How It’s Supposed To Go
by Laura Fox
based on the anime
Allison & Lillia
Lillia focused on the mirror with grim determination as she brushed her hair straight under the hot blast of the blowdryer. If she let herself think beyond each stroke, her heart unaccountably came up into her throat, but this was no time for that; she had a mission. With a few weeks left until the start of training (for her) and university (for him), she and Treize were on vacation in Lartika again — a little nostalgic, a little more mature, in adjoining luxury suites of the same old hotel, with a romantic view of the vast lake and the starry sky through windows that opened on a barely-cool late-summer-evening breeze. Yes, this was how it was supposed to go.
When they’d tracked down some of the children they had met on their previous visit, of course they had been reading in the papers about the royal not-quite-wedding just like everyone else, and Carlo — who turned out to be Carla; that was a shock — had been surprisingly vehement in telling Lillia that it was all her fault for not kissing Treize when she should have. Well, they were past that now.
When a girl lay claim to a boy as Lillia had Treize — snatching him away from a queen at the altar; who could top that? — when it was like that between them, there were things she was supposed to do.
And so before setting out from home, Lillia had gone out shopping by herself, not thinking her mother would raise an eyebrow, really, just wanting the privacy and independence, and bought the right nightgown. Her usual boyish pajamas wouldn’t do, but she found just the thing she needed, sheer and sheeny with thin straps, low and lacy in front, lower still in the back. No baby pink or powder blue, it should be a grown-up color, and she picked one in a rich dark green. The black lace had somehow given her pause, but she had pressed dauntlessly forward; it was no time for hesitation.
From the start of the trip, though, it all refused to go smoothly. When she met Treize at the station, Lillia had found herself starting from zero. Thinking about it, she supposed that all of that from earlier in the summer had still been bothering him; at first he had seemed standoffish even when she just held his hand, but with a little persistence on her part he had warmed up happily to cuddling and kissing. She’d been pushing past her own nervousness at first, just knowing that this was how it was supposed to go, but by now she wondered why she had put it off so long. Surely it would be like that, too, with the next step, and that heart-in-the-throat feeling now was nothing to worry about or give in to.
Last night’s calamity was certainly nothing to give in to. That was when she had intended to make her move, but the disadvantage of the right nightgown was that there had been no way to fold it in her luggage. The silky fabric flowed like water; no matter what she tried, it ended up a puddle in the bottom of her suitcase, and then all her other clothes had been packed tight pressing it into that position, so last night after her shower she had finally brought it out only to find it full of unsightly wrinkles. No helpless stranger to housework, she had gotten out the provided iron, and that was when everything seemed to go wrong. With the door between their suites left unlocked, the smell of burning synthetic had brought Treize running to see that she was all right, and she’d had to leap without a second to spare to stop him from seeing what she was doing, dressed only in a towel that barely stayed in place long enough to push him back out the connecting door and lock it behind him. At that, she had allowed herself a sigh of relief, but in the very next breath found that the smell was stronger and realized she hadn’t had a second to spare to take the iron off the gown. By that time both were lost causes. The gown was wasted money, but at least no one else had seen the fiasco. She couldn’t help dreading, however, what some finance minister back in Ixtova would think when the iron and ironing board came up on the hotel bill.
But it was only a temporary setback. Today she had taken Treize to a department store, and, after shopping, to its top-floor café. There, she claimed to have left her change purse somewhere and insisted that he wait and start lunch while she went back and got it, wouldn’t take but a second, and rushed back down to the lingerie counter. However, the selection was much worse here than in the capital; thin straps and lace at least could be found, but no grown-up green or anything like it, and she spent minutes on end agonizing over the least bad option. This green was too minty, the pink was too babyish and didn’t suit her hair anyway, the yellow was the best color but didn’t come in the best style... She at last settled for the blue and had it boxed and wrapped to prevent discovery or another crush-wrinkle incident, but by the time she got back to the café, Treize had gone missing. Another circuit through the whole store didn’t turn him up but did leave her ravenously hungry, so she ordered lunch and sat in the café to wait for him, reasoning that it would at least make her easy for him to find. No sooner had the food arrived than Treize returned with the original lunch order — now cold — and a panic-harried look that struck Lillia with the guilty realization: her delay had given him a genuine scare, and after everything the two of them had been through, who could blame him? She had been all ready, if he asked her about the extra item she had bought, to tell him playfully that it was a secret, but that plan was blown out of the water immediately, and when, after a moment to compose himself, he asked if she’d had a hard time finding her change purse, she fumbled it for a few seconds before lamely agreeing that she had.
By that time it had been much later than planned, but she had still insisted on searching for the pilot from their previous visit; they found him doing well, having gotten a new plane — probably out of the government’s attempt to keep the whole thing quiet — and a trip out over the lake in it, this time without incident, had put Treize in much better spirits just as Lillia had known it would. Dinner at the hotel had been a delicious shellfish in spiced cream sauce over toast points, with an appropriately light fruit cocktail and sponge cake after, and things were looking up now as she put the blowdryer away. The second-try nightgown was more fetching than she had expected, and for a moment it looked as if that one free-spirited lock of hair was even going to behave itself — but no, as soon as she tossed her head admiringly at the mirror, it sprang back up. Well, beauty was supposed to benefit from a little imperfection, right?
Lillia leaned forward and gazed fiercely into her own brown eyes. “All right, let’s go!”
She took a deep, fortifying breath, padded over to the connecting door, and double-checked that it wasn’t locked on her side, wishing to avoid even that small stumble. Nervous anticipation tightened in her face, but she shaped it into a cute smile, raised her knuckles, and rapped on the door. “Treize...?”
After a few moments, his soft footsteps approached; there was no sound of a lock, only the knob, and he opened the door to meet her with towel-damp hair, a broken-in tee shirt, long knit pants and stocking feet. “What is it?”
“Oh, nothing, I just... wanted to come in here with you,” she said, edging delicately past him. The feeling of the slippery nightgown brushing over her skin as she moved was just right, but other than that, she realized, she had only a vague outline in her head of how this was supposed to go; well, she just had to play it by ear. She sat down on the edge of his bed — it was in just the right place, beside the window but not too close; the hotel must have thought of that — and she looked at him.
He came over and sat down beside her; so far so good. She slipped her arm around his waist, and he wrapped his arm around her, too, gathering her to his side. When she nuzzled his chin, where it was just a little prickly, he turned toward her touch, and she closed her eyes as he kissed her, soft and warm and moist, that little pull, on her cheek, and then on her lips...
And then nothing. He backed off a little and just sat there, with his arm loosely around her. In her vague mental outline, there was a point where the two of them should lie back... But then, you wouldn’t want to do that from this position, with your feet dangling over the edge of the bed, so she backed up and turned with her legs toward the footboard — making sure to keep the nightgown arranged demurely at this point; it was still early in.
Treize pivoted a little and looked at her. And that was all. His expression was so sweet and calm, with the stars and the chandelier crossing each other’s light over it, that for a moment Lillia was tempted to just sit and look at him awhile — but no, she had a mission, and she was beginning to think black lace really was what it took. Hoping to at least call his attention to the mood, she drew a long sigh and gazed out the glass doors of the balcony and into the heavens. “Isn’t it beautiful? And the breeze tonight is just perfect...”
“Yeah...” He walked around the bed to the balcony doors and opened them up, letting that perfect breeze fill the room and sway the lace draperies softly as a breath; it brought the mood that much closer to right, but then Treize just let himself fall to a seat on the other edge of the bed. “I kind of hoped it would be different, though.”
“Wha??” Lillia jumped, heat flooding to her face. “What do you mean??”
“It’s just like the last time we were here; the town’s so quiet, all those streets with nothing in them... After everything that happened, I hoped it would have gotten better for the people here after all, but...”
The pang of agreement barely struggled through as she wilted under a mix of relief and frustration. “Can we... not talk about that right now...?” she managed, trying to keep it soft and sweet.
A few more moments limped by in which nothing happened. Then, suddenly, he pulled himself up closer to her—
“So I guess your mother can tell you what to expect in training,” he supposed brightly. “Although maybe they’ve changed it a lot...”
Lillia’s face pinched. “Don’t talk about that right now, either!”
Treize blinked at her. “Okay... What do you want to talk about?”
Her patience at the breaking point, she let her breath come out in a growl of vexation and rounded on him. She seized his shoulders, pushed him flat on his back, and glared at him down the hanging curtains of her hair. “You are not getting the idea here!!”
“Ah—!” For a moment he was frozen with surprise, hands raised defensively, and then — finally — his wide eyes slipped down from hers, over her shoulders where the thin sheeny straps crossed the dip of her clavicles to the gap where the lace neckline hung down below her chest — “Uagh!”
He twisted out from under her hands faster than she could have imagined, and the next instant she heard a thud as he went over the side of the bed. She shuffled around, hands and knees sinking into the plush bedclothes, and peered over the edge just as he picked himself up, bringing the two of them nose to nose.
“Um... Is this about what I think it’s about?” he asked, rubbing his head.
“What else would it be about?” Lillia questioned sharply.
“Well, that’s—” Treize floundered before her narrowed eyes. “I mean not that it wouldn’t be... Just right now, ah...”
“It’s nothing to be scared of, is it? One of these days we’re going to be married, right?”
“Well, yeah — er...” By the time he realized the magnitude of his reply, he had already passed it. “But, you know, until then...”
Lillia felt something like the flick of a switch, and she rocked back upright to sit on the bed with an oddly triumphant smile. “Oh, I see,” she crowed. “You’re old-fashioned.”
“Kind of,” he admitted as he climbed back up beside her.
“So you probably think I’m some kind of scarlet woman now,” she teased, still grinning.
“No, no! It’s not like that, it’s just... Well, I’m a prince, you know?” Treize fumbled to explain. “If I did something and there was a scandal, it might cause everyone more trouble... And if I did it anyway, I’d just be worrying about things like that, so it wouldn’t be...”
“You’re looking out for your parents and your sister, huh?” Lillia asked, mellowing a little. “But you know, that means you should just throw me out. We should have had totally separate rooms. People can talk whether we do anything or not.”
He turned his face away, resisting the argument. “It seems different somehow. As long as I was really innocent, I wouldn’t mind so much...” The explanation of avoiding censure to protect his family felt at least partly right but logically fell apart when he thought about it; before this summer, there hadn’t been any public connection through which his behavior would reflect on them, and it still would have been the same. Was he afraid of disappointing his parents? That didn’t quite sound right, either... He let himself fall back onto the pillows and stretched out. “I don’t know what it is.”
Lillia curled up playfully and lay her head on his stomach. “You’re just that kind of guy,” she said.
“Yeah, maybe,” Treize agreed, with a bemused smile at himself.
They lay there for awhile; nothing was happening, but now Lillia didn’t mind it, and she gradually noticed the sensation of his belly shifting under her cheek in a slow rhythm. She lay a hand on him in front of her face, like she might lay her hand on her pillow, and found the edge of his ribs through his shirt, a shape that sharpened and dimmed with the rise and fall of each breath.
It occurred to her that maybe that was what she had held off from; maybe somehow she hadn’t wanted to really find out that Treize lived in a physical body, that he was made of bones wrapped in firm-soft muscles and skin, but now, as she idly let her hand explore, she wondered why she had put it off so long. Since she’d let go of the idea of doing it all tonight, her heart had settled quietly back in her chest, and without its distraction she could begin to feel, somewhere further down, that it would have been nice... Well, he’d had a point about nerves hanging over you. When it did happen, she’d be more able to relax and have a good time.
As she came to the more thickly padded curve of his chest, her fingers brushed over the little nub that men had there, too, and she toyed with it curiously for a moment before he pulled a deep breath, caught her hand, and held it, resting it further down on his ribs again. It would be too embarrassing to change his mind now, and he just might if she kept that up, or if he spent too much time looking down at her curled up under that sheer, waterlike gown — how had he managed not to notice that sooner? — her body as velvety and naturally perfect in its curves as a flower petal... But he judged her hair to be safe and stroked with his fingers over her head and down a lock of it, warm and dry, slick as glass, slick as talcum powder...
Lillia made a contented sound and nestled into him more.
Yes, Treize thought, one of these days they were going to be married.
And that would be very, very nice.
** * FIN * **