A/U: Something like medieval times…everyone pretty much lives in the Cinq Kingdom. Feedback not only welcome, but needed. Please! I like to know that people think of what I'm writing, though that goes without saying, really. Yeah, it's late…
Disclaimer: Rich people own Gundam Wing. I'm poor. Do the math.If Only To Be With You
The sun set with no more usual splendor than the day before. It was rather tired the way people tended to gush about the myriad colors in the sky, or that one moment before the sun disappears where the heavens are ablaze in a glorious vision of light. It was just a reminder of life, and for her a reminder her of all her pain. It seemed that lately, nothing had the meaning to her that it once did. If fact, life meant no more to her than she did to her family. She was alone now, without anyone in the world. It didn't make any sense, but she didn't care anymore. She didn't care that the woman who gave her life and that should've been the one person in the world she could depend on most should be the one to despise her. She didn't care that her father agreed blindly with whoever was more likely to give him a hard time.
In her nineteen years of life, she could never fathom any reason her mother would have for hating her. But the old woman did, just the same. Finally, the hag had convinced her indifferent husband that their eldest daughter should get the hell out of their house and make her own life. No matter that she left penniless and with nowhere to go, just as long as she was out.
Lucrezia had stopped crying years ago. She wouldn't let this mess reduce her to a helpless pile of female emotion. No, she was done with that. There was survival to think about. For now, it would have to start in the woods. It was the middle of the hot summer season and she had managed to wheedle her father out of his tiny cabin in the King's Forest. He never used it anymore, though at one time in his miserable life, he had been a skilled huntsman and carpenter. There was plenty of freedom in the forests outside of the city. There were also none of the King's soldiers to haul her off the streets and into jail. She had had enough training from her father to live on her own, not to mention the fact that she didn't have a choice.
That night, she slept in the bare, cramped cabin. She had a small fire for warmth and had managed to spear two fish for herself out of the river. She sat, staring into the fire, with the same blank stare she had had on her face since she had walked out her front door for the last time.
Silently, she wondered if there was a point to her surviving on her own and living at all. Suicide was a coward's way to end pain, and she didn't mean to follow that path. There had to be something worth all this pain and loneliness. Her thoughts followed that agonizing road until she huddled against the wall, tightly forcing tears back. She refused to cry; she'd get herself out of this. She didn't know how, but that day, she vowed that she would see her mother again. And that day, her mother would weep. Lucrezia swore that that woman would cry endless rivers of shame and regret at what she had done.
* * *
The fish diet was getting old. Lucrezia sat at the edge of the river, holding her fishing pole. There were few wild vegetables in these parts, and the only thing she had been able to find were some small tubers. She hated tubers. Ten days and she didn't think she could stand much more.
The line pulled and she rolled her eyes. Lunch. She gutted the fish and threw its bones into the river. As she stood, gathering her things, she heard a horse trotting in the distance. It was still a ways off, but she could see the rider's braid swinging in time with the horse's walk. The rider spotted her and his horse sped up. Lucrezia was tempted to run, but something made her stay put. She hadn't seen another person since she came to the forests.
"Hiya!" the rider called out, waving his hand as he slowed the horse down. Lucrezia frowned slightly. His garb signified he was a noble. He was wearing black and gray, but Lucrezia had never bothered to learn what colors represented what provinces. The young man looked to be about her age, perhaps a couple of years younger. He dismounted, and strode up to her. He looked as if he had never frowned before in his life. His brown hair was plaited down his back, and his carefree posture put Lucrezia somewhat at ease. But she had a hand at her dagger hilt, just in case.
"Hi, what's a pretty lady like you doing out here alone?" he asked cheerfully.
Lucrezia continued to eye him warily. "I'm getting food. That's not a crime, is it?" she replied brusquely. She was not the least bit fond of nobles or other pompous men of power. She didn't doubt for a second that she had seen and done more work in a day than he had in his whole life.
The noble took a step back, not really surprised at the woman's attitude. "Listen, I just wanted to say hi, and offer a hand if you needed." He shrugged. "I was just trying to be nice."
Lucrezia was not moved. "Of course, my Lord," she purred sarcastically. "Forgive my ingratitude at refusing your divine offer for help. I'm just a poor peasant." She spat the last words at him, glaring hatefully at all his fine clothing.
The grin disappeared. The nobleman got back on his horse. "If that's the way you want it," he said. He watched her for a moment, returning her defiant stare. In the distance, she heard more horses. She turned and disappeared into the forest. The young man kept his eyes on her as she left, staring into the trees.
"Duo," a dark-haired man called out to him. He turned to see two more riders appear from the forest. "We thought you'd been eaten," Heero said sardonically, with his characteristically blank face as the blonde man beside him laughed.
"Or fell into the river," Milliardo added, smirking.
"Ha, ha, very funny you two," Duo said, rolling his eyes. "I was just…admiring the river," he trailed off. He decided to keep his mouth shut about the feisty little wretch he had just encountered, though he really had wondered why she was out alone in the middle of the forest. The rebellious glare on her face stuck in his head. "We should probably get back. I need some food." Duo turned his horse, heading back to the palace. Milliardo and Heero exchanged wondering glances and followed.
* * *
The marketplace was loud, crowded and utterly nauseating. Lucrezia hated the marketplace, but she needed to eat something other than fish. She had found some good wood and whittled a few animal figures that were decent enough to sell.
She wandered past the stalls with the money she had left over after buying two meat pies and a water skin. She might have enough for a warm blanket if she haggled.
"Four royals?!" she exclaimed. "You must be out of your mind. I'll give you one gold royal and three silvers," she said, sounding as if she was doing him a favor. The blanket wasn't worth more than two gold royals.
"Lady, please. I gotta make a living; I'll take three royals," the man whined.
Lucrezia snorted. "A royal and six silvers. That's all I'm willing to pay."
The sun was starting to set when Lucrezia finally started back for the forest. The crowd was dwindling and she easily made her way to the outskirts of the city. She passed house after house full of warmth, family, and love. Each time she heard laughter, her resolve for revenge strengthened.
It was completely dark when she got to the edge of the woods. She knew woodwork rather well and figured there would be some carpenter willing to take her on as an apprentice. There were few trade masters that would take in a woman to learn a skill. But she couldn't stay in the forest forever.
She lit a small fire in the hearth and went down to the river to wash. The muggy summer heat and all the walking had left her feeling grimy and tired. She moaned wearily as she felt the warm water rushing in around her legs as she stepped in. Closing her eyes, she sank into the water, sighing contentedly.
Milliardo watched the woman bathe from the shadows of the tree under which he rested. He had been there since the sun had set, watching the river. He did it often, sorting out his thoughts while day turned to night. Then he had heard the woman as she came to the river. She hadn't seen him or his horse as she walked past. He had been sitting right behind her as she undressed, but he had stayed silent. Her clothes were only a few feet away. He sat quietly, watching the moonlight shimmer off her wet skin. She was beautiful.
It would be impossible for her to not see him when she came out. As she had had her back to him when she walked to the river, she would have to face him when walking back to her clothes. He smirked. Her reaction would be most interesting.
The wind was blowing harder when Lucrezia emerged from the water. There was an odd feeling in the pit of her stomach as she got out. She went to where her clothes lay and saw the figure in the shadows. He sat, leaning against the tree trunk, resting his arms on his knees in a careless, arrogant manner. Lucrezia dashed for her blanket, wrapping herself in it furiously.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" she cried out at the man in the shadows. She couldn't see his face, but she heard his laughter. He stood and stepped forward.
"Well," he drawled. "Just enjoying the river…I was here first."
Lucrezia stood, eyeing him. His eyes were like ice, cold and penetrating. Long blonde hair cascaded down his back, with bangs that partially covered his eyes. He wore fine black pants that hugged his long legs and a loose white shirt, just open enough to expose his smooth, well-muscled chest.
"What are you doing here all alone?" he asked, with what Lucrezia could swear was concern in his voice. She was vaguely frightened, but knew perfectly well how to defend herself.
"That is none of your business," she snapped, snatching up her clothes. She stepped past him and continued walking. The young man went after her, grasping her arm. Instinctively, Lucrezia's free arm shot out at his face, causing her to drop her clothes and the blanket covering her body. He caught her arm with his other hand before it struck him, holding her firmly captive. He brought her arms behind her back, pulling her close, her naked body pressed tightly against his.
"Now…" he whispered into her ear. "That's no way to answer, is it?" His blue eyes looked into her violet ones, studying her intently. "Who are you?" he asked, trying to stop his breath from quickening. There was fear in her eyes, but also a fury that took him by surprise. He realized just how the situation must seem to her and he loosened his grip, though not relinquishing it. There was no doubt in his mind that she would lash out at him should he let go.
"I'm not going to hurt you, okay?" he said soothingly, although he had the feeling she was not the type to be calmed by pleasant words while he held her against her will. "I'd let you go, but I'm afraid you'll cuff me," he said, a sheepish smile creeping across his lips. "I just want to know your name."
Her eyes narrowed. "My name is Lucrezia," she said, feeling her desire to kick him in the groin disappearing as his gaze deepened. He repeated her name, letting each syllable roll off his tongue, smiling at the blush on her cheeks.
Of course, this must be a discomforting position for her to be in… "What are you doing here, Lucrezia?" he asked again, this time gently, his eyes narrowing slightly with concern.
"I…"she faltered, not wishing to tell him that she had been kicked out of her home and had no where to go but a shack in the King's Forest. She turned away, looking at the river behind him. "It's a long story," she mumbled. Suddenly, she felt more alone than she had since she became alone.
The man reached for the edge of the fallen blanket with the toe of his boot and kicked it up, letting go of Lucrezia's right hand to grab the blanket. Wrapping it around her, he took a step back. She looked up at him with surprise. "Who are you?" she asked.
He laughed. "My name…well," he trailed off. He wondered if he should tell her his name. "My name is Milliardo," he said. Her eyes widened.
"You're Milliardo Peacecraft, the…heir to the throne of the Cinq Kingdom," she uttered flatly.
The Prince only shifted uncomfortably. "The one and only," he said. "Are you going to run away and hate me now?"
Lucrezia cocked an eyebrow. "What makes you think I didn't hate you before?" she remarked.
Milliardo looked stunned for a moment and then frowned when Lucrezia laughed softly. He cleared his throat, deciding to change the subject. "Would you care for a lift to your home?" He made a clicking sound and his horse appeared from behind a thick cluster of trees. "What's wrong?" he said, seeing Lucrezia's face pale.
She shook her head. "No, thank you. I'm fine," she said. There was no way to get out of this, he had a horse and would most certainly follow her to the pathetic hut she was calling home.
"I'd rather see you home safely," Milliardo said, offering a hand to help Lucrezia mount his horse. He winced when she stepped back. His eyebrows knitted as he saw the almost frightened look on the girls face. Had he been that much of ass to her that she didn't even want to accept his help? Straightening, his face lost all expression and he mounted his horse gracefully. "If that is the way you want to be, I'll not force you." His voice was cold. "Good evening."
The horse took off in the direction of the palace. Lucrezia could only stare after him. There she stood until she noticed that she was trembling with cold and shock. She picked up her clothes and miserably made her way back to her home, collapsing in front of the fire. Dressed and very tired, Lucrezia lay down and closed her eyes.
They shot right back open. All she saw that the blonde Prince, offering his hand to her. She groaned, irritated. Of course, he was undeniably attractive and he had felt so warm pressed against her…but that meant nothing! He was Prince Milliardo, heir to the throne of the Cinq Kingdom, and would never give a commoner like her a fleeting glance, let alone a ride home. Maybe he wasn't the Prince, just a sad, lonely wannabe. Lucrezia nodded, liking that possibility more. At least it let her get to sleep.
* * *
The palace grounds were nearly deserted as the Prince finally rode into the stable. With a yawn, he left his mount with the Stable master and wearily headed to his chambers, hoping his mother was already asleep.
"Milliardo, dear, might I have a word with you?" the soft voice floated down the hall before he even passed her door. He groaned; he'd be there all night…poor Queen Peacecraft was an insomniac.
"Good evening, Mother," he said, smiling tightly. He didn't step past the doorway, hoping against all odds that she'd let him go with just a goodnight.
The Queen rose from her sofa and went to give her son a kiss. Her nose crinkled and she stepped back. "Darling, you've been in the forests again." She sighed disapprovingly. "Please, Milliardo, you know that you should be with your father. You are going to be King one day, or did you forget that?" There was that look on her face; she expected an answer, and it just had to be long and soul rending or else he was avoiding her and didn't love her anymore. He wasn't in the mood for one of her tirades or her guilt tripping.
Milliardo figured he might as well sharpen his diplomatic skills a bit. "Mother, I assure you that I am spending time with Father. But every man has to go out and get some fresh air, ride through the woods, hunt… Mother, I don't want to wear you out. Get some rest. I've got to go wash anyway. You don't want your only son smelling like a sweaty stableman, right?" He laughed at his mother's horrified expression. "Good night, Mother," he said, giving her a peck on the cheek and dashing out before she could protest.
"Damn," he muttered under his breath when he finally reached his chambers. "That was too close." He undressed as he stumbled to the bath, dropping his clothes to the floor as he walked. The bath was already drawn and Milliardo settled in, sighing as the hot water relaxed him completely. There was absolute quiet.
An hour of time all to himself was a rarity nowadays for the Cinq Prince. There were councils to participate in, endless academic lessons, military strategy and tactics, and a whole mess of politics that made his head swim.
Right now, however, was not the time to think of that. He'd have the rest of his life to do it. At the moment, the only think Milliardo Peacecraft wanted was sleep.
Author's Notes/Comments/Rants: Well, I've never written an AU before, so…this is a learning experience. Um…I've really wanted to do Zechs/Noin fics since there are so little of them out there. Or maybe I'm not looking in the right places? It's kind of late right now, so whatever I really want to say won't come out right; I'm going to go to sleep. Constructive criticism and comments are always welcome. Flames are not, but they're hilarious anyway.