Zechs Marquise (thousandwinds) wrote in 3751_musebox,
Zechs Marquise

same song, different tune

[The only thing Zechs clearly understood about this place was that it wasn't his Earth, nor anywhere in the Earth Sphere.]

[Considering his status as a ghost, this suited him fine.]

[Hunched in a dark booth, because being dead for a better part of a year instilled habits in him, Zechs nursed a Scotch and attempted to relax. No-one knew his name here. What he did. The blood which soaked his hands.]

[Only he knew of his sins here.]
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July 8 2011, 20:43:12 UTC 6 years ago Edited:  July 8 2011, 20:43:49 UTC

[Charles doesn't know this bar or this Earth, but give him enough time and he can get pretty far. He gets a beer because that tended to be the safest choice in an unknown bar. He watches the people mill around, trying to stop himself from overhearing thoughts. Sure, at the pubs he knew well, he could spend half the night tuning into others thoughts. But, well, crowds can shift over time, and anyway, listening in on drunk people wasn't always as fun as it sounded.]
[This man is too paranoid to become drunk, as much as he dearly wishes to avoid his thoughts for just an evening. While he knows, intellectually, that he's a stranger to everyone here, he can't help but discreetly glance about.]

[Zechs already cataloged the exits and possible points of entry when entering the building. His back is toward a wall, he faces the prominent doorways. Watching others move, looking at shifts of fabric, his eyes coolly assess them under the fall of blond bangs. That man has a pocket-knife plainly stowed in his front pocket, doesn't think of it as a weapon. That woman handles her handbag with - must have a small revolver, she's nervous.]

[He looks to the unassuming Englishman at the bar and dismisses him quickly, already eyeing an athletic man in a leather jacket. Mostly harmless.]
[He tunes out the drunk meandering thoughts well enough, already trying to chat with some of the other people at the bar. Aimless conversation, how's the weather, how are you, what do you want to drink, where are you from. Small talk. Easily filtered out. Most people's thoughts align, and when they align, they're easy to ignore. He focuses on the conversations at hand.

He feels eyes on him. Not the glance of someone just looking around, but the feeling of being catalogued. He looks back in that direction, towards the booths. Someone nursing a scotch along with paranoia. He keeps looking for a moment or two, more curious than delving too deeply. He doesn't dismiss him from his thoughts, and every now and then he looks back again, but the conversation's moved on and he's not going to be left behind.]
[The fact that someone noticed him watching actually surprised Zechs a little. It surprised rather than alarmed him, of course, because it was the unarmed and quite civilian-seeming Englishman. His mask in place, he didn't meet the man's eyes when he was curiously glanced at, didn't acknowledge except in his thoughts his slight curiosity.]

[Unlike Charles, however, Zechs quite forgot about the incident within a short time. Once his Scotch was empty, he drew up to the bar. Now he was relaxed enough to stand tall, sober enough not to betray his limp. He ordered another expensive fifth of whiskey, and tipped generously.]

[His scowl to the bartender, however, was ignored.]
Must you continue playing that dreadful tune to please the whims of those too drunk to remember it?

[Yes. Completely ignored. Zechs considered the merits of getting drunk after all.]
[Charles made room at the bar for the newcomer, the one cataloging earlier. He needed to get a name, and preferably legitimately. The kind of person who looked around a bar for exits and threats probably would be aware if a telepath came knocking, even a relatively subtle one like him. He milled around, listening to the music, but more importantly, hearing the man's complaint about it.]

Yes, I'm afraid so. Must be part of the bartender manifesto.

[He didn't mind the music, actually. Up-tempo and electronic somehow. Something rather new, something he'd not heard before. The kind of beat that got stuck in most people's heads all too easily. It'd get stuck in his just as easily, but he already had so much inside.]

Don't think we've met. How do you do?
Well enough, one supposes, considering the atmosphere. [His voice is dry and while irritated, it's not directed at this stranger. Much.]

[There's something in Zechs which supposes that people his age are supposed to enjoy this kind of thing, but it's altogether ... he'd prefer quiet, and dark. Yet perhaps he'd have enough of the quiet and dark.]

[He should just leave it at that, but fragments of polite society in Zechs make him pause. There's no reason to coldly brush off this stranger, and the man is no threat. Heavens knew the last time he had civil conversation, after all, and while he was not the most social of people ... it had been some time.]

[Zechs was about to introduce himself -]

[And hesitated again.]

[Just who was he? Certainly not Milliardo Peacecraft, never again Milliardo Peacecraft. That was a name which was given in the intention to be a bastion of peace, and was used in a terrible gesture of warfare and terrorism. Never again. Except ... except. No. The peace would last. Never again.]

[He licked his dry lips, kept his face calm and cool, facade intact. There was one name he hadn't completely killed yet, even if that man died for Treize's puppetry out in the Atlantic ocean. He offered a hand to be shook.]

I am called Zechs Marquise.


July 8 2011, 22:48:35 UTC 6 years ago Edited:  July 8 2011, 22:52:15 UTC

You've barely begun to see atmosphere.

[Oh, how he knew. He heard the pause, the hesitance, and didn't fill the space on his own. For once. He knew the sharp edges of pain as they lance through others, too well at all times. He couldn't in any conscience ignore them, even his own negligible one. The world seemed to spin in pain, but some people orbited around it like satellites.

He shook his hand, wondering at how many people he needed to save from drowning.]

Charles. Charles Xavier. Have you been here long?
[Zechs shook his hand smartly, bowed his head slightly, unable to keep the military and aristocracy completely from his bearing. His brief smile was cool and polite, small and diplomatic. It then faded into his normal facade of indifference.]

I have only learned of this place recently. I admit this is my first opportunity to visit this particular pub.

And, you? Are you a regular here?
[Charles tended to act like a mirror: he reflected what he was given. Zechs practically shouted indifference, so Charles lowered his enthusiasm to match.]

Oh, no. I know of some very similar places, admittedly, but not this one in particular.
[Zechs is curious, but keeps it tightly wrapped inside of himself, knowing that being eager means being open. Besides, there's nothing yet presented from this Charles which warrents more than idle curiosity.]

Similar places?

[Now, for example, is that attention, the careful analysis. Mostly hidden beneath his careful, practiced calm manner, but his mind is not yet dulled by whiskey.]

Similar in its design, serving alcohol to the public, or similar in its ... nature?
Both, but not at the same time. I'm fairly familiar with [A pause as he tried to find the right word.] bars. I could hardly call myself a college graduate without it.

[An awkward, nervous laugh.]

And I know a place that allows multiple worlds to interact from time to time.

[Where the grass is really greener--Oh. The song changed. That explained a lot.]
You did not seem of an age to be yet unfamiliar with bars.

[There's a small, self-resigned smirk at that. College graduate. This was a man from another world, all right; a world of privelage, of peace, where men of his age and younger could afford to go off and earn an education over many years without the guise of military education. In his arrogance and experience alike, Zechs could not imagine one like Charles on the battlefield.]

[Now, he visibly shows some curiosity;]

This ... location was extraordinary enough, and without proof of its existence, I would have not believed it. Yet you claim to be one who connects with alternate worlds on a regular basis?

[Deep inside, the explorer in Zechs leaps, attempting to escape the paranoia and mistrust which surrounds his thoughts.]
To be fair, I think there's probably six year olds familiar with bars.

[His smirk was much less resigned. Much more actually amused. He didn't follow the thoughts of privilege, surface though they were, and followed the visible curiosity instead.]

It sounds so much more grand when you put it that way. But yes, I do. Entirely accidentally on my part, but, well, I've no complaints about it.
Mostly likely.

[He agrees like he's amused, but some dry part of his brain adds, especially depending on what age they were enlisted. It was rare that someone as young as six became involved in the military, but those colonial pilots ...]

[But he moves away from thoughts of war, and since he is usually given little opportunity to do so, he launches into this topic of 'other worlds' with enthusiasm. Carefully hidden behind a polite, calm facade enthusiasm, but still.]

Forgive me, yet I cannot imagine how the discovery can be anything less than extraordinary - if for its implications toward scientific understanding of reality alone.

[He considers, and adds,] Yet for the unknown realitys presented suddenly to an individual, unknown dangers must surely be introduced as well.
[Or depending on what movies they've seen. Or the parents they had. Charles knew his way around scotch bottles the way some people knew landmines.]

Oh, it's rather extraordinary, I agree with you there. But the worlds aren't as important as the people on them, at least as far as I see it.

[People changed the world around them almost as much as gravity. He smiled to himself, not quite launching into a spiel just yet, but clearly happy about this change in subject. He nodded to himself, as if agreeing with a private joke.]

Naturally. You'll forgive me if I won't discuss it here, will you?
Unless the worlds contain something other than humanity, I cannot imagine their people would be too different than our own.

[There's a dark but also philosophical undercurrent to that one. Humans cannot help being human, and there are parts of Zechs which fights to remember the decent parts of the whole. They would be, certainly, the source of most dangers; he nods and smiles thinly, politely, at Charles' suggestion.]

I believe the goal of most visits to a location such as this would be to forget that which would ail us. Dangers are for another evening.

[Smoothly, used to changing the subject from uncomfortable topics;] You had mentioned a university education?
On the whole and on the balance? No, not particularly so. But individually? Oh, you've no idea how different people can be.

[A crowd is dangerous because everyone in it is thinking the same thing. Separate the people into persons and the difference was... well, night and day. People may not be different on the other worlds, but they were still people. Wondrous, horrible, stupid, petty, amazing people.]

Depends on the bars you frequent. [An amused lilt to his voice, almost a laugh.]

Yes, I did. I studied genetics, along with a great many other things.
I think I have a fair idea. [Is the polite response; Zechs believes, however, that many people are fundamentally the same. Weak, or possessing strength and therefore contempt over others. Rare individuals shone out from them, bright and with a certain purity like starlight among a black abyss. But he doesn't let himself fall into brooding - not now, anyway.]

[In fact, when Charles said 'it depends -' Zechs barked out a laugh. He remembered flashes of clubs with a different kind of danger, and for a moment, a genuine though rather crafty grin appeared.]

This particular bar would seem to be ... tame, yes.

[Polite nod.] You are very fortunate to have the opportunity - many would be envious. May I ask what you do now, with your knowledge of such 'many things'?
Do you? [The raised eyebrow of skepticism made an appearance. The kind of person who catalogued the people at the bar, looking for threats and exit routes, tended to not be so magnanimous in their thought patterns about others. With all due respect, of course. He didn't skim Zechs' thoughts. He didn't have to. He hummed to himself for a moment, and absently commented.]

Well, you'd hardly be the first.

[He followed the conversation along, rather than alter the course. He brightened a bit, almost glowing under the barlight with pride.]

I'm a professor, actually. I teach. What do you do?
[Zechs raised an eyebrow in return at his murmured musings, but didn't press.]

[He did, however, have a momentary flash of mental flailing at the question. Zechs' face was perfectly smooth, calm, sipping the whiskey to buy him time. What was the right answer to the question?]

[Truth was always the best aid to a lie, or at least an evasion. Zechs said calmly, though a little quietly,]
At the moment? I am ... between occupations.

I was a soldier upon my world, yet the war is over, and will never return.
[Charles waited for him to answer, trying to keep himself from prying. And, truthfully, he never pried. Some people just projected so very loudly at times, it'd be impossible not to hear them. Most people were oceans underneath, deep and vast. The more placid the surface, the more lurked below.]

Is that so?

[Curiously, but gently. That's Charles in a nutshell, minus the shell.]

Seems you've an opportunity to find something more for yourself, then.

[Death didn't bring peace. Not as much as people claimed it did.]
[There are no opportunities for the dead.]

[Zechs couldn't help that thought, nor the rest of the emotions which was bubbling up in him. But he could keep strict control over his face, sipping Scotch when he wasn't certain he could remain utterly composed. For the first time, however, his eyes betrayed him, glittering darkly.]

Indeed, many soldiers have found new life in peacetime. [Feeling of being lost, utterly adrift; he had no idea what to do with himself.] Many are embracing this new opportunity to leave behind bloodshead. [Guilt and resignation; he's alive for a reason and purpose, but he should be dead, dead along with those men he'd murdered in battle, ordered to be killed. He should have died on the battlefield with Treize.] While there may be those who will not accept peace, it is a ... welcome fate. One I have fought for all my life.

[But he deserves this, deserves a worst fate, for his role in the war. The peace is not meant for a man like him. He only exists now if war should ever become a specter to haunt humanity again.]

[Zechs smiled, realized he had finished his entire whiskey in just those small, polite phrases, and signaled the bartender for another.]

[Emotions didn't just bubble. They flooded him, drowning out Charles' calm and overshadowing it with a spinning wheel of indecision-conflict-loss-guilt slipping quickly from one to the other so fast he could hardly distinguish between them. He schooled his features as best he could, keeping his cool, lightly polite demeanor in place while he felt gutted and hollow underneath.]

Do you have any plans at all? If you've fought for this all your life, you should... you should try to find something to do with it, I think. Even if you're not sure what that is yet, or how to get there.

[He glances downward at his glass, still half-full.]
[Charles wasn't too obvious, but Zechs still noticed his disquiet. There wasn't any reason for him to suspect what was actually happening, though, and attributed the older man's unease to the conversation's topic. A pacifist, perhaps. One who would but pity a man who wouldn't embrace the peace.]

[On the contrary. Zechs didn't ... he couldn't think ... the very idea of what to do if this peace was not permanent? If it collapsed as any other had in history? If the ZERO was right after all?]

[The ZERO had plans. It was made of paths and webs, seeing all possibilities, mapping out every alternative. The future, if you will; the Earth ruined and desolate, humanity frightened into a permanent peace, and Milliardo as a dead villain, never to terrorize the Earth again.]

[The ZERO had been discarded, but his brain even just thinking of plans suddenly hungered for it, a distant pang, reaching for something he could never have. Zechs shrugged that urge violently aside. It was time to wrestle this conversation somewhere else.]

[A third of this new glass was gone already.]

You likely assist many wayward youth with their future careers, as a professor. [As if amused]
[A pacifist, yes. But not full of pity. Not entirely, at least. Full of sorrow, more likely, because Zechs bled sorrow out like other people breathe in oxygen. It almost suffocated him, and Charles struggled for air. Everyone around him seemed to be drowning, whether in whiskey or water or wounds. He focused on the frothy bubbles in his beer, along the side, and wondered how on Earth he was meant to keep afloat.]

Not as well as I should like.

[He tried for lightly. He felt he missed the mark. He looked up from his drink, still a bit blindsided.]

Peace may not last forever, so we should enjoy it while we may.


6 years ago


6 years ago