The Night Before

The night before, she dreamed she was a bird.

People she'd heard talking had said that flying dreams were among the great pleasures. She didn't see why. The flying itself was nice enough, casting aside her cares and gravity, knowing she was free, but in the end she woke up, and where did that leave her? Heavy and clunkish on the ground.

The night before, she dreamed she was a cat.

Lelouch looked at her warily when she told him about it. "I can't pretend to be surprised," he sniffed. "It's not much of a stretch."

Then, a little while later:

"I wouldn't have thought that you dream."

She lay curled in a puddle of sunlight that fell across his bed and murmured, "I don't."

The night before, she dreamed she was a whale.

When she woke, she disliked the thinness of the air around her. It felt like she could fall and nothing would ever stop her. She wrapped herself in a blanket and didn't emerge.

The night before, she dreamed she was a cat.

"Do you dream?" she asked Nunnaly as they folded cranes.

Nunnaly had smiled and laughed. "Of course."

"And when you dream, can you see things?" Nunnaly hesitated, so she elaborated to clear up the confusion: "Is it like you have your sight back, or is it always dark? And do you walk?"

A hand closed around her upper arm and wrenched her from her chair. Lelouch's voice was light and cheerful and natural as he said, "I need to talk to C.C. a moment, Nunnaly," but his face was contorted, and his eyes flashed and his grip was painful as he pulled her after him back to his room.

He pushed her against the wall and lifted his hand above his head as though he'd hit her. He didn't, of course. That wasn't Lelouch's way.

He just asked, "Why would you ever, ever say that to her?"

She watched him. "I wanted to know."

Again, his lips pressed together, his eyes narrowed, his brows furrowed, and his fingers dug into the flesh of her shoulder. But a moment, and then he released her, and turned away. "In polite society, we don't say things like that," he spat, looking resolutely away from her. "I wouldn't very well ask you how it feels to be universally reviled, would I?"

She wasn't hurt by what he'd said. He seemed to think as though she had the same compulsive need for love and approval that permeated his every action. She didn't, of course. She'd moved beyond such things.

So she stared up at the ceiling and said nothing, just to show how little she cared. And she went into the bathroom and locked the door just to show how little she wanted his company, and didn't answer when he knocked a little while later. She didn't even come out until after he was asleep and she didn't have to say a thing to him - that was how little she needed him.

The night before, she dreamed she was a bird.

She stood at the window and stretched upwards as far as she could reach. It wasn't far.

The night before, she dreamed she was a whale.

"Are you sick?" Lelouch asked when he saw her wrapped in her blankets. She shook her head silently.

The night before, she dreamed she was a wolf.

She knew that she was supposed to feel satisfaction at the savage crack of bones beneath her jaw, but truthfully, she just liked the camaraderie.

The night before, she dreamed she was a cat.

That was one of the days when she strayed from the house. When she came back, Lelouch was furious. She made a great show of paying him no mind when he asked her, barely containing himself, where she'd been.

She liked pretending that he was so angry because he'd been worried. Not because she craved the feeling of Lelouch worrying about her - it was just funny.

The night before, she dreamed she was a bee.

That dream she hated. Even when she'd been chained and trapped she still had her free will.

The night before, she dreamed she was a whale.

"I want to see the ocean," she said.

Lelouch looked at her, then looked back at his work, then spun his chair to face her. "Oh?" he said neutrally, folding his hands before him. When she just looked at him, he prompted: "Why?" When she shrugged, he rested his elbow on the desk and his head against his fingers and said, "And what am I supposed to do about it?"

"Take me there."

He stared at her a bit longer. "And what will I get if I do?"

She closed her eyes and leaned back and smiled. Always looking for the advantage, was Lelouch, but he seemed so rarely happy when he got it. "Nothing at all."

So he laughed shortly, a scornful little Ha!, and returned to his work. "I'll hardly take such a risk for no reward, C.C."

The night before, she dreamed she was a tree.

She didn't feel much different when she woke. She was just a little less ancient and a little less trapped.

The night before, she dreamed she was a fish.

Appropriate: she, too, started to smell after several days, and she too was rather cold.

The night before, she dreamed she was a bird.

Really, what was the point? She always landed eventually.

The night before, she dreamed she was a firefly.

Another apt one. She flashed her pattern and waited (forever?) for a response.

The night before, she dreamed she was a duck.

When she woke up, she let her eyes stay closed and kept the feeling with her. She imagined she was warm, bundled, pressed in on all sides by the shell of her egg and the weight of her mother. But she couldn't stay that way forever; she pressed against the blanket with her beak, breaking through into light and fresh air. How nice, to breathe for the first time.

And she let her eyes slowly open, ready to imprint upon the very first thing she saw, to trust it, to open herself utterly to it and know that it would protect her fiercely, forever, and that she would forever be safe with it.

The first thing she saw was Lelouch. How disappointing.

The night before, she dreamed she was a cat.

When she asked Kallen, Lelouch's classmate in the Black Knights, if she dreamed, the girl looked at her suspiciously. "What do you mean, asking that?" Kallen demanded.

She just smiled and looked away and waited for Kallen to scoff and walk away.

The night before, she dreamed she was a mouse.

She took Lelouch's finger and nibbled on the tip, gently, like a mouse would. He snatched his hand back and looked at her with his mouth gaping open, as though she'd done something strange.

The night before, she dreamed she was a whale.

When Lelouch was at class, she looked at his computer. He had in his browser history pages on local beaches. She felt the gentle sadness that only the ancient with hundred-pound hearts can ever feel.

The night before, she dreamed she was a wolf.

How silly it was. She was powerful, and immortal, and had no need of petty transient relationships. Yet for some reason that absolute love, that sense of home and friendship left her eyes brimming with tears.

Why did people like dreams so much? They were disappointing.

The night before, she dreamed she was a cat.

Why was she dreaming at all? She never did before. Perhaps she'd just never remembered it before?

Sometimes she was a mystery even to herself.

The night before, she dreamed she was a spider.

She ran the shower and closed the door to the bathroom and waited underneath the bed for perhaps half an hour for Lelouch to return from class. He paused a moment by the door, then came over and sat down on his bed with a long deep sigh.

She pounced, grabbing his ankle.

He yelled and lurched forward and stumbled against his desk when she let him go. He took a moment, wondering no doubt if it was prudent to flee, then dropped to one knee and stared her in the face, breathing hard.

"What are you doing?" he spat, color in his cheeks, his hair mussed.

"Lying in wait," she murmured back. "How was your day?"

He stared at her and settled back on his heels and said nothing. Finally, he stood and walked over to the bathroom. "Fine," he called back over the sound of running water. He sat back on the bed once he'd turned the shower off. "Yours?"

She pulled herself back under the bed and looked at the depression where he was sitting. "It was nice," she said. "Long without you."

The sound of him shifting papers ceased a moment, then started again. "The television is there for a reason. I can't always entertain you, C.C."

"I know. It's just always better when you're here."

Another pause. "Well, being entertaining means being unpredictable," he said, so guarded and so wary. "I take that as a compliment."

"It was a compliment."

A pause. "Well, you're very unpredictable, too."

Above her head, Lelouch continued sorting papers, then eventually cleared his throat and went to his computer and started typing. She stayed under the bed. For some reason, even though she'd set up an elaborate web to entrap him, she'd forgotten what the next step in the process was.

The night before, she dreamed she was a fly.

Another logical dream, because she was so often trapped with danger bearing down on her.

The night before, she dreamed she was a snake.

She lay prone, resting her jaw against the floor, aware that Lelouch was staring at her. She ignored him. But he spoke:

"You truly didn't dream before?"

She rolled supine and regarded him with a smile. "You've been thinking about that?"

She might have walked in on him doing something embarrassing, from the look on his face. "I'm just curious," he said, all defensive. "If there's something that's altered you, the way you function - "

"You think you have the power to change me, Lelouch?" she laughed.

He pressed his lips together, snorted through his nose, pursed his lips, took in a breath, narrowed his eyes, and then jerked his chin downwards to stare hard once again at his computer.

She sighed and rolled back into the sun, struck by a sudden melancholy.

The night before she dreamed she was a tree. In her arms birds came to rest.
The night before, she dreamed she was a cat.

When she woke, she found herself curled beside his bed. She left before he woke, but simply found, like every time before, a place where she could conceal herself. She wasn't stupid. She just wanted to show him that she could be gone.

The night before, she dreamed she was a whale.

And she'd come to the sea, but she found that even here there was nothing to keep her from falling. Still, how well the water swaddled her! How soft it was, wrapped around her skin, her heavy heart!

The night before, she dreamed she was a bird.

They couldn't catch her as long as she flew. Even though they snatched at her, threw stones, they couldn't catch her. And she flew so long and so hard and so far - maybe, once she landed, she'd come to friendly shores.

But no; when her wings gave out, these people too had cat's claws.

It was just delaying the inevitable.

The night before, she dreamed she was a girl. But then she woke up, and she was earthbound, and she was alone.
(Notes: And the moral of the story is...C.C. is a furry. ???????)