The end! Oh my. I didn't have a chance to spell-check because I couldn't find the spell-checker on my sister's laptop (which is what I'm using,) so tell me if you see any glaring mistakes or not-so-glaring mistakes.
Inheritance: Part Fourteen
The room that Treize pulled him into was some sort of abandoned extra room, stacked with messy papers and a hunk of long-forgotten computing machinery that seemed to have been put there for the sole purpose of shoving it out of the way. Everything was covered with a thick layer of dust that turned everything a grayish-brown and gave the room the musty odor that a room sometimes gained when not oft used.
Zechs sneezed once, then again, batting the air away from his face with his free hand. His other was still captured by Treize, who was looking less-than-pleased at the current accommodations. He was giving the entire room the arch look that he gave the lowliest, most arrogant of the Oz recruits, a look that said quite clearly that they had better shape up or ship out.
Jerking away from him with a quick pull of his arm, the two faced off. Two men, equal in abilities and memories, who had known each other with everything they had inherited from their previous life, together and apart.
It was the "apart" part that was creating the problem. The thought whispered in Zechs' mind like the soft cooing of a devil that wanted to seduce and tempt a man away from his path and into a bog. His feelings were not fair, but they were deserved by all accounts that Zechs could find. He had turned away from Treize, could no longer on any of the principles that he wanted to believe stay with the commander of Oz, but their bond had remained. That bond should have said that Treize could not go through with his plan, could not make his perfect ending the way that he had wanted to. Endings were messy; they had to be, so that the story was any good.
"I thought that you wanted to talk." Words spoken evenly, without any of the hint of sly humor that Zechs usually gave them.
Treize didn't look affected, but even if he had been he wouldn't have showed Zechs. At this moment they were enemies, against each other in everything that mattered. There was no trust at this moment, only a wary and cautious respect that was similar to what two tigers gave one another as they circled, staring into each other's eyes. It was the look of predators, of people that were not sure of one another but had enough of a mind to know that they could not attack just yet.
"You didn't mail me the ending," Treize finally said, unreadable.
"No," Zechs agreed.
"Your sister did."
Zechs would have said that Lena was meddling if he didn't know that she had absolutely no clue what was going on.
"I suppose that you got to read it after all, then."
They stared at each other silently. Treize sighed, turning his eyes away. It was not a surrender; Treize did not know how to surrender. It held no significance other than a slight ease of manner. "You never pay your own feelings enough attention. You turned away even at the end to give her more attention."
"Relena, Lena, Regina. It only makes sense to give the princess what she is due."
"A knight of Sanq, then?" Treize smiled, but it didn't touch his eyes. It rarely did. "You bow down to her every time she gets within ten feet. I suppose that I must just take this knowledge of you as it is, otherwise I would change something essential to your soul. You would no longer be yourself if you were not self-sacrificing."
"I am self-sacrificing?" Zechs asked bitterly, raising one blonde eyebrow in a cold rebuttal. He tugged on his long ponytail so that it fell onto his folded arms, a nervous gesture that wasn't like him.
"Yes. My move was not one of self-sacrifice. It was just a thing that had to happen for the war to end."
"Are you forgetting the meaning of self-sacrifice? I suppose that it wouldn't be like you to ask of others what you would not be willing to do yourself. It's always about the sacrifice, isn't it?"
Treize was quiet, dark blue eyes thoughtful. "You are angry with me."
Zechs snorted with laughter. "You're just learning that now? I can deny everything all that I want to, but you just insist on making it apparent that the past is the present. If this was all we have, I wouldn't have left. I would have stayed in bed and we wouldn't be having this argument."
"That is what this is? An argument?"
"That is generally what one calls this sort of passionate exchanging of words, Treize."
Treize leaned back against one of the boxes that were stuffed with old papers. His lazy elegance would have been like a slap in the face if Zechs didn't know that the motion was meant to distract and deter while Treize took the time to think about what was being said.
The chestnut-haired writer looked off to the side, staring at one of the water-stained walls. "I'm sorry."
They could hear the sounds of the party outside through the wall in the silence that followed. Treize never apologized and meant it, but it Zechs could almost believe that this time he did. When Treize apologized, it was normally a formality. It was just a way to use his words to ease over some imagined or true slight in someone's mind, something that he did not regret but wanted to make disappear. This was a real apology.
But an apology did not fix anything, not really, no matter how much it meant.
"I am too."
But it was the past. It couldn't be helped, it couldn't be changed. It was just there, effecting what now existed. It was omnipotent, present in every word that they spoke to one another, and yet it had to be what it was. Treize believed what he had always believed, that what he had done was the best option, but he was sorry. He was sorry that he had hurt Zechs, and if he went through it again, he would probably change what he had done. If he hadn't been willing to give everything for his beliefs, though, he wouldn't have been Treize Khushrenada, commander of Oz, promoter of peace, one willing to make himself the enemy so that there could be a true peace that had lasted to this day, despite some small upsets and how long it had taken to root out corruption.
Zechs bowed his head. "You wouldn't be you if you didn't die at the end of the war. And you got what you wanted. I can't hold a grudge at you for being yourself, not with a clear conscience."
Treize had a cautious hope in his eyes. Zechs smiled.
"Would you like to see your peace with me?"
Treize smiled too.
It wasn't an offer for anything except what had existed, it wasn't any sort of forgiveness, but it wasn't denial anymore. Some things couldn't be forgiven or forgotten, and that was all right, but life moved on, apparently.
"We might want to start with the party before Lena has your head."
Life would move on. As long as Zechs went back before Lena realized where he was and Heero did not realize who he had been secluded in an empty room with.
Persephone chirped at the door, tilting her head most becomingly between the sounds of the key scraping in the lock and her food dish, which was empty and clean from being licked out. She ran over to jump on the counter so that it didn't look like she wanted food too badly, needing to keep her composure.
Her Person came through the doorway, bundled up in several layers of clothing, followed closely by the New Person, who Persephone tried to make her first human think she liked more than him. Besides, the New Person liked to pet her and would sit for hours stroking her. Zechs thinking that Persephone liked Treize better kept him on his toes. Petting Persephone was what her Person had gotten the New Person for, after all.
She saw the two of them brush the snow off of their clothing and put their coats up on the hooks next to the door. The long, pale hair that Persephone liked to bat back and forth spilled from beneath the warm knit hat, flowing down her Person's back. Treize raked a hand through his own hair and sighed.
"Remind me exactly why we are in your freezing apartment? Why is the heater broken again, anyway?"
"It apparently wasn't fixed properly the first time. We were going to get Persephone to stay with us while they fix it."
"Because I didn't want you to freeze?"
"Yes, that is exactly why you decided to let me stay. Trust me."
Treize snorted lightly. Persephone did not understand this, but backed up rapidly when the cat carrier was brought closer. Her Person was transporting her to a strange place and he was not being very nice about it!
Scowling from her place behind the closed door of the carrier, she watched, pouting as gracefully as only a cat could, as the New Person drew Zechs close enough to press their lips together softly. Zechs allowed it for a moment before pulling back and starting to gather a few of Persephone's things. Persephone nearly whimpered when she saw him begin to move all of her toys from the clever places she had hidden them. It had been so difficult to try and get them where she wanted them.
"It's been a year since we met again," Treize said, expressionless, as he watched Zechs. He was tracking the motions meditatively, eyes following Zechs wherever he went.
"I know." Zechs sighed and abandoned trying to pick up everything that he and Persephone would need. "It's difficult." He walked over to Treize to rest his head on Treize's shoulder, feeling the other writer's breath ghost over his hair. "It will get easier."
"One would assume," Treize said. Zechs could feel the smile against his skin, but did not look up until after a few moments had passed. He moved over to press the answering machine button. It felt like an icicle against his glove-warmed flesh and he immediately drew back his hand to try to warm it inside the sleeve of his sweater.
"For the love of all that is holy, Zechs, if you don't call me I'm going to come Earthside and kill you. There won't even be a scrap of your pretty blonde hair left for them to find you with. I'll tell your tall, dark, and handsome on you. I swear that I will, Zechs." Noin was silent, as if waiting for a response. "Oh well. You've heard it all before anyway. I'll see you next week when we have to petition the Alliance and the Preventers to find out whether we can open Mars to the public. Call me." The machine beeped, as loudly and rudely as if Noin herself had caused it.
"You need a vid phone. She could threaten you better if you had one."
Zechs snorted and put the final few of Persephone's things in a basket. He rested his hand on the wicker, lost in thought. Treize's face could be seen from the corner of his eye; polished, young, and personable. He looked as if he was ageless, never changing, never moving forward. It had been a little over a year since they had met again and nothing had really changed. Lena and Noin were tickled pink that they were friends. Zechs could swear that he had seen Heero snicker into his chocolate raspberry truffle coffee more than once, and Duo seemed inordinately fond of laughing at the strangest times.
Treize looked up, the question in his dark blue eyes rather than on his lips.
"I do care about you. Did I remember to tell you?"
Treize smiled and the expression was like the heated slash of a sword across his coldly beautiful face. He didn't look radiantly happy, but you could see it in his eyes. That was how you could tell what he was really thinking. His face would not change an inch if he didn't want it to, and he could make his eyes without feeling if it was needed, but one truly apt at reading Treize would always be able to tell what he was thinking from his eyes. "You did."
Zechs gave Treize the basket and picked up the carrier as if he had said nothing out of the ordinary, brushing his hair away from his face as he pulled on his winter coat again.
"When is the man coming to fix the heater?"
Zechs shrugged carelessly. "I don't know."
"He's not coming, is he."
Zechs refused to answer. Persephone looked longingly at the door as she got further and further away from her beloved space. She was going to need to find new hiding places.
It's the end. I don't know if I'm pleased with it, but I'll have to be. It was difficult because this is definitely the end, but Zechs decided to show his stubborn streak at the most inopportune moment and refused to say that he loved Treize because it would be OOC. They just aren't sappy fellas!
Since this is the last chapter, I wanted to thank everyone that reviewed consistently throughout the entire fic. I'm really glad that everyone liked it, and I'm especially thankful for those who helped me so much while writing it. You inspired me, or made me think about what I was writing, or both. Thank you. I also want to thank those that only reviewed a couple of times or even just once, because I appreciated that too. Everyone was great through this entire process. I tried to thank you all by updating once a week, replying to reviews unless I completely forgot for some reason, and working my butt off to get out good/decent chapters in enough time. It doesn't feel like enough.
I think that the Inheritance sequel won out over anything else, so I'm probably going to post that with regular updating and my Naruto fic with sporadic updating. I'm still thinking about the squicky details, but the sequel should be out in two or three weeks. I like to give myself a bit of a break between fics, so if you want to read it and you don't want to check my profile regularly, I would be happy to send you an email when the sequel comes out. Once again, it's 2x5x2, should feature the missing Gundam boys (Wufei and Quatre,) and should have a couple of guest appearances of 13x6, so you'll get a little bitty update.
Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah, Joyous Yule, etc., and a Happy New Year as well!