Treize closed the high double doors behind himself and leaned against the smooth wooden surface for an instant. It was amazing how many people had managed to waylay him on the walk from the main gate to his quarters. Ruefully he admitted to himself that it would have been better to make the extra effort and stay at his family's residence rather than here at the Romafeller Foundation's head quarters. Escaping all those inane requests would have been worth it. At least Lady Une was out there now, dutiful as always and glaring at anyone who dared to approach.
Sometimes she could be a rather formidable guardian, Treize thought fondly as he reached out to turn on the lights. The chandelier flickered to life, and he took a moment to appreciate the sensation of being in familiar surroundings again, even if it was just his office.
A low noise made him turn a little, and his attention was drawn to the left, where a familiar figure was attempting to bury his face in his arms to escape the sudden brightness of the light.
"I was under the assumption that you would not arrive before eight tonight," Treize said mildly.
Raising his head, Zechs blinked at him blearily. "I didn't. I landed at half past."
Treize glanced at the faux-antique clock on the wall opposite the desk, then at the half-awake man on the settee. He'd need to have some cushions brought up, he thought as he spotted Zechs' cloak, bunched up to serve as a pillow. "Milliard, much as I hate to confuse you, but it is not even six yet."
Another blink. "Half past eight," Zechs repeated, with a vague gesture towards the low table before him where his mask, his gloves and his wristwatch lay. "I made sure to arrive a bit later so I won't have to watch Lady Une during dinner. She has been glaring more than usual lately."
Suppressing a sigh at the reminder of the difficulties between those two, Treize leaned against the edge of the ornate desk. "I fear that's due to me informing her that you are to be trusted in all regards after that incident in Mexico. My dear Lady did not take that as well as I'd hoped she would."
She'd actually done a rather impressive display of cold fury at this reminder that in the chain of command she and Zechs were on an equal level. Not that Zechs wouldn't have reacted in his own way to that kind of news; he'd just have looked more stoic thanks to the mask.
Ah well. They'd eventually realize that there was no point in this animosity, and until then Treize intended to sit back and enjoy the occasionally rather entertaining explosions. Besides, in their efforts to outdo each other, they were pushing themselves most effectively. Arguing the justification of the Specials' elite status was so much more easier when Treize could point at those two as examples of keenness and determination.
"I assume I should not ask whether you would like to accompany me to dinner." Had Treize really wondered about the answer to that question, the sudden glower on Zechs' face would have been answer enough. "Probably not, then. I'll have something sent up for you."
His face smoothing again, Zechs just shrugged. "It's too late for dinner. I'll just wait until tomorrow."
Again Treize looked at the clock. "Where have you been for the last week?" he asked. "Karachi?"
"Shanghai." Zechs sat up, apparently having decided that his nap was, for now, over. "Putting the fear of the Specials into some new recruits there. Their commander thought they'd benefit from it."
Treize mentally sifted through the names of Alliance commanders in the region. "Bunt?" he asked after a second.
Zechs ran a hand through his hair, adding a modicum of order to the tangled white strands. "The one and only," he said with more calmness than Treize would have thought possible after a week with that particular officer. Pitting Zechs against Une was beginning to pay off, in increased power of endurance at least.
"Then you're excused from all duties for tonight. I'll just entertain them on their own, and point out that you're still in transit."
For a moment Zechs gave him a look that would have been called blank on anyone else, but which passed as puzzled for him. "They'll already be done with their efforts at socializing," he said.
"Milliard. You are in Luxembourg, not in Moscow. It's still early."
The puzzled look deepened, then Zechs glanced first at his watch and then, when Treize inclined his head, looked up at the clock. Then he muttered something that would have been unwise to repeat in polite company.
"It's just jet lag, Milliard." Treize picked up his cape and went over to the small mirror in the corner to straighten his cravat. "Nothing to be concerned about."
"And yet you don't seem to have this problem," Zechs growled from behind him. "You came from Alaska, didn't you? You should be worse off, with all your travels."
Treize tugged his cuffs straight. "You're used to Pacific rim time," he said, frowning when one of his cufflinks came undone. "I haven't spent more than twenty hours in one time zone for the last month. If you tell me it's morning, I'd probably believe you."
Too much travelling, as far as he was concerned. He was, however, becoming rather apt at snatching naps whenever he could, and Une was routinely sending him little messages with the current time and date. It wasn't something Treize wanted to grow used to, but for the next few years he saw no way around it unless the Alliance decided on a more centralized command structure. Which, with all the colonels and their somewhat megalomaniac approaches towards their territory, was unlikely to happen.
Yet another reason to get rid of them sooner rather than later.
Content with his appearance, Treize stepped over to the settee and leaned down. "Don't wait up," he murmured, claiming a quick kiss.
He heard a discontent grumble.
"You can make it up to me later. I imagine wrapping up this meeting will take long enough that you can sleep a little. And I should be on Sydney time for tomorrow, so it wouldn't hurt if you could give me some incentive not to go to sleep immediately…"
Zechs looked a little more awake at that suggestion, and Treize had to work on hiding a smirk.
"Rest, Milliard," he said before he let himself out.