Notes: This fic started out as an RP but it eventually took on a life of its own. We finally decided to publish it and hope you enjoy reading it as much as we loved writing it—despite the unconventional pairing. And in case you’re worried, we won’t leave you hanging. This is already written in its entirety. You will definitely know how the story ends.
In the kingdom of Oz, the young knight Heero was waiting at the ready, just outside his lady's door. He did not like the idea of leaving his country for the barbarity of Sanq, but he had vowed to follow Lady Une wherever she went. Her protection was most important to him.
Within the suite, Une walked briskly to the window. She gave the man in the shadows his instructions then jerked her head. "Leave now," she hissed. "No one must see you here."
Heero frowned when he saw a man exit Une's quarters. It was not good for her to be seen with a man before her betrothal. A scandal would be disastrous, but no one was around, so Une's good name would remain intact. Still, best to check on her.
"My Lady?" Heero said as he knocked gently on her door.
Une smoothed her skirts when she heard Heero's knock. "Come in," she called and watched as Heero entered the room.
The boy was loyal to fault. In his years of service to her family, she had come to think of him and love him as a little brother. With that in mind, she knew she could not reveal what she was really doing in Sanq. If he should be captured on her account, he would truly have nothing to tell.
"Is everything well, my Lady?" Heero asked. In good taste, he did not mention the man he had seen leaving.
"Everything is fine, Heero. Are the horses’ trains ready?"
"Yes, my Lady. We await your word, and then we shall be on our way to Sanq. We will be there early tomorrow morning."
"Good. I know I can always count on you to get things done. Shall we?"
"My Lady, if I may be so bold… Are you... happy to be marrying High Mage Treize?"
Une gave a brittle laugh. "Oh Heero, you’re still so charmingly naive. You should know this marriage is just politics. Nothing more and nothing less. My happiness is beside the point."
Heero nodded curtly in understanding. So that's what the other man was for. "I'll leave you to finish packing, my Lady."
Une's thoughts were racing as she gave one last glance at the room. They would be expected in Sanq by morning and once they arrived, everything would change.
As the High Mage of Sanq, Treize was granted a grand ceremony to welcome his bride-to-be. Nothing was held back; no detail forgotten to greet Lady Une of Oz. Not only was it a great political match, but since Treize was a notorious bachelor, it was quite the gossip of town that he would finally wed.
The man in question waited impatiently on the parapet. It wasn't that Treize did not look forward to meeting his bride, but he wanted it over with. He understood how important the match was and he hoped he and the Lady would get along. Treize checked the time again. Where were they? He had some new potions bubbling in his study.
Though they had made good time the night before, Une's party was running late due to a flooded river, and Heero would not push his lady any more than she could go. Sanq would still be there when they arrived. When they finally pulled up to the castle, his Lady insisted on washing up before presenting herself in public, so Heero went to greet the groom in her place.
Treize was relieved to finally see Lady Une's lumbering train approaching the castle, but frowned when he received word that the Lady would retire to her suite to rest and wash while her knight would greet him in her stead. He watched as the young man with wild brown hair approached him and went down on one knee.
"My apologies, Lord Mage. We came across an unexpected delay in our travels, but Lady Une will be presented very shortly once she has rested," Heero explained, barely looking at the court's high mage out of respect.
"Of course, of course. A man's duty is to wait on his lady is it not?" Treize turned and smiled charmingly at the gathered crowd and a roar of laughter went up. Inside of course, he was cursing the whole elaborate ceremony. Treize studied the young man bent before him. "Rise, young man. What is your name?"
Heero rose as instructed, but kept his eyes just level with Treize's throat. "Sir Heero of Jaypan, my Lord."
"Jaypan?" Treize's eyebrows rose. "I visited that land many years ago. No matter how hard I studied the ancient manuals, I was never able to unravel your people's excellent fighting techniques."
"They take many years of learning, my Lord, and much devotion. Even I am a near novice compared to the masters of my homeland."
"Hmm ... perhaps you can teach me more about your training later."
"I am hardly in a position to be teaching anyone, let alone a grand mage such as yourself, my Lord."
Treize found himself oddly intrigued by the young man. Behind his stiff manners, there was something about him that Treize couldn’t quite place. "Nonsense! You shall come by tomorrow to tell me about your homeland." Treize looked at Heero meaningfully. It was a friendly order but an order nonetheless.
"Yes, my Lord," Heero said without looking at Treize. He knew how to follow orders. "If you'll excuse me. I must tend to my lady."
Treize watched as Heero left, his mood lifted by the promise of their meeting tomorrow.
Heero quickly found the way to his lady’s chambers and waited outside the door until she was ready. He would escort her to the ball himself and then pass her on to Treize. The ceremony was usually reserved for the bride’s father, but Lord Une had been unable to travel due to his age. Heero had flushed with pride when he was asked to stand in for the man.
Powdered and refreshed, Lady Une finally emerged from her suite in a flurry of silk and lace. "Are they still waiting downstairs?" she asked Heero.
"Yes my Lady. Are you ready to join the festivities?"
"As I'll ever be." Une lifted her skirts and followed Heero down the stairs. Below, the reception and Treize awaited her. Once Heero escorted her to her fiancé, the knight slinked away into the shadows, standing guard for any threats.
"My Lord Treize," Une said, in her gentlest and sweetest voice. "It is a pleasure to finally meet my future husband. I have heard so many good things about you."
"My Lady, the pleasure is all mine." Treize gave a sweeping bow and then grasped Lady Une's hand. He pressed his lips to the soft flesh.
Une feigned a nervous little titter and tried to pull her hand away, as she thought would be appropriate. If she gave in too easily, Treize wouldn’t be won over. "My Lord, so many people are watching."
When Une tried to pull away, Treize held onto her hand firmly. "Then let them watch."
Une gave another little titter, a bit more genuinely in the face of Treize’s behavior, and left her hand in his. "You are a very forward man, My Lord. It is a wonder you have been unmarried for so long."
Treize smiled. "What some call forward I merely call honest. Now, would you like to dance, my Lady?"
"I would be very happy to, my Lord."
The dancers spread away, making room for the guests of honor. Treize wrapped an arm about Une's waist and led her through the mincing steps of Sanq's most famous dances.
"You dance wonderfully, My Lord. Again, I am amazed that no woman has snatched you up yet. Whatever is your secret?"
"You're going to have to stop mentioning other women snatching me up, otherwise I'll start to think you'd rather give me away," Treize teased.
"Such a wonderful catch as yourself? A woman couldn't dream of any better, unless somehow their Majesties Zechs and Wufei managed to conceive a son."
Treize's gaze sharpened at the mention of the kings. He bent to whisper in Lady Une's ear. "My Lady, you would do well not to mention the dilemma of the royal heir if you want to avoid any trouble. It is the only dark cloud over our kingdom at the moment and as such, the most sensitive issue."
"My goodness, I do apologize. I only meant it as an idle comment." Une said, but inside, she smiled. This was exactly what Oz had been hoping for. If both kings died without an heir, the kingdom would be a vacuum of power, ready for the taking.
"Of course, but part of my duty as your husband is to guide you through court politics." Treize's tone was light but his eyes were troubled.
"I appreciate your guidance in these matters, my Lord. I am at your mercy."
"The honor is mine," Treize murmured. Reminded of the dilemma though, he found himself thinking again of the half-completed spells upstairs in his study.
After a few more dances, the bells were rung for dinner and Treize led Une over to the long banquet table. He pulled her chair out for her then took his own seat beside her once she was comfortable.
Une’s thoughts were distracted as dinner was served, and polite conversation dominated the meal. Treize was stealing glances at her, trying to figure out what she was thinking. His betrothed was not like the other women he had met who immediately fawned over him. He liked that Une held herself aloof, though he sensed some falseness in her etiquette, as though she had been told to act as she did, but did not truly agree with it. It would be fun to discover the true Lady Une.
Une felt these glances and found Treize’s curiosity to her advantage. Perhaps she had chosen her character well, and all this notorious bachelor had needed was a woman of breeding and slight peculiarity to win him over.
As the meal dwindled down, along with the conversation, Treize remembered the young man who had greeted him as Une prepared.
"That young man who preceded you today, who is he?"
"Sir Heero? He is my knight in waiting. My personal guard. My father went on a trip to Jaypan, and the poor thing was an orphan in the streets. My father took him in and trained him for knighthood. He grew to be an amazing warrior, and we have always treated him as well as our own, better in many cases, considering his extraordinary abilities."
"What sort of extraordinary abilities?" Treize cocked his head. He knew there was something special about the youth.
"Heero’s combat abilities far exceed any other knight in the Ozian court. That’s why he was selected to accompany me here. Though he lived in Jaypan for a few scant years as a child, he still seems to move as though he were one of their own martial artists. He has somehow melded that with our own knightly training and it is amazing to behold."
Treize’s curiosity was truly piqued. His instincts told him that this was worth exploring. "I would like an opportunity to get to know him better. I suggested something of the sort when we met this afternoon but of course it would be best if I had his Lady's permission."
"I think it would be wonderful if you two became friends. Heero's duties will extend to you as well. I shouldn't want anything happening to my husband."
"I am moved by your generosity, My Lady."
"As I am by yours. I am sure Heero will be very pleased to have made a new friend in this country of yours."
"I certainly hope so." Treize could not wait to find out more about Heero. It had been so long since he encountered anything truly interesting.
With dinner over, Une retired to her room, followed by her knight. Treize retired to his. After dismissing the servants he went to his study to work on the formula that he hoped would produce an heir for the kings of Sanq. His mind kept wandering though, to his new wife and the day’s events. Eventually he blew out the candles and went to sleep.
"Hmm, just another bit here...." Treize sprinkled more powder into the bubbling mixture. It turned bright purple before becoming transparent once again. Just a little more and he'd be done. Treize sighed. He needed a break. As soon as he thought it, he heard a commotion from below his tower as the last of Une's belongings were moved in. His eyes lit up as he remembered Heero. Treize immediately called a servant to summon the younger man.
Within minutes Heero was rapping quietly on Treize's suite door and entered when Treize invited him in. "You summoned me, my Lord?" Heero asked, his eyes lowered as usual.
"Yes, please have a seat. I spoke to your mistress last night and she thought it was a good idea for us to get to know each other better."
"As you like, my Lord."
"I do. Tell me Heero of Jaypan, what do you think of Sanq so far?"
"It is a mountainous region, difficult to get to and easy to defend. The court is clearly enjoying an economic boom as evidenced by the decadent decorations, clothing, and food from the previous evening."
Treize raised an eyebrow at Heero's matter-of-fact assessment. "Yes, but what do you feel about it, Heero. Do you like our hospitality, our scenery?” Treize cast a sly glance at Heero. "Our women?"
"I have been treated very well here, though with understandable suspicion due to my exotic looks and arrival from Oz. The scenery is the same as in any other place, and your women are likewise."
"Oh? And what is the same about them?"
"Dresses, long hair, giggle when you look at them. Women are like this in Oz, and Jaypan as well, if I remember correctly."
Treize laughed. "All right, then. Do you ever wish to return to Jaypan?"
Heero shook his head. "I have forgotten the language as well as the customs. I am as much an Ozian as my Lady. Only my features are different."
And that they were. Treize had seen enough of those smooth cheekbones to be curious but Heero refused to raise his head. "Raise your head when you speak, Heero. From now on, whenever we are in this study we will be equals. Understood?"
"No," Heero said pointedly, though he did look up with his eyebrows furrowed together in confusion.
"No, you do not understand or no, you refuse?"
"No, I do not understand, my Lord. We are not equals. I am your servant."
"Which means you will be whatever I want you to be until I tell you otherwise. Outside this room your behavior will fit your position but in here I will not have you speaking to my neck."
"Yes, my Lord," Heero said, still a little confused, but he dutifully kept his eyes on Treize's face.
"Lady Une tells me your fighting skills are impeccable. I'm a fair hand at sword fighting myself. Perhaps we could have a sparring match next time we meet."
"As you wish, my Lord."
"Excellent! Now what do you know of magic?" Treize indicated his workshop.
Heero was at a loss for words for a moment. He did not believe in magic, but clearly this man and the subjects of this kingdom believed in such superstitions. Being a visitor, he knew it was best to play along, so as not to anger his lady’s future husband.
“I know little of magic, my lord. Only that it is like a branch of science that we study in Oz,” Heero said, and felt that his reply was fairly diplomatic.
"Science? Hardly. Can your scientists in Oz do something like this?" Treize incanted a short spell and a small blue flame appeared in the palm of his hand.
"Oh yes, they use flint and steel in one hand, gunpowder and a blue dye in the other," Heero said, feeling pleased that he knew the answer.
Treize was taken aback. "I did not become High Mage by doing parlor tricks."
Heero frowned, looking worried. Perhaps he had not answered well after all. "I mean no offense, my lord,” Heero said quickly, realizing he had spoken too frankly to a high ranking lord. What to say to appease him? “I’m sure your manner of producing such flames is much more advanced,” he said.
"I see that the rumors of Oz are true then. A city of science and thinking that has forgotten the true power that runs in this world. I’ll tell you what, ask me to produce anything and I will do so for you. If you still think it is science, rather than magic, you need not ever come to my study again, does this sound fair?"
"Then you do not wish me to return?" Heero asked as he imagined just how much he had offended the High Mage. His Lady would be furious with him, he just knew it.
Treize watched as Heero's face fell. An unexpected reaction. His tone softened. "You are looking forward to visiting me then?"
"You are to be my Lady's husband. I shouldn't want to be banished from your presence. It would make it difficult to protect you."
"Very well then. If I cannot produce what you ask, you may choose your own reward."
Heero still hesitated though. "I am certain you can produce many fine things, my Lord. I would hardly know if it is magic or not. I will never say a word against it again."
Treize made a sound of disgust. "What did I say to you earlier? If I wanted another sycophant, I would not have called you here. The question is, are you brave enough to take on the challenge?"
Heero looked his lord in the eye, trying to figure out what he wanted, and finally, he nodded. He wasn’t sure what Treize wanted, but it was best to agree with what he suggested.
"Perfect. What would you have me do, Heero?"
Heero lacked any profound knowledge about. He certainly knew much less than this man, and even the thinkers in Oz. The basics though, he had some grasp of and he was fairly certain they could not be denied. "Can you make the table float?"
"Float?" Treize made a sweeping motion with his hand and the table rose just the tiniest bit. He mumbled a few words and the entire table lifted off the floor.
Heero watched, but he was unimpressed. He had scene tricks like it before in Oz, so surely it wasn’t magic. "Strings perhaps, of silk."
"You think so do you?" Treize repeated the incantation. Heero's chair fell away from him as he found himself floating in the air.
Heero startled at first, but then forced himself to relax. He had seen other tricks where they levitated people, though he didn’t know how it had been done. Lady Une had suggested something though. "Vents,” he ventured, though he did not seem so sure, since he could feel no draft. Shaking his head with disbelief, Treize settled Heero to the ground and waited for his next command. Heero considered it for a moment, looking around the room. “You could have anything set up in here,” he finally said. “We should go somewhere else, so I can see it’s not a trick.”
Treize shrugged. "If that will make you feel better."
"We'll go outside somewhere. Somewhere where you won't have ceilings for strings and floors for vents," Heero said, thinking he was very clever. Treize watched Heero go through this thought process and tried not to laugh. This was turning out to be more fun than even he had imagined.
Heero took the lead and as soon as he was out of the door, he lowered his head, so that he seemed like he was escorting Treize somewhere, rather than leading him to a place of his choosing. Heero did not know all of the palace grounds yet, but he had found a small secluded court that did not seem to get much use. He made his way there.
Treize recognized the court Heero was leading them to and he was surprised the younger man knew of it. He often came here to escape the hectic atmosphere of the palace. It was good Heero did not know that though, or else he might cry foul again.
Heero looked around the courtyard to make sure they had no witnesses, and then met Treize's eyes again. "I hear magic can make nature bend to its will. Since we're outside, I want you to grow a tree for me. Right here."
Heero selected a random spot on the ground. Treize just smiled. It was a shame the poor boy didn’t even realize that what he asked. What seemed so amzing to him, was one of the exercises given to mages in their first weeks of training.
Treize cocked his head and immediately a rumbling sound emerged from the spot Heero had pointed to. There was a shower of dust as a mass of saplings burst from the ground.
Heero was surprised that the saplings sprang up just where he pointed, but his face turned quickly to a frown as he inspected them, trying to work out the trick. If he had enough time, he could certainly figure out how Treize did it. Perhaps a spring loaded from underground?
"Age them," Heero said suddenly, feeling bold in Treize’s permissive presence. "I wanted a tree, not saplings. If you cannot do what I ask, I'll have to assume you're a charlatan."
"So young and impatient," Treize tsked. "Watch."
The saplings started to move. They separated and sank down into the earth, twisting and darkening into thick, gnarly roots. From their center, a thick trunk shot up. Branches extended from it and filled out into a thick canopy of dark green leaves. The tree shook and swayed for a moment, and then remained still, looking like a 200 year old oak resting in the middle of the courtyard.
Heero’s eyes widened at the sudden appearance of an old tree, which he had watched grow and change before his eyes. How could a trick like that even be possible? "Won't people notice the new tree here?" he asked, tugging off one of the leaves, feeling it, smelling it and tasting it.
"Well I'll just say it was..." Treize's words lodged in his throat as Heero fondled the leaf and his pink tongue stole out to taste it. He would have never thought the knight could be so sensual. Treize swallowed and finally found his voice again. "Ah ... should we go back in?"
"I didn’t say I was convinced yet," Heero said, even though he could not offer any other explanation. But ignorance was no reason to call something magical. Lady Une had always said that.
"Oh so you want to try out more saplings?"
"Something else I think. Something from thin air. Clearly this tree came from the earth. What about … a dragon?" Heero asked, thinking of the most magical sort of thing he could think of. The scientists of Oz had declared such creatures totally imaginary. So even if Treize could make one appear, it would only be smoke or something.
Treize sighed. He murmured an incantation and a resplendent red and gold dragon darkened the sky overhead. It swooped down, heading straight for Heero.
Heero’s eyes widened at the glistening monstrosity heading toward him. It certainly didn’t look like smoke, and he instinctively pulled his sword in the face of potential danger, even if it was nothing but a toothpick compared to the enemy.
Treize merely stepped to the side as the dragon knocked Heero's sword aside with a flick of its large claws and then wrapped them around Heero’s torso, pinning his arms to his sides. It leaned its large, square head close and breathed hotly onto Heero.
"My lord! Call it back!" Heero cried out. The creature was no smoke indeed. Heero could feel it, hear it, see it, and even smell its foul breath.
"But I'm only a charlatan remember?" While Treize spoke, the dragon licked its massive teeth and raised Heero a little closer to its mouth.
"You're not! Send it back where it came from, please!”
The dragon roared, and Heero would have been blown away by its smoky breath if not for the creature's tight grip on him.
"Sorry? What was that?" Treize called.
"You're not a charlatan! It's real magic! Call it away, I beg of you!" Heero shouted over the roar of the very real dragon.
Hearing those words, Treize walked over and petted Nellie's iridescent scales. She really was completely harmless.
"I’ll have her put you down if you agree to be my apprentice," Treize said, though he didn’t know why the idea had occurred to him so suddenly.
"Anything! Just release me!" Heero cried, panicked. He barely knew what he was agreeing to.
"Perfect. Thank you, Nellie." Treize offered the dragon a small treat and she dropped Heero to the ground. Heero got up shakily and looked at Treize as he thought over what he had agreed to.
“Do you really wish for me to be your apprentice?”
“Oh yes. I have been looking for just the right person, and my sorcerer’s instincts are tingling. Besides, I don’t think I’ve quite made a believer of you yet.”
"I've never taken well to book learning," Heero admitted grudgingly.
"Sorcery is 70 percent instinct and 30 percent book-learning but you will need to learn to read. Has Lady Une taught you your letters?"
Heero blushed a bit and lowered his head. Immediately, Treize’s tone softened.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of. We will start with that first."
"My Lady has tried... as I said, I am not good at book learning..." Heero's fists clenched.
"Perhaps you have lacked the right teacher," Treize said, his hand covering Heero's clenched fist. "Trust me."
Heero jerked his hand away. "I must tend to my Lady. I will come for my lessons tomorrow morning, my lord." Heero spun on his heel and walked away without looking back.
Treize stared after Heero as the young man made his way back to the palace. Another nobleman would have been angry at being so summarily dismissed, but Treize’s heart was pounding. He knew he was on the verge of an incredible discovery. The only question was what would happen next.