Title: Now Comes the Night
Author: the black rose
Characters/Pairings: Euphemia x Suzaku
Summary: Set between episodes 11 and 12 of the series.
AN: Originally written for the 2007 Church of Lemons challenge, the actual lemon appears in the 2nd part, but that scene will be omitted for posting to FFN.
Thank you to those who will read it.
Special thanks to: Coley Merrin for putting up with me and for her betareading skillz.
Warnings: PG-13/R for some violence or references to past episodes of violence, swearing, and adult situations that include references to that which is contained in a pair of cotton boxers.
Now Comes the Night
By the Black Rose
Voices crackled through the communicator at the center of the G1 base. Yelling from the field of battle: "Stand back, it's firing! It's firing!"
"What's he doing?" One of the men stationed inside the G1 headquarters barked into the communicator.
The Vice Governor General jerked around to look at her advisors. She spoke to the tallest one. "Who?"
The blond one to her right spoke up: "The Lancelot, ma'am."
"The unit's going berserk." The tall man said. He cupped his right hand around his earpiece. "Any word from that bastard pilot?"
"Can we capture it?" The comm. unit blared.
"No. Stay down. We'll wait for the energy filler to discharge. Then we'll take the bastard in."
"Cornelia." The communication unit blared in the small room. "Can you make it back on your own?"
Euphemia stopped pacing the floor of the makeshift headquarters when she heard Guilford's voice. "Sister…" She rushed to the communications console. Unlike before, when Suzaku's features filled the video screen, the unit was back to displaying a myriad of symbols – locations of tanks and Knightmares on the battlefield all around Narita mountain. She gasped for air; her heart leapt into her throat. Cornelia…
"Yes, Guilford. I'm fine." Relief in the form of her sister's voice crackled through the line. "You've ordered the retreat, haven't you?"
"Yes. All units are returning to base." Guilford replied. Little triangles moved across the black screen as if just receiving their orders. Euphie drew herself up. She caught the index finger on her bottom lip with her other hand and folded them against her chest. How many times had her sister caught her chewing her fingernails since she'd come back from school?
"And Kururugi?" Cornelia's normally smooth voice sounded rough and tired.
Euphemia caught her breath.
"A retrieval unit was sent for the pilot," the Governor General said with a sigh. "They had to wait for the Lancelot's energy filler to drain. The unit was going berserk."
"They're taking Kururugi and the Lancelot back to the Special Envoy mobile dispatch."
Her eyes found the location on the monitor. A gold-colored diamond shape located to the left rear of the G1 base. It wasn't too far…She could even run if she had to.
Euphie glanced over her shoulder at her three 'advisors', then straightened her posture and turned all the way around. "I'll leave this command to you. As per the Governor-General's orders, we're to vacate the premises and retreat."
The tall one stepped forward. "We'll have someone escort you—"
"No!" She raised a hand to silence the man. His eyes widened and he grimaced. "I want to be sure the medical units have enough supplies. And the wounded…" She turned away. Her right hand held her left over her chest. Suzaku…
She turned her head and frowned at the set of advisors. She didn't know which one of them had spoken. "You have your orders," she snapped. Euphemia stepped towards the exit. All the while, she could hear her advisors sputtering behind her. She held onto her skirt and willed her feet to walk at a pace much slower than they wanted to go on their own. Her legs itched to run. To tear through the remaining space between her and the door, and then sprint as fast as the air could blow…
"Vice Governor-General! We—"
She leapt for the door. Sunlight bore down on the area. The ground was dirt and sand with lumpy patches of grass. The princess squinted as her eyes tried to adjust. She glanced around… To her right were the medical tents. The shelters where the wounded were being carried. Her heart panged. The medical tents were where she should go. To be sure all the injured soldiers had medical care…
She tore her attention away. To her left, about a dozen or so yards, sat an idle jeep.
"Please, Euphie…" Suzaku mouthed at her over the connection. His warm green eyes glittered.
He'd called her by her nickname…
She could hear those words, as if he'd said them out loud in his deep, husky voice. Almost as if…
As if he was calling for her now.
She dashed towards the Jeep. As she rounded the front of the vehicle, one of her advisors must have emerged from the tent behind her. "Imperial Princess!"
"Hey! Wait!" Someone else yelled. She didn't heed them. Euphie threw open the drivers' side door, and climbed into the vehicle.
"If you need a ride, Imperial Princess—"
She turned the ignition switch. The engine roared. The princess shoved the gearshift into position. The jeep lurched.
"Wait!" Someone grasped the passenger's side door. "Imperial Princess, I—"
"I won't allow you to stop me." She glanced at the face of a young soldier, and put her foot gently on the brake. "But, I won't hurt you, either."
"That's all right, your highness. It's my jeep and my CO will kill me if I lose track of it." He shook his head. "But, I'm not here to get in your way." He pulled open the door and slipped inside.
As soon as he was seated, she stomped on the gas. Wind smacked her face and clawed at her hair. "Good. Now, which way to the Special Envoy's Mobile Dispatch?"
Euphie found him in worse shape than she feared. He was still in the pilot's seat of the Lancelot, his body shaking…
She turned away from the sight and found the kind-looking woman with the dark hair. She kneeled on the edge of the scaffolding that led to the escape block for the Knightmare's cockpit, a deep frown creasing her pale features. "Is he injured?"
"Not that we can tell." She shook her head and stood up. "He's just…in a state of shock." The woman moved away from the machine, leaving a gap next to the Earl of Asplund, who still gripped the edge of the Lancelot and stared inside. "I can't imagine—"
Euphie moved forward, stepping down into the lid of the escape block in order to place her hand on the outside edge of the white Knightmare. The gleaming, white and gold machine lay on its back in the expanse of the Mobile Dispatch Unit as if the giant itself was exhausted from the battle. "Can't he…" She glanced at the Earl. "Can't someone get him out of there?"
The woman answered from her position behind Euphemia: "We've been trying. But, he doesn't seem to be fully conscious. He's striking out at anyone who gets near him. And he's always been strong."
Her chest tightened and she peered into the machine again. He hadn't moved except for the constant shaking of his hands – the ones still gripping the controls as if his life depended on it. "Suzaku…"
"We've got medics on the way." The Earl spoke for the first time. He released the machine and turned away. "But, I suppose a Special Envoy isn't top priority right now."
Euphie swallowed, and something burned all the way down. She extended a shaking hand into the cockpit. Suzaku needed…She glanced at the Earl. "Can I—"
"Oh ho!" He grinned and pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose. The strange scientist leaned down, leveling his gaze with hers. "You think perhaps the voice of authority can pry him out?"
"Lloyd!" His assistant sounded upset. The Earl pivoted to look at the young woman. "You can't speak—"
Euphemia brought her right hand up to pull at her collar. "Not the voice of authority, no."
He turned his attention back to the princess. The Earl leaned closer. "Than perhaps the voice of love?"
"Maybe…" She glanced away. Her heart hammering at just the idea…someone had figured out…. Someone knew… "A voice of kindness and understanding."
The scientist straightened his posture and shoved his hands into the pockets of his lab coat. "Well, I know if it was me, I'd come to for a bit of kindness from a pretty lady."
"Lloyd! It's dangerous." His assistant cried out. "He doesn't recognize—"
The scientist raised his right hand and waved away the protest. "Let her try. It's not like the medics will be here any time soon. Special Envoy is last to the battlefield and last on the list of priorities for the medical unit." He started moving towards the stairs that led down to the decking of the Mobile Dispatch. "You'd think that after saving the life of the Governor-General…" He glanced back at the princess. "They might pay a little more attention—" Euphie caught his look and frowned. The Earl grimaced.
"I'll take responsibility for his medical care."
"Hm." The scientist bowed. "Then, by all means, Princess."
She moved to the edge of the escape block, kneeling on the edge of where it met the Lancelot's frame. She had glimpsed his body, taut in the pilot's seat, from where she stood before – at the top of the steps. But now…now she could see his face, and hear his voice…
His brown hair was tousled, a little wilder than usual. His green eyes, usually so kind and filled with warmth… They looked feral. The whites of his eyes stood out against his tanned skin. His dark brows clenched above his nose. He stared straight ahead at the darkened monitor, but she could tell, he saw nothing. "Suzaku…"
The boy growled something unintelligible. Euphie crawled forward. His hands…they still shook the controls of the machine. He held them so tightly she just knew…Something would have to snap. And she wasn't sure it was the metal that would break first.
"Suzaku. It's…It's Euphie."
The same stream of something…some mutterings continued to gush from his lips. She inched closer. Within striking distance if he chose to lash out. And that's when she could see... Tears in the corners of his eyes. "I didn't mean to…I didn't want to—"
"Suzaku." She reached her hand out, then retracted it. She wasn't sure…
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Lloyd's voice warned from below. "He broke my glasses when I touched his shoulder. I had to resort to my spares."
"I didn't!" The pilot's voice sounded anguished.
"Suzaku. You're such a kind, gentle person. I don't believe…I don't believe you'd hurt me. Not intentionally. "
"No! No, I— I never wanted…I didn't want to hurt you. PLEASE!"
"You didn't have a choice…I understand. It's all right, now. I promise. Whatever I can do…Whatever can be done… I'll make it all right, Suzaku. Please, just…Come back to me."
She let her fingers touch his forehead, then slid her palm across his skin. He jerked beneath her touch, but held fast to the controls, his body still strung like a bow. She smoothed pieces of damp hair from his face. The princess leaned down to shush in his ear. "Shhhhh. Relax. It's all right, now."
His body jolted like someone had shocked him. His hands flew from the controls. His right hand gripped the back of her neck. His left hand grabbed the fingers that rested on his forehead.
"Suzaku." Her heart leapt into her throat. Her body tensed in his grip. She held her breath and tried to calm herself. She had to remain calm if she wanted Suzaku to…
"Who is it? Who's there? I—" He shook his head, his eyes still open but it was like he couldn't see…
"It's Euphie. Just relax, now, Suzaku."
"Euphie?" His voice pitched higher, like he was in pain. Then he whispered: "Euphie…"
"I'm here." She pulled her right hand from his grip and placed it on his chest. The one on the back of her neck drew her forward.
"Tell him. Tell him I didn't mean to kill him," he hissed. His voice rough and desperate.
"I'll tell him." She moved her hand up to his shoulder. "But only if you promise to relax, Suzaku. You're hurting yourself." She could feel how rigid the muscles of his body still were – in his arms, his chest… "I'll have to get someone to sedate you if you don't relax. Please…." Tears welled in her eyes. If I hadn't needed you…Needed you to protect my sister… "Please, Suzaku."
His expression wavered. His grip on her neck relaxed. "Euphie…" His eyebrows rose as a spasm roiled through his body and his muscles unclenched. The Lancelot pilot's eyes closed, then opened. He blinked in slow, agonizing movements.
"Euphie." He glanced at her, a soft smile touching his lips. Then Suzaku's arms fell to his sides and he slumped back into the seat of the cockpit.
Euphemia wondered what sort of person could call the Imperial Palace 'home'. It was a monstrous building, more of a mausoleum inside than a home for anything that really wanted to live. Marble floors echoed their footsteps as she led the small troupe – just Dalton and Guilford, her sister's dedicated knights – through the main corridor.
"Where do you want him?" Dalton's gravelly voice halted her step. She glanced back at the large, uniformed knight with the sandy-blond hair who had the pilot of the Lancelot slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
"Take him to my room." The princess pointed in the direction of the Vice Governor General's suite in the East wing of the Imperial Palace.
Dalton lifted a sandy-colored eyebrow, but nodded. He didn't manage to take two steps in that direction before her sister's voice called out for him to halt.
Euphie turned to see Cornelia – still in her red uniform – approaching from the direction of the military briefing room. "Absolutely not, Euphemia."
"And why not?" The third princess raised her head and met her sister's gaze.
Cornelia's eyebrows rose. She ran a white glove through the ends of her auburn hair. "He shouldn't be here at all."
"The soldier saved the life of the Governor-General, who happens to be very special to me." Euphie lowered her eyes. "I don't think there's any harm in letting him rest—"
"He was useful in the battle today." Euphie watched her sister's boots turn on the grey-white marble floor. They took a step. "But you're not unaware of how inappropriate—"
"I don't care!" The Vice Governor clasped her hands together at her waist to keep them from reaching for her sister. Cornelia was always lecturing her about behaving 'properly', but… "He is in shock, and the medical envoys refused to give him attention. That's why…" Her arms shook. She held fast, her fingers clenched together. "That's why I had Dalton bring him here."
"Euphemia…" The Governor's shoes stopped.
"Do not tell me I can't help him. We owe him a huge debt for his service today. Even Guilford and Dalton realize that."
Cornelia whirled around. Her violet eyes blazed. "He did his duty as a soldier, Euphemia!"
"He did not have to do…anything!" Her hands unclenched. She stepped forward. "As Special Envoy, no one else in headquarters would have dispatched his unit to the battle. He called me to ask if I would let him fight. If I would trust him to save you."
She ground her left shoe into the floor. "He went above his duties to do so. And his current state—"
"He's a number." Her sister scowled.
"He's a man, Cornelia. He is not someone beneath me or you." She watched her sister's jaw clench and her eyes narrow. "He happens to be the son of the former Prime Minister of Japan. Had our country not—"
"ENOUGH!" Cornelia's voice roared. It reverberated through the chamber. Euphie straightened her posture and listened to the echo fade. Her heart pounded inside her head.
"Governor-General." The elegant, dark-haired soldier stepped between the two sisters and spoke in a soothing tone. "The meeting is about to start."
Cornelia's face un-clenched. She blinked and focused on her knight. "Guilford—"
"The Vice Governor-General is right." He bowed his head. "We could have lost you, today."
"And beneath your pride, you know that as well." He lifted his head and stared at the second princess.
Her eyes widened, and her eyebrows shot up. "Guilford…"
"Let her show him a little mercy, and ensure he's fit to go back to battle. Kururugi did gain the permission of your brother to pilot his machine." He straightened his shoulders and corrected his posture to stand at attention.
"Very well." Cornelia let out a sigh and nodded. Guilford moved to stand beside his princess, extending his left arm. Euphie's sister glanced at him at the same time her knight took her hand. With a deft move, he lifted his offered arm and settled her hand on the inside of his elbow. A faint smile touched her lips.
"He may rest here this evening and then tomorrow, you'll send him back to…" She gestured with her left hand. Her eyes remained on Guilford. "Wherever it is he belongs."
Euphie felt her insides churn. He isn't a stray animal or a thing! "Yes, Governor-General." She folded her hands together, again, and clenched her eyes shut. The sound of her sister's shoes clicked across the tile. The third princess let out a breath.
The clicking stopped. "And don't you dare defy me again, Euphemia."
She felt like sagging to the floor. "Yes, your highness."
Dalton placed Suzaku on top of the covers, nodded at her without a word, and then left. Euphie wasted no time in moving to the young man's side. He still wore his white, black, and gold flight suit and his communicator - clipped to his right ear. She sat beside him on the bed, and reached over his chest to gently remove the electronic headset. The princess set it on top of the nightstand.
He looked peaceful, now, in this place. Of course she knew it had more to do with the fact she'd had him sedated in order to keep him from hurting himself – and others – than his surroundings. His features were slack. An improvement over the furious look he'd had when she first saw him. Sitting there, his hands jerking the controls at odd angles, his eyes wide, but unseeing…
Euphie smoothed the palm of her hand over his forehead and through his hair. Gently brushing the silken strands away from his face. The contact sent tingles of warmth through her fingers. She felt like she could just sit here and stroke his hair for hours…
The pad of her thumb caught the skin of his temple. She traced over his cheekbone to glide over the line of his jaw. From this close, she could see how impossibly long his lashes were, smile at the few, light freckles that collected just on the bridge of his nose and nowhere else, feel the scrape of stubble along his chin against her fingertips…. "Suzaku."
He didn't stir.
His lips…they were a fascinating shade of pinkish tan - the color of fruit in an apple orchard she once visited in Western Australia. She hadn't been tall enough to reach the branch, but they looked so tasty... When her host pulled one down from the tree for her to try, it was warm from the sunlight. And so juicy that when she took a bite, the nectar moistened the surface of her lips – much like how she imagined a kiss would be…Warm, wet, fragrant, and so sweet.
She turned away, feeling warmth flood her cheeks. "I'm…I'm sorry for bringing you here. I have the feeling you'll think it unnecessary. But, I…I couldn't just…"
A groan sounded from behind her. Euphemia jumped and turned around. Beads of sweat formed along his hairline and his brow contracted. But his eyes remained closed. Her heart panged. She found herself reaching for him again, kneeling on the side of the bed so she could slick her palm over his forehead and whisper words of comfort. "Shhhhhh. Suzaku. You're safe here…" She turned her hand over and let the tops of her fingers slip through the pieces of his hair. The moisture from his skin held the strands in place, causing the princess to frown. "You're burning up. I…" She glanced at the flight suit covering his body. "I…I should…" An image of him, shirtless appeared in her mind. No, the knights, Cornelia says they wear less than that underneath. Euphie swallowed, feeling her face burn as she tried not to consider THAT image, and retreated from her position.
She stood back, watching him. His head tossing first to one side then the other; his muscles twitching as they tried to defy the sedative he'd been given. Euphemia glanced at the door. I could get someone else…
She frowned. But, will they be gentle with him?
The sound of Suzaku groaning, again, made her decision for her. The princess squared her shoulders, then moved to the end of the bed. His flight suit seemed to connect to his shoes. She picked up first one, then the other – and spotted the zipper on the inside of the cuff.
Euphie inched the zipper apart. She unzipped both cuffs, exposing the laces of his boots. She untied first one, then the other. The princess gripped the toe and the heel of his right shoe and eased it from his foot before setting it on the floor at the base of the bed. She moved to the other one, but had to tug a bit harder. She pulled, felt it slip – but only a little. She yanked the heel forward, staggering back when it finally gave and popped off in her hand. "Oh!"
She set it on the carpet next to his right shoe. Euphie eyed his white socks. They had black marks on the outsides of his feet – from the leather boots. The cotton looked threadbare along the bottom of his heel; an extra seam beneath his toes indicated a hole had been mended. She tried to picture Suzaku sewing…The tip of his tongue just visible between his lips as he threaded the eye of a needle.
He sewed by lamplight, in the dark of night. Sitting on his bunk, cold air prickling the skin of his arms and only a single, cotton sheet to keep him warm.
She shook the image – a bit ridiculous, really – from her head. Her left hand rested on the fabric covering his shin. She smiled at the warmth against her palm. He was real…
Euphemia slid her palm up the length of his shin bone to his knee. The sense of the fabric changed to something not quite as smooth, and she could feel the muscle definition in his thigh. Her heart hammered in her ears. She raised her hand to where only her fingers stayed in contact with this second skin, tracing a path over his hip bone to his stomach, then up to his ribcage. She felt a pulse against her fingertips and flattened her palm against his chest. His heartbeat felt slow but steady. Euphie smiled and leaned down to rest her cheek next to her hand. The sound of his heart…such a good heart. A kind and gentle one.
He smelled of sweat and something soapy like detergent. When she raised her head, she caught the faint scent of oak and cinnamon. His cologne…
"Uhn!" His body shuddered. She jerked back. She watched his hands contract then release.
"Suzaku?" Euphemia glanced up at his face. His eyes were still closed. Sweat formed a river down the side of his face. "I'm not very much help, am I?" She bit her lip and frowned.
At this rate, he'll die of dehydration before I get his clothes off. But what if he… The princess took a deep breath. "Forgive me, Suzaku." She bent over the side of the bed and reached for the zipper on his flight suit. Euphie had to move her knee up to the mattress. She gripped the fastener and pulled it from his neck towards his chest, the black fabric springing open as she went.
His skin was hairless with beads of sweat dotting its surface. Euphie continued to move the zipper towards the end of its track – just below his waist. Her knuckles grazed the exposed flesh and she felt his warmth heat…everything inside her. Her cheeks burned, and she forced herself to look away from the sight of…well, several inches of his bare chest.
The fastener stopped. She found its location with her eyes. "Oh my…" The fabric gaped to his belly button, exposing the outline of his abdominal muscles. Euphie swallowed against the feeling of her heart in the back of her throat. She tugged at the zipper again, but the thing wouldn't move.
"Oh for heaven's sake." The princess groaned and had to slip back down to the floor. She hiked up the skirt of her dress to place one bare knee on the mattress, then pulled herself fully onto the bed. Euphie crawled over his left leg, to kneel above his thigh. She grabbed the zipper again, and inched it up on its track, wrestling with the metal teeth - trying to force it to release the fabric it had bitten…and seemed to be chewing. A piece of hair fell into her vision. She puffed air at the damned thing to move it out of her way. Two attempts failed, and she removed one hand from the zipper to brush it aside, then returned to the fight with the fastener.
After a few seconds' struggle, she succeeded in setting the zipper back on track, and yanked it down the rest of the way. Her fingers connected with a different texture than the rest of his skin. The princess glanced down…and found herself staring at her hand on his… His.
The bulge in his grey, cotton boxers.