The Ashford Academy's Annual Beach Blowout was an oddly controversial trip. For a school that held crossdressing festivals and allowed Elevens to attend, an outing to the seaside would seem tame by comparison. But Milly Ashford had been organizing the blowout since the year before she started high school, and it had developed something of a… reputation.

Which was why, even with Milly as president and all the power that position held, the attendance was a mere half-dozen attendees. Even Kallen hadn't been able to make it, unfortunately not feeling well enough to attend school.

Not that Milly was complaining. Exactly.

"I'm just saying that we'd have had room if you'd convinced Nunnally to come."

Lelouch sighed. "And I'm saying that there is no way I'm exposing my little sister to this trip. Even without the extras there's sand that could get into her wheelchair, too much sun, not enough shade, risk of dehydration, of sexual harassment, of jellyfish stings–"

"Jellyfish?" Suzaku asked, perking up.

Shirley shook her head. "Not really. At least not in the beach area. Maybe further out, though." Suzaku looked thoughtful.

"You are not bringing jellyfish home," Lelouch ordered him in a low voice. Suzaku drooped a little.

Rivalz, having missed most of the quieter conversation from up front where he was driving, joined in a little late. "Besides, if Nunnally was coming, there's no way Lelouch could have fit all his stuff in the van."

Shirley stifled her giggles. Milly wasn't quite that polite. "This is even more than last year, Lelouch."

"I learned my lesson after last year," Lelouch muttered.

Rivalz stopped the van and pulled the parking break. "We're here!"

They pilled out of the van, Nina first, Lelouch last as he gathered up his things. Rivalz grabbed Suzaku's hand and dragged him down to the beach, kicking off his shoes as he ran. "Sun, sand, water, and girls in bathing suits! Who could ask for anything more?"

Suzaku laughed, hiding his nervousness as best he could with a carefree attitude. The beach was mostly filled with families and couples, but there were a few groups of girls sunbathing or swimming together, and a few groups of guys playing various sports and swimming together, and occasionally two of those groups would fuse into one co-ed group of new couples. The one thing everyone seemed to have in common was that they were Britannian. There were no Elevens, even serving snacks or selling trinkets, and Suzaku felt oddly exposed.

"Guys, the changerooms are over here!" Shirley called, waving them over to a building where Milly and Nina were disappearing into. Rivalz shot Suzaku one more grin and raced after them, picking up his shoes as he went. Suzaku followed somewhat more sedately, pausing as he passed Lelouch and his pile of stuff.

Lelouch tossed his hair out of his eyes and shouldered a duffle bag, picking up a cooler with the same hand. His other hand gripped the handle of a luggage carrier on wheels which slipped out of his hand as the backpack he had slung over that shoulder slid down to hook itself around his elbow.

"Need a hand with that?"

After a moment's hesitation, trying to see if Suzaku was teasing him, Lelouch nodded gratefully. Suzaku grabbed the cooler and duffle bag, leaving the luggage and backpack for Lelouch. "What's all this for, anyways?"

Lelouch shrugged. "Most of it's just in case. You've seen what can happen when Milly gets carried away."

"I have," Suzaku admitted. "But… seriously, a whole duffle bag plus the luggage? You look like you're planning on running away."

"Don't tempt me," Lelouch muttered.

Suzaku never took Lelouch's grumbling seriously, and wasn't about to start now. They made their way to the changeroom, entering just as Rivalz was dashing out, his bright orange swimming trunks contrasting with his hair.

"Hey, guys! Last one out's a rotten egg! Or, ya know, Lelouch."

"Funny, Rivalz."

Suzaku grinned. "He's right, though, Lelouch. We should get going. We're wasting the day."

"Better that than the day wasting you," Lelouch retorted.

"What does that even mean?"

"Nevermind… let's just get changed."

The beach was enormous, stretching from just past where Rivalz had parked his car to as far as Suzaku could see, before it curved into another bay. If the shrieks from the girls running in and out of the water were any indication, the water was quite cold, and the sand was almost uncomfortably warm when Suzaku dug his toes into it. The day was sunny, with only a few puffy white clouds in the sky to give it texture, and everything was perfect.

"Lulu, want some help?" Shirley offered, her voice slightly unsteady with suppressed laughter. Suzaku glanced over and immediately saw why.

Lelouch had set up a zero-gravity chair atop a bamboo mat, and draped two towels over the back. The cooler and duffel bag were on another bamboo mat beside the chair, and Lelouch was struggling with one of two large folded-up beach parasols. Suzaku had watched Lelouch design and assemble a potato cannon the summer they'd lived at the shrine, but the parasol appeared to be beyond him.

Not that he'd admit that. "No, I'm fine, this is…" Lelouch overbalanced as the parasol snapped together and fell, knocking over the rolling luggage as he went. "…fine."

Shirley's eyes were wide and her hand covered her mouth, either in shock or to hide her amusement. Either way, Suzaku took pity on her. "Go on, Shirley. We've got this." He reached down and helped Lelouch up, pleased when his friend took his hand without question.

"I could have done this on my own." Not that anything would damped Lelouch's pride.

Suzaku smiled. "I know, but it'll go faster with two people."

Lelouch couldn't argue with that simple logic, and between the two of them, they set up the parasols in no time.

As soon as everything was set up to Lelouch's standards, he rummaged through the duffle bag and brought out a bottle and a spray can. "Which kind do you want?"

Suzaku frowned at them, wondering it this was a trick question. "Neither? I don't burn, Lelouch."

"Everyone burns." Lelouch shook the spray bottle of sunscreen at Suzaku. "This one doesn't come off in the water if you let it set for half an hour."

"How 'bout this," Suzaku compromised. "I'll help you put yours on." With Lelouch's purebred skin, there was no doubt whether he burned or not.

Lelouch glared at him, but gave in. "You're free to make poor skin care choices, I guess." He handed Suzaku the lotion bottle and took off his oversized tee-shirt.

Suzaku hesitated a moment, giving himself time to recover from the sight of the black speedo against Lelouch's even paler stomach and upper thighs. Suzaku got the impression that, given the lack of exposure of Lelouch's skin to sunlight, the speedo didn't get much use.

Apparently either his thoughts showed on his face, or the moment lasted too long, and Lelouch gave him an impatient glare over his shoulder. "Well?"

"SPF 150? Don't you think that's overkill?"

"According to you, any sunscreen is overkill," Lelouch pointed out. "Just do it."

Suzaku obediently slathered Lelouch's shoulders and back, giving Lelouch a gloop of his own for his face and ears. To Suzaku's immense amusement, Lelouch immediately pulled his tee-shirt back on and grabbed a pair of sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat before settling in the zero-gravity chair, under his parasols.

"What was the point in coming to the beach if you're just going to sit essentially indoors?" Suzaku asked as Lelouch settled in.

"Hey, Lelouch!" Milly called, running towards them. "Sunscreen!" Lelouch tossed over the water-proof sunscreen.

"Hey, Lelouch!" Rivalz came up to them from the other side. "D'you have mosquito repellent? They're pretty bad near the reeds." Lelouch rummaged through his backpack and pulled out a green spray can of military-strength insect repellent.

"Hey, Lelouch," Shirley said, her hand clasped with Nina's as they led a group of half a dozen girls to Lelouch's little sheltered throne. "Did you bring a ball? We were hoping to play in the water." Lelouch passed her an uninflated beach ball and a small hand pump.

Suzaku couldn't help but be impressed. "Oh."

Lelouch smirked up at him. "Indeed."

"Well, now that I have you all here," Milly said, "we can begin the fifth annual Take The Beach By (figurative, not literal, not after what happened three years ago) Storm!"

Lelouch groaned. "President, I don't think–"

"Good, we don't pay you to think!"

"You don't pay me for anything."

"Ignoring the grumpy Vice President, we will start with a treasure hunt!" Milly held out a shiny blue gem. "I've hidden these throughout the beach. The first person to bring me five will win a date with the student council member of their choice."

"Are you a member?" some smartass jock who'd been playing volleyball with his friends yelled out.

Milly struck a pose and winked. "Indeed I am! And so are these lovely ladies–" She gestured to Shirley and Milly. "–And these fine gentlemen." Rivalz bowed and Suzaku laughed a little as she pointed to them. Lelouch just sat there and presumably glowered from behind his sunglasses.

"And remember," Milly said, ignoring Lelouch, "a date includes a meal, some form of entertainment, and an escort back to your place. Everyone's eligible, so get going!" Out of what appeared to be nowhere, she pulled out a whistle and blew a shrill note.

Everyone within earshot of her intro immediately went off searching, some in groups, some explaining to others what was going on. Suzaku frowned. "There are a lot of older guys participating."

"They'll mostly go for Milly anyway, and she can handle them," Lelouch said, pulling his hat further over his face.

Suzaku wasn't so sure, and he was certain that Nina and Shirley wouldn't be as calm about it as Milly. Also, if he wasn't mistaken, there were more than a few interested glances at Lelouch, despite his frumpy outfit, and not all of them were from girls. Maybe that brief display while Suzaku had oiled him down had caught their attention.

Uncomfortable thought, that. But since Lelouch didn't seem interested in doing anything about it, Suzaku didn't mind stepping up. "I'm better at this sort of thing anyway."

"Are you trying to ignite my competitive side?" Lelouch asked. "Because it's too hot for me to have one."

"How about a cheap side?" Milly asked. "If you don't find at least two gems, you're paying for the date."

"President!" Lelouch objected, finally sitting up. Suzaku grinned and backed off, certain that Lelouch would be joining them soon, through the power of Milly.

He found two under the boardwalk almost immediately, and caught a bluish glint from the reeds near where Rivalz was searching. He hadn't been lying when he'd claimed that this challenge was one he was particularly well adapted to, with his slightly-better-than-perfect eyesight and the training he'd received that made him attentive to details, he was at s distinct advantage. The only question was how many gems Milly had hidden, and were there too many searchers for any one person to find five.

Another blue glint caught Suzaku's attention, this time by a rocky outcropping that no one had gotten to yet. He made his way there, finding another gem on the way, and just as he was fetching his fourth, ran into Shirley.

"Hi, Suzaku," Shirley said immediately, easy and friendly as always. "How many have you found so far?"

Suzaku opened his hand to show her. "Four. You?"

Shirley had three. "I really hope one of us wins this. Some of the guys out here…"

"Yeah." Suzaku shrugged. "I know. Hey, if I win, mind if I choose you?"


"Sure! I mean, I like Milly well enough, but I don't think we have much in common, and you and I are both into sports?" Suzaku's voice faded off as he spoke. It really was an imposition to ask. "Hey, or I could give you two of my gems and you could ask out Lelouch!"

Shirley went from pink to bright red. "L-Lulu? I wasn't even thinking about…"

"Hey you, Eleven. Get away from her." A group of three Britannian boys, University aged, approached them, looking less for gems and more for a fight. Two of them stepped between Shirley and Suzaku, while the last one crowded into Shirley's space.

Suzaku sighed. Somehow it always came down to this.

Shirley ignored the other guys. "Are you okay, Suzaku?"

"Yeah, fine. You should probably get back to the others." Suzaku wasn't sure what the penalty for a Numbered soldier harming a Britannian civilian was, but if they threatened Shirley in any way he was willing to find out.

The guy beside Shirley wrapped his arm around her shoulder. "She doesn't have to go anywhere." Suzaku rolled his eyes, carefully keeping his shoulders loose and casually shifting his left foot into shizentai stance, just in case. Shirley looked between the guy draped over her and Suzaku, as if calculating whether or not she would be better off dealing with this herself. Suzaku had no doubt that she could, but didn't feel right leaving any girl to fight on her own.

"Look, before anything happens, I should probably mention I've been training since I was a child, and I'm in the military."

"Ooh, lookit the monkey, talkin' big." One of the guys standing between Suzaku and Shirley punched his fist into his hand. "Let's see what happens when he's put to the test."

As if Suzaku hadn't been threatened by Britannians before.

Before anything further could happen, however, Lelouch came up from behind Shirley, looking aggravated. "Shirley, could you get Milly off my back?" He ignored the Britannian boy looming over Shirley and tugged her away. "She's being completely unreasonable…"

Suzaku and the three Britannian boys watched their reason for fighting walk away, trailing after Lelouch with only an almost apologetic look back. Suzaku figured now would be as good a time as any to get out of there. He ducked past the other boys and rounded the rock pile before returning to Shirley and Lelouch.


Lelouch smiled up at him. "Thanks."

"Anything I can do to make it up to you?"

"You wouldn't happen to have two extra gems? Milly really is being unreasonable."

Suzaku grinned and handed Lelouch two gems, giving his other two to Shirley. "Let's just end this, shall we?"

Lelouch rolled his eyes. "Why doesn't it surprise me that the two of you excelled at this?"

"Because you know us?" Shirley asked sweetly, smiling her thanks at Suzaku who returned the smile. Normally Milly's crazy ideas happened within the confines of the school, and were more… limited because of that. Milly out in public was a much scarier prospect.

Shirley was the first to return with five gems, making her the winner. Lelouch likely considered himself just as much of a winner as he dropped his two gems into Milly's hand and returned to his seat, pulling his hat over his face. Milly ignored him and grabbed Shirley's hand, raising it over their heads in a victory pose.

"Ashford Academy's own Shirley Fenette is the winner! Tell us, Shirley: Who's the lucky student council member?"

Shirley looked over at Lelouch who didn't move from his chair and sighed. "Suzaku."

Lelouch peeked out from behind his hat and looked up at her, a small, pleased smile on his face. Shirley flushed. "This way he can't use the military as an excuse not to have fun." Lelouch laughed outright at that, absurdly happy, the first time he'd looked like he was enjoying himself since they'd arrived.

Suzaku couldn't begrudge him that, even if the sudden attention and smug grins from the rest of the student council made the hairs on the back of his neck crawl. They all meant only the best for him. He gave a sheepish laugh and scratched the back of his head.

"Now that that's settled, onto the next–"

"Ah, Milly?" Shirley interrupted sheepishly. "Can we just go swimming? It's really hot out and your treasure hunt was all on land."

Milly sighed, but with all eyes (save Lelouch's) turned pleadingly on her, she couldn't deny the request. "Alright, but be back here by Lelouch's beachside resort in an hour!"

Suzaku felt just as relieved as everyone else. He had good heat endurance, but even he was beginning to feel the sweat pool in the small of his back. He hesitated a moment to make sure Lelouch didn't need anything, only to find his friend plugged into a music player and snoring lightly. He smiled fondly and turned to follow the rest of the students into the water.

Only to be help up by a hand on his arm. "Hey, Eleven."


Suzaku tensed, readying for another fight, but when he turned to confront his assailant he found himself face-to-face, not with an aggressive Britannian tough, but with a middle-aged Britannian man carrying a young toddler. He blinked for a moment, and reset his fight-or-flight reaction to something more neutral. "Um… yes?"

"We need help setting up over here." The man turned away, clearly expecting Suzaku to follow. Suzaku did, bemused, more out of an urge not to cause a scene than anything else.

The man had brought his family – a wife and two other children both under ten – along with enough equipment to put Lelouch to shame. His wife was struggling to set up what looked like the back half of a tent with the front missing when she looked up and saw them, her harried expression melting with relief.

"Oh, good. You found one." She dropped the tent poles and pegs and moved towards the cooler. "Have him put up the sun tent."

Suzaku was still a little confused, but he was beginning to see where this was going. And it was too late to extricate himself from the situation with anything resembling grace.

"Well?" The Britannian man pushed Suzaku forward, not ungently. "Go on, boy."

The worst part was that, unlike the boys from before, there was no outright maliciousness here. No one was trying to be hurtful or cruel, they just expected that Suzaku would follow their orders under the natural order of things. And why not? Hadn't the Emperor said as much himself, in his endless tirades about the innate superiority of the Britannian race. It was hard for Suzaku to fault these people for simply following the precepts he had sworn to fight to protect when he'd joined the military.

Suzaku sighed and started putting the tent together. The middle child, four or five years old, Suzaku estimated, came over and watched him, sticking his fingers in his mouth as his stared. Suzaku smiled up at him, even as he felt the sun beat down on his exposed back. "Hi."

"'lo." He waved briefly, never taking his eyes off Suzaku. Suzaku bent back towards the work, swallowing against the dryness in his mouth, as well as the burning acid taste of resentment that he still wasn't able to completely suppress. There was no point in fighting back against these people, whose only crimes were ones of ignorance and thoughtlessness. Being stared at by a child, as if he was an animal at a zoo, wasn't something that Suzaku enjoyed, but it was something he could tolerate.

Grin and bear it. Suzaku huffed a laugh as he finished his job. That might as well be his motto.

He stood up, pleased with how quickly the job had gone, once he'd figured out the irrational way the tent was supposed to be put together. He made eye contact with the mother, who came over to check his work before nodding.

"That will do. Now the canopy."

The work was tiring and hot and irritating – why come to the beach only to hide from the sun and fresh air and water? Even as Suzaku snapped the insect screen onto the canopy's frame, the eldest child started complaining about missing her favourite TV show, which got the toddler crying. The middle child had been snatched by his mother and slathered with sunscreen and insect repellent and told not to go into the water until his father was free to go with him.

Meanwhile, the father was doing his best to calm his eldest by reminding her that they were recording the show, and soothe the toddler with some kind of candy. Which the youngest promptly dropped into the sand, only to have the oldest snatch it and immediately start scolding the baby for being so clumsy. Which made the toddler cry more, which made the father snap at his eldest, which made her scream at him, which gave Suzaku a blinding headache.

"Aren't you done yet?"

Grin and bear it. "Almost, ma'am." The last few snaps were the hardest, but after that it was just a matter of heaving the entire thing upright, over the chairs and coolers and bags that the family had brought.

"Good. David?"

"Right." The father extricated himself from his enraged children and handed Suzaku a few pounds. "Come back at five and we'll double it."

Not for all the money in the Emperor's treasury. "Thank you, sir." Suzaku took the money and escaped as quickly as he could. By the time he made it back to Lelouch, everyone else had already gathered and were sharing drinks that Lelouch had brought. Apart from Lelouch, they were all still wet from the water, and Nina was even shivering a little. Suzaku envied her with a sudden ferocity that surprised him.

"Alright, part two!" Milly exclaimed as soon as Suzaku joined them. "Beach volleyball!" Lelouch grunted and pulled his hat further down over his head. "Anyone who doesn't participate will have to pay a penalty later at school."

Lelouch raised his hat and sunglasses, looking thoughtfully at Milly before shrugging. "I'll take that risk."

"Excellent! The vice president has fallen into my trap," Milly said, tapping her fingers against each other and cackling. There was a brief uncomfortable moment, and then she grinned and pumped her fist into the air. "For now, let's go!"

As there were only five of them, they decided that Nina would referee and they'd split into teams of two. Rivalz immediately launched himself towards Milly, but Shirley was faster. "I think it should be me and Rivalz against Milly and Suzaku. To be fair."

It was a more even distribution of skill, even if Suzaku wasn't at his best. Still, it was just a friendly game.

Or, at least, that was how it started. After a few friendly serves and gentle lobs, however, Suzaku realized that Shirley was good. Really good. And sneaky – she'd slipped in a few sharp spikes that had Suzaku diving between easy volleys, and always had an apology at the ready. Bullshit; she was baiting him. And this was the kind of bait that Suzaku couldn't resist.

Pretty soon, the only playtime Milly and Rivalz got was when it was their turn to serve. Otherwise, Shirley and Suzaku hammered the ball at each other, both adapting to the uneven surface of the sand as they played, both using every ounce of skill and talent they had. This was Suzaku's first time playing, so he was at a disadvantage there, but he'd played similar games and the rules were simple. Shirley was less worn out than he was, but she didn't have his endurance or unnatural stamina, nor was she as good at adapting and improvising to strange conditions as Suzaku was.

The result was a hard and fast game, one that left Suzaku's blood pumping hard through his veins, his head echoing with his heartbeat, sweat pouring off his face and back as he battled against a Shirley who was quickly becoming as determined and focused as anyone Suzaku had ever seen, her usual girlish charm sharpened and honed by a competitive spirit she usually hid.

Suzaku grinned. He would decimate her. She grinned back, and neither of them noticed Milly and Rivalz carefully pulling Nina away from them as they started another round.

In the end, Suzaku was one point away from victory as he tossed the ball up in the air, intending to throw Shirley off balance with a more delicate float serve, when he suddenly couldn't get enough air into his lungs and he stumbled, missing the ball and falling to his knees. The thudding of his heartbeat was all he could hear for a few seconds, and then his eyes rolled into the back of his head and everything went black.


The next thing Suzaku knew was something cool and refreshing on his forehead, the soft hum of a conversation happening over his head, and a burning kind of pain down the middle of his back. There were also fingers in his hair, threading interesting patterns, and that felt nice enough that Suzaku decided to ignore the pain and focus on that.

"–on't see how this could possible be my fault. I wasn't even there."

"No, you were sulking under your sunbrellas. He's your best friend, how could you not notice how overheated he was?"

"He was fine before that stupid game. He should have taken it easy until he could cool off in the water or get something to drink. I am not taking responsibility for Suzaku's stupidity. I'd never get anything else done."


"Hmm? Is he awake? Hey, Suzaku!" Suzaku's eyes blinked open and the first thing he saw was blue hair and a relieved expression. "He's okay!"

The hand in Suzaku's hair tilted Suzaku's head up and Suzaku realized he was sitting in Lelouch's lap, now looking up Lelouch's nostrils. He managed a weak smile. "Hey."

"Hey nothing." Lelouch looked away from him. "Rivalz, can you get something from my coolers? Suzaku needs to rehydrate."

"Yessir!" The sound of bare feet petered away and Lelouch's hand returned to Suzaku's hair. It still felt nice, but the burning sensation on Suzaku's back was getting less ignorable and more annoying. He shifted slightly and the pain got worse, and was now paired with a throbbing headache.

He tried to stand up. "What happened?" Lelouch's hands pressed down on Suzaku's shoulders, keeping him down, and suddenly his back wasn't the only part of him that felt like it was on a little bit of fire. "Ow."

"Sorry," Lelouch said, not sounding sorry at all. "You collapsed from heatstroke, moron. You're not allowed to move or get up until I say so."

"But my back hurts," Suzaku whined, not caring that he sounded like a child in front of Lelouch. "And my shoulders."

"Sunburn." Lelouch sounded insufferably smug. "I hate to tell you 'I told you so', but…"

Suzaku groaned. "You love saying 'I told you so'. My head hurts."

"Idiot," Lelouch said, affectionately. "Why didn't you tell anyone you were unwell?"

"I felt fine. Until I didn't." Suzaku rolled over gracelessly until he flopped onto the cool (sandy, damp) floor, landing on his hands and knees. Apparently Lelouch had laid him out on a bench in the middle of the changeroom. Which was nice and semi-private, Suzaku supposed. Then his attention was taken up by focusing on not vomiting.

Lelouch draped another cool cloth on the back of Suzaku's neck. "I told you not to move."

"See?" Suzaku said weakly. "You love it." He looked up at Lelouch and only made it as far as Lelouch's waist before laughing.


Suzaku reached out and pinched the side of Lelouch's speedo. "You look so weird in that. Where's your penis?"

Lelouch swatted away his hand. "It's tucked back, not that it's any of your business."

"Where?" Suzaku asked, but didn't wait for the answer before dissolving back into snickers of laughter. He felt lightheaded and weird, but it felt good to laugh.

Lelouch gave a long-suffering sigh and pulled down his bottoms, letting Suzaku see exactly where he'd tucked his penis. Suzaku hadn't been sure where the day had been heading, hadn't had any idea what a beach outing with the student council from Ashford Academy would be like, but kneeling on a damp floor with Lelouch's naked cock at just above eye level hadn't even been a contender until now.

"Lelouch, I didn't know if Suzaku liked orange or grape so I…" Rivalz's voice trailed off uncertainly. "I… I could come back?"

Lelouch pulled up his speedo and shook his head (Suzaku envied that, really. He wished he could shake his head.) "He'll drink anything. C'mere and help me get him back on the bench."

Suzaku reflected that Rivalz really was a good sport as he helped Lelouch sit Suzaku back up on the bench, wincing every time he accidentally brushed up against Suzaku's shoulders or back or any other burnt part of him.

"You look really rough," Rivalz said sympathetically, before looking up and grinning at Lelouch. "Trying for some of that healing cock?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Lelouch said.

"Suzaku does," Rivalz retorted, and Suzaku gave him a weak smile. He did, indeed, know what Rivalz was talking about and, even if it wasn't the truth, it was kind of funny.

Lelouch made Suzaku drink both bottles of sugary soda, followed by some plain water and some crackers. Once Suzaku was able to think without wanting to throw up, Lelouch smeared aloe all over the exposed bits of his body, even where there didn't seem to be any burns. Suzaku suffered through Lelouch's ministrations stoically, careful not to give his friend any more ammunition to berate him with.

By the time Lelouch allowed Suzaku to walk outside, the day was ending, and people were packing up to leave. Milly, Shirley, and Nina had packed up most of Lelouch's stuff and were waiting for Suzaku by the van. Lelouch helped him in, carefully covering the seats with towels so that the gel didn't get everywhere, and wadded up a pillow for Suzaku to rest his head on. Suzaku protested that he didn't need to sleep, but apparently heat exhaustion was an accurate descriptor, because he fell asleep anyways, only on Lelouch's shoulder.

Milly took enough embarrassing pictures of the two of them to fill an album.

It only took Suzaku another full day to recover to the point of being functional and trustworthy in the Lancelot's cockpit, and another three days before he was able to get back to school. He was delighted to find that Milly had postponed Lelouch's punishment until Suzaku could be back to see it.

He wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Dressed as a nurse, complete with miniskirt and knee-high white stockings, Lelouch belted out a slow and sultry rendition of "Fever", occasionally even on key. Suzaku didn't join in on the catcalling and wolf-whistling that some of the other students indulged in, but he did laugh every time Lelouch dipped and declared that someone gave him fever.

A week later, Suzaku took Shirley out to a sumo wresting match in one of the ghettos, careful to keep his military radio on him at all times, and tuned to an emergency frequency. He actually caught a glimpse of a few Black Knights, but didn't do anything about it, as they seemed willing to ignore him and just policed the match to make sure nothing happened. Shirley loved it, but not as much as she loved the traditional ramen Suzaku treated her to afterwards.

Once the teasing over Suzaku fainting and Lelouch's performance died down, everything went back to normal. Both Suzaku and Lelouch told Nunnally all about what had happened (Lelouch telling her about Milly's crazy competitions and Suzaku's fainting spell, Suzaku telling her about Shirley's killer serve and Lelouch's dancing and singing) and she laughed with them, sharing in the fun as much as she would have had she been there. Kallen, on the other hand, responded to the stories with a bemused sort of envy, and Suzaku decided to be nicer to her. It wasn't her fault she was so sickly. And Lelouch's sly jabs at her were unkind.

Milly gave Lelouch and Suzaku copies of the photos she'd taken, but never published them anywhere Suzaku could see, for which he was grateful. They were embarrassing, showing him red as a lobster and drooling on Lelouch's shoulder while Lelouch looked pale and immaculate beside him. Lelouch was embarrassed about them too, for some reason, despite looking perfect in them. Perhaps it was the way he was looking at Suzaku, with fond exasperation, or the way he was holding Suzaku against him or the hand that had nestled itself in Suzaku's hair. For some reason, Lelouch found displays of affection like that distasteful, at least in public.

But, even with the embarrassment, Suzaku treasured the photos. They represented precious memories of someone who cared for him when he was too stupid to care for himself.

And Suzaku needed as much of that as he could get.