed the room to Treize and put the mask on the desk. Then he put his hands on Treize's shoulders and leaned over to kiss him deeply. "This is the last time, isn't it?"

"Let's not talk about it," Treize whispered back. He stood up and wrapped his arms tightly around Zechs' waist. "Let's pretend instead this will be our first night together. Let's pretend that we've never held each other before." He kissed Zechs deeply.

"Ummm…" Zechs moaned softly. He pulled his mouth away and licked Treize's left ear. "I've been saving myself for you," he whispered. "From the moment we met, I've never wanted anyone inside me but you."

Treize nuzzled his neck. "From the moment we met, I haven't been able to think of anyone but you." He began to undress Zechs slowly. "You are the most beautiful man I have ever seen. And you are even more beautiful naked." Treize stepped back and drew in a deep breath. "I would not regret blindness, if this were the last sight I ever beheld."

Zechs smiled and held out his hand. "Please don't keep me waiting."

"Never."

Treize embraced him and bore Zechs down onto the bed. "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 reached down and undid Treize's trousers. "I have a confession: I already prepared myself." He smiled, a little sadly. "I was hoping we could be together tonight. So… How shall I say this? There's no waiting for anyone ready to dive right in."

Treize smiled back. "I think I might need to take you up on that."

Zechs spread his legs and hooked his heels on the back of Treize's knees. "Please take your time. I want to savor this."

Treize shifted forward and thrust himself into Zechs with a slow steady motion. Zechs rolled his head back and closed his eyes with a deep moan. Treize buried his face against Zechs' neck and began to move inside him. Zechs moved with him, thrusting his hips up against Treize firmly. Treize tangled his fingers into Zechs' silken hair, sliding the silver strands between his thumb and fingers lovingly.

"Look at me, Zechs," Treize murmured.

Zechs opened his eyes and pressed his mouth to Treize's. Treize kissed back while staring into the beautiful azure depths of Zechs' eyes. They made love like that, staring intently into each other's eyes and bringing each other to climax again and again. But they both knew it would be a mistake for Zechs to spend the night. They made love until the early morning hours and then, 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? Even after so short a time together, 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 behind 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 and then spotted the mask he had brought with him. Slowly, he moved to pick it up. He stared at it, clasped between hands that trembled slightly, and drew in a long breath. "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 and looked at Treize. "Will you kiss me one last time?"

Treize didn't hesitate. He immediately stepped close and wrapped Zechs in his arms. He pressed his mouth to Zechs', his tongue stroking lovingly between Zechs' lips and against his 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 that 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."

-o- The End –o-

The very first time I saw Gundam Wing, I was sure there was something going on between Treize and Zechs. When I watched it a second time, I saw dozens of little hints that convinced me they had had a relationship in the past. After a long conversation one night with my daughter, we decided I should write this story that we just knew had to have happened prior to the beginning of Gundam Wing. But we knew all along the ending would be terribly sad, because Treize and Zechs are not together during the TV series. I think this is the only story I have written with a sad ending. I still cry when I read it because they are so real to me. Rest in peace, Treize; Zechs still loves you.