Written for the yuletide challenge.
Zechs has a visitor.
It was nearly dark by the time he brought the mobile suit back to the hangar. The test flight had been long and the heat of the sun stifling, and he could smell his own sweat mixed in with the sluggish air of the cockpit. It wasn't any better outside. As he descended from the cockpit to the hangar floor, it was like sinking into a cavern filled with hot springs.
The engineer who had arrived yesterday with the suit was waiting for him as he stepped off the platform. "Any trouble, Lieutenant?" he asked, and Zechs heard the underlying anxiety in his voice. Engineers were always too attached to their designs. They never understood that in the end it wasn't the design that mattered.
"There's some lag on the left propeller. It could be the connections, or an adverse response to the humidity. And the chain rifle isn't functioning up to capacity."
The engineer--Leszik, Zechs remembered--wrote this down on his clipboard. His white coat was soaked through at the base his arms and his neckline, and his short dark hair curled wetly. "I'll have a more detailed report for you tomorrow," Zechs said. He pulled off his gloves, which felt molded to his hands, and thought longingly of air conditioning and a shower.
The engineer nodded, still scribbling. "Thank you, Lieutenant," he said, too absorbed with his note-taking to look up. Zechs gave a quick backward glance at the mobile suit, gleaming darkly from the soft lights above and seemingly none-the-worse for its test flight. He wondered what Noin would have thought of it. She always did argue for speed over power. He tried to picture her reaction. He hadn't spoken to her in the three months since he'd been assigned here.
It was a short walk from the hangar to the main base. Only a few other people were about, saluting as Zechs passed them. He saluted absently back, recognizing one or two but not enough to remember their names. Lights perched on the tops of buildings glowed fuzzily through the thick purple dusk around him, and it was almost a shock to open the door to the over-bright entrance of the base. At least it was cooler. He could hear the weak hum of air conditioning.
"Lieutenant Zechs." The corporal posted to the entrance greeted him with a nod. Zechs nodded back, and had passed him when the soldier called, "Colonel Treize is here to see you, sir."
"Thank you, Corporal," he said over his shoulder. He turned right to go down the hall leading to the guest quarters, where Treize was most likely billeted for the night.
Zechs stopped and tried not to show his irritation. It wasn't the soldier's fault that he wanted a shower and a change of clothes, and instead he was going to have to stand at attention and give more reports, all the while feeling like he'd been out in the jungle for a week and not just a few hours inside the relative comfort of a mobile suit.
"Yes?" he said gravely.
"Colonel Treize, sir. He's in your quarters."
"I see. Thank you," Zechs said. He turned left instead, relieved when the corporal let him go without further interruption, and followed the more familiar path of twisting corridors and flights of stairs leading up to his quarters.
To his surprise his rooms were dark, the only light coming from the small lamp on the corner table in the sitting room. It was very quiet. Zechs wondered if Treize had decided to dine with the senior officers instead; most of the base soldiers were probably down at the mess. Then he saw him in the large chair by the window. Treize had draped his cloak over the back of the chair, and undone the top buttons of his uniform in deference to the heat. He was asleep.
Zechs stopped still. It was a strange sight. Treize's head was tucked in the corner of the chair, his legs sprawled at an angle that looked highly uncomfortable, though he slept soundly. An odd feeling surged through him; he would have called it protectiveness, if he thought Treize was someone who needed protection. He found that he was reluctant to wake him.
So he went to the bedroom, glad that the carpet--a luxury in an Alliance base this old--was thick enough to muffle the tread of his boots. He sat on the edge of the bed to take them off, struggling only a little with the length of them and the stiff leather that had swelled to an even heavier weight with the heat. The mask was easier. He placed it on the bed next to him and rubbed the bridge of his nose where it had rested, feeling the muscles of his neck ease with the sudden lightness. Once in the bathroom he closed the door and turned the water on as strong as it would go.
It was a relief to strip the uniform from his skin and step into the heavy veil of water. The pressure of the water was like a thousand pellets against his skin, but it felt good. He ducked his head back into the spray and felt his hair flatten and grow heavier. Water dripped down the nape of his neck. He closed his eyes against the steam that rose up around him thickly, so much that it was difficult to breathe.
He thought he could almost fall asleep himself.
When his skin was red from the minor sauna he'd created, he turned off the water and dried himself with one of the thin, hopelessly inadequate white towels reserved for hotels and military bases. After a few minutes of trying to untangle his hair with his fingers, he tackled it with a comb instead. The front of his hair kept curling out no matter how much he tried to flatten it, so he left it alone and wrapped the towel around his waist, and opened the bathroom door.
There was no sound from the sitting room. He thought about putting on a clean uniform, which would be the appropriate thing to do. But if he was going to have to wait for Treize to wake up, he was going to be comfortable while doing so. He pulled on a pair of thin sweatpants and a grey t-shirt instead, and his hair clung damply to the back of the shirt. It wasn't an entirely unpleasant feeling.
His mask was still on the bed. Zechs eyed it reluctantly. At the moment it looked more like a burden than a shield. He put it on anyway, and headed first for the intercom next to the door. A few seconds after he'd pushed the call button, a scratchy voice answered in what Zechs could only assume was a staticky acknowledgment.
"This is Lieutenant Zechs. Please send up a pot of coffee and two mugs to my quarters." Zechs paused. The mess hall would be closing soon, and he was hungry. "And two meals. Whatever's being served is fine."
There was a quick response from the other end, so someone down there probably knew Treize was here. Zechs released the button and turned. His eyes met Treize's.
"Good thought on the coffee," Treize said. He hadn't bothered to sit up. It occurred to Zechs that there were probably very few places in which Treize would allow himself to relax so thoroughly, much less sleep. Interesting that his quarters appeared to be one of them.
"I thought you might be hungry as well."
Treize nodded. He did sit up then, and stretched his neck back. His eyes were quiet. Then he cocked his head and glanced at Zechs sidelong. "What do you think of my new engineer?"
After a moment's consideration, Zechs crossed the room to sit in one of the straight-backed chairs at a small table a few feet from Treize. "He seems to know what he's doing. I'm not convinced of the superiority of the new suit, however."
"Interesting," Treize said. "I thought you would appreciate the increased torque."
"It's faster," Zechs said. "And more maneuverable. But it would be wiped out easily in one-to-one combat against a Leo."
Treize smiled. "You're a true pilot, Zechs. It's designed for air attacks, not single combat."
"Then I'm not sure I see the point."
Treize looked amused, though Zechs had meant his statement seriously. "If only all my pilots had such a precise outlook."
There was a soft knock on the door. That was quick. The mess hall must have anticipated his request.
The young officer on the other side of the door held a massive tray filled with covered dishes and a steaming pot. He looked as though he were nervous about dropping it, and gave Zechs a wide-eyed look when he took the tray from him. "Thank you," Zechs said, and the boy managed a mumbled "sir" before he fled back down the corridor. All of the young officers seemed to find him similarly intimidating. Zechs wasn't sure yet whether that bothered him or not.
He placed the tray on the table and poured two cups of the coffee. The covered plates turned out to be thick slices of an unidentifiable meat covered in a brownish sauce, with a mix of carrots and another vegetable native to the region that Zechs could never remember the name of. Treize accepted the coffee but waved the offer of food away. "I'll eat later," he said.
Zechs sat down to eat. It looked slightly better than the mess hall's usual fare, but all the same it was mass produced food for soldiers who knew not to expect any better. Still, he was hungry.
Treize drank his coffee and watched him eat. "You're wasted here, Zechs. Come back to headquarters with me."
Zechs swallowed a piece of the mystery vegetable, which tasted like a mix between a potato and a beet. "That wasn't our agreement."
"Agreements change. Goals change. You could be doing a lot more for OZ than testing mobile suit designs."
Zechs picked at his food silently. With a small sigh, Treize put his coffee mug aside and moved to stand by the window. Watching him, Zechs thought he looked strangely remote, staring out the window into nothing. His eyes were bright with something like restlessness, or frustration, even. Zechs didn't think he'd ever seen Treize frustrated. He wondered if something else had happened, but there were questions that he would never ask about OZ, and answers he didn't want to know.
"Production on the new suits is scheduled to start in a few weeks," Treize said smoothly, as if there'd been no break in their previous conversation. "Will you be finished with your tests by then?"
"I'd like to take it out in another environment, see how it handles."
"That could be arranged. There's a Specials unit stationed to the Lemonier base north of here. Desert and coastline. Would that suffice?"
Zechs nodded. "Yes. Thank you."
"I should pay my respects to the General," Treize said, still staring out the window. "He'll wonder why I haven't."
Zechs imagined him eating and talking with the other base commanders, with that strange look in his eyes hidden deep and buried beneath Treize's usual facade, and he found himself saying, "Stay."
Treize's face darkened as if a shadow had passed over it; then it cleared into a kind of blank, questioning look. Zechs pushed his plate of food away, and took off his mask. He placed it gently down next to the plate. Treize watched him curiously as he crossed to the window.
Zechs reached past him to pull the blinds closed. "I think you should stay," he said, and began to unfasten the buttons on Treize's uniform.
Treize stopped him with a hand on his wrist before he got very far. "This wasn't our agreement, either," he said, though he didn't push Zechs away.
"No," Zechs agreed. He pulled his wrist gently free from Treize's grasp, and continued working on the rest of the buttons.
He didn't get very far this time, either, before Treize pulled him closer and kissed him.
He'd expected the kiss to be forceful. Overwhelming, even. But Treize's mouth was soft, the kiss almost maddeningly slow and gentle and just a little bit teasing. Zechs freed his hands and finally finished with the buttons, slipping his hands up underneath the thin shirt Treize wore under his uniform and finding some gratification in the way the soft skin beneath his hands jumped in tandem with Treize's quick intake of breath.
He was only vaguely aware that Treize was still kissing him, until Treize left his mouth and brushed his lips against Zechs' nose and then his cheek, and Zechs realized that he was following the line of creases left by the mask.
He pulled back. Treize's eyes were so dark he could barely see any color left in them. Deliberately he reached down to the waistband of Treize's pants. More buttons. The material was soft and stretched under his fingers, and slid easily back when he'd finished with the last button. Treize didn't stop him when he slipped down to his knees, and Zechs could feel hands tangling in his still-damp hair.
He kissed the base of Treize's cock through a material that could have been silk, then licked upward. The muscles of Treize's thighs tensed, but the hands in his hair were as gentle as before. Treize didn't make a sound. Then he found a strip of skin showing through an open crease with his tongue; Treize's hand tightened with a spasm, making his eyes water, and Zechs thought he heard a short, low growl come from deep inside him.
He stood up. "What do you want?"
Treize looked at him, his face a little flushed and his eyes like dark pools, then he smiled. "I want you to return to headquarters with me." He pushed a strand of hair away from Zechs' face. "I want you to pledge yourself to OZ." The backs of his fingers brushed lightly along Zechs' jaw. "I want you to take your revenge and then come back to me."
Zechs kissed the side of Treize's mouth softly, then ducked his head to kiss Treize's neck, moving downward to the hollow of his throat until he could feel the jump of a pulse under his lips. "I'll be your pilot. And I'll test your designs and follow your orders, but I can't be what you want me to be. I'm sorry."
Treize lifted Zechs' head up. "Fair enough," he said, though his eyes were faintly sad. "And what is it that you want?"
Zechs took Treize's hand, now resting on his neck, and laced his fingers through it. Treize looked at their joined hands as if he found it amusing, but his mouth was still. "I want you to stay."
For a moment Zechs thought he would refuse, and a strong feeling took him that if Treize did refuse, he would have lost something important. Something he would regret, because he wouldn't ask again. But Treize said, "Help me take my boots off, then." Zechs led him to the bedroom first. Then he knelt down at Treize's feet at the edge of the bed and pulled the heavy boots off, one after the other, placing them neatly next to his own. Then he stood and crossed to the dresser, searching through balled socks and a thick packet of letters from Noin from back in their cadet days until he found what he was looking for. He could hear Treize undressing behind him.
Warm hands rested on his waist, and Treize was kissing the back of his neck through the sheaf of hair, which rubbed against his skin like small tickling fingers. He let Treize tug his sweatpants down over his hips, and felt them slide down his legs as his t-shirt was lifted over his head. He heard it drop to the floor as stepped out of the pool of his sweatpants and turned around.
He held the tube of lubricant between them questioningly. Treize raised an eyebrow. But then he took the tube from his hand, and with a grace only Treize could manage at such a time squeezed some of the contents onto his fingers and worked it over Zechs' cock.
It was dizzying. Zechs closed his eyes as Treize stroked him slowly. His hand was soft, with only a trace of calluses on his fingertips in all the places expected for a mobile suit pilot. He wasn't sure how much time passed, only that at some point Treize was licking and biting at his nipples with short, unhurried movements.
"Enough," Zechs said. His voice sounded hoarse. Treize stopped, with maybe the faintest of smiles--but only to pull him forward to the edge of the bed until somehow they were both on it, legs and bodies tangling in such a way that Zechs suspected Treize had choreographed it. Then Treize's back was pressed against him, and it took only one short thrust upward and he was inside, his cock warm and tight along its length and his breath lodged firmly in his throat as he tried to remember how to breathe.
Treize was still for a moment. Zechs realized he had a hold of Treize's arm in a deathly grip. He loosened his fingers, stroked them down his arm and across over his chest, brushing Treize's nipples with his thumb.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
Treize made a sound that could have been laughter. He pushed back against him. Zechs hissed through his teeth and bit the shoulder in front of him, just a little. He could already tell it wouldn't be long. He thrust up, stroking down over Treize's cock with his hand. It was almost as good as flying. He pushed Treize down into the bed and rocked his hips forward, and gripped him tight until he felt Treize tense and buck up against him. And then he *was* flying, as an image flashed through his mind of skimming over the tops of trees and brush with the sun bright behind him, and he had a moment to wonder where that particular memory had come from before he was coming, and it disappeared in blinding light, and then darkness.
They were both still. Zechs breathed slowly. Treize pulled away, and Zechs felt the bed shift and rock up as he left it; he could hear sounds coming from the bathroom: water running, the clanking of pipes, the splash of water against skin. Zechs missed the warmth of him, but he didn't want to get up yet.
He drifted a little into sleep, and woke when the bed shifted again under him. He opened his eyes. Treize was dressed in his uniform, sitting on the edge of the bed and looking down at him with a wistful sort of smile.
"I'll miss you, you know," Treize said. "When you do leave." He pushed back a strand of Zechs' hair that had fallen forward over his face, and Zechs wondered if he looked very young to Treize. Then Treize stood and left the room, and the door clicked softly closed behind him.
It would be another warm day tomorrow. He could take the Aries further south into the jungle, see how it handled the terrain, then maybe fly up to Lemonier to test it there. Noin might have some suggestions. He should contact her. Zechs flattened his hand on the wrinkled and twisted sheets of the bed. They were still warm.