War, or Maybe a Game


There'd been something terrible in Lelouch's face when he'd tugged on his collar. Suzaku had hesitated before he'd followed, and even then he'd done so with trepidation. It wasn't that he didn't trust his friend - because he did, completely, wholeheartedly, and always would. It was just...Lelouch had so many secrets, so many he hadn't told even Suzaku. What was Lelouch thinking now?

When Suzaku got to the roof, Lelouch was waiting, hunched over the railing. He glanced over his shoulder, looked back out at the school grounds, and then turned to face Suzaku.

"Hey, Lelouch," Suzaku greeted, not as easily as he'd have liked.

Lelouch paced a few steps forward. There was nothing of his usual, playful I-know-something-you-don't-know half-smile, nothing of good humor in his eyes. Suzaku could tell like no one save Nunnally could tell when Lelouch was joking and when he was serious. Lelouch was serious.

It can't be, of course - Ever since seeing the girl from the capsule, the girl who had last been in Lelouch's care, with Zero, he'd wondered. During the day, he laughed the idea off, of course, but in the barracks at night, when he had nothing to do but think, he wondered. (Impossible, of course. But what secret could leave Lelouch so grave?)

"Suzaku." Nothing of laughter in his voice. "I need you to tell me something."

For a single moment, Suzaku wished desperately that he had a - no; for a single moment, Suzaku wanted to run away. He was immediately ashamed, of course, and so he smiled as best he could and said, "What is it?"

Lelouch's face darkened still, and then he turned away (unwilling, perhaps, to look at Suzaku?) and said, "I need you to teach me about - women."

So there it was. Lelouch's dark secret revealed. Suzaku nodded, slowly, and bit his lip, and started to turn the question over in his mind -

Wait, what?

"Wait, what?"

Lelouch snapped back around to shoot a poisonous glare at his friend. "Don't you dare laugh," he growled.

Suzaku obediently choked back his half-relieved, half-genuine laughter. It took quite a lot of effort. Poor Lelouch! Suzaku had assumed that by this point he'd have picked something up, though knowing Lelouch that was a stupid assumption. After all, learning about that subject would necessitate admitting that there was something in the world he didn't know -

Oh, poor Lelouch. Suzaku, though, found the thought that it was him Lelouch had come to really heartwarming.

"I'm not going to laugh," Suzaku said, and didn't, though he was probably going to get a stomachache fulfilling that promise.

"Don't smile, either," Lelouch growled petulantly. That one, Suzaku couldn't help, so he clapped a hand over his mouth to hide it.

"Sorry, sorry," he apologized. Lelouch studiously avoided looking at Suzaku as he leaned against the railing. "What do you want to know?" By the time Lelouch shrugged, Suzaku had recovered enough to school his lips into a firm, no-nonsense line. "Women. Okay. Well, they're different from you and me, you know."

Lelouch nodded and scoffed, then paused and asked, "Different, how?"

"Well, they have different stuff." Suzaku counted what differences he could think off of on his fingers. "They have boobs, you know, and they don't have - "

"I know that stuff!" Lelouch had practically curled himself into a miserable little ball over there. "I need you to tell me about..." The rest of the muttered sentence was lost to the wind.

"What?"

"You heard me," Lelouch mumbled.

"No, I really didn't."

Lelouch's eyes flared defiance, but he looked up and said a single quiet but incredibly enunciated sentence: "I need you to tell me about pleasing a woman in bed."

Suzaku's guts absolutely ached with the effort of holding back his laughter, and it was through sheer force of will that he managed to turn his smile into a sympathetic one. "Lelouch!" he said, clapping his friend on the back. Lelouch nearly hissed like a cat at the touch. "Congratulations."

"'Congratulations'?" Lelouch spat.

"Congratulations," Suzaku said, nodding. "I mean, I'm assuming that means that there's a special someone."

Lelouch's head sank down even further, and his voice got even quieter, and he muttered, "Yes."

"Don't look like that! It's something to be proud of. If girls want to get with you, that means you're doing something right. Do I know her?"

All of Suzaku's reassurances had done precisely nothing to cheer Lelouch up. He looked, as a matter of fact, more miserable than before. "Sort of."

Suzaku knew better than to ask precisely who it was. Probably another student, though, by the sound of it, one that Suzaku might have met once or twice but didn't know well - no one on the student council, certainly. (Poor Shirley.) "Older or younger?"

"Older."

Unless that had been Lelouch's typical understatement? Maybe he was being deliberately difficult, and because Suzaku didn't know her in the philosophical sense, and so on and so forth - What if it was Milly? "A lot older, or a little?"

"What's with all the questions?" Lelouch hissed.

Had Suzaku pushed too far? He shrugged and said, "Just curious."

And so Lelouch frowned even further and looked about three seconds away from hurling himself from the roof as he said, "A lot."

Oh, no. Oh, no! Oh, Lelouch! A teacher, maybe? "Older women are the best," Suzaku said cheerily. "I had one, maybe a year back? My sergeant. The experience makes all the difference - "

"Suzaku - " Lelouch yelped. It came out strangled and thick.

This time, Suzaku could do no better than to turn his laugh into a cough. "Swallowed a bug," he explained when Lelouch glared. "Sorry. Eh, so, this mysterious older woman of yours - " Surely not Mrs. Welch. Suzaku didn't know her very well, but she seemed clever and pretty and had a slightly sardonic sense of humor, and Lelouch rarely skipped her classes, but she was married. "Is it an...emotional attachment, or is it...?"

"I hardly came here," Lelouch gritted, "to tell you about this - affair. I came for information." But when Suzaku shrugged again - a good strategy, that - Lelouch gritted, "It's only - " For what might have been the first time in his whole life, he struggled for the words.

"Physical?" Suzaku suggested.

Now he looked about two seconds away from hurling himself off the roof. "Yes."

"Nothing wrong with that, either," Suzaku said. "As long as you both know what you want from the relationship, it works out well." He pushed himself away from the railing, because he wasn't at the ideal angle to stop his friend should Lelouch decide to finally go for it and jump. "Still, it seems like if she had the experience, she should be able to teach you herself - "

Lelouch was less embarrassed than Suzaku expected and more irritated as he explained, "She finds it funny to watch me make a foolof myself."

"But - she can't be satisfied like just that."

"I think that is what's satisfying for her."

Suzaku frowned. What had originally sounded like a situation that was practically ideal - a no-strings-attached relationship, something that would let Lelouch gain some experience before moving onto a relationship where he would have an actual emotional connection - was starting to sound...well, weird. "That's not really normal behavior," Suzaku said as delicately as he could.

Lelouch half-laughed. "You're telling me."

"I don't know, Lelouch. It's good to have a relationship and all, but no relationship is better than an unhealthy one."

"Yes," Lelouch agreed dryly.

Well, at least he was recognizing that it was a bad relationship. "Can you break it off, then?"

This time, Lelouch did laugh, but it was short and bitter. "No."

Poor Lelouch indeed. Involved with an older woman who wouldn't call it off, and he himself too inexperienced and even timid in these sorts of things to do it himself. As Lelouch's best friend, it was Suzaku's job to let him know that he could, indeed, stand up for himself. "But you can, Lelouch. You have the power to make decisions, too, you know."

But Lelouch shook his head. "No, it's not like that. We have an - agreement."

"An agreement?" Suzaku looked at Lelouch quizzically. Oh, no. He couldn't possibly - "Lelouch..."

Lelouch avoided Suzaku's gaze.

"Is this because of your gambling debt?"

Lelouch buried his face in his hands.

Suzaku swallowed. Poor, poor Lelouch. "Because if you need money...I know everyone talks mean, but if you need anything, you definitely don't have to resort to - "

"Stop talking please," Lelouch growled. Oh. Okay then.

"Just..." Lelouch's voice was muffled behind his hands. "Just tell me things. Please." He looked up, then. "Act like you're just talking to the air. Don't try to make me respond."

"This is nothing to be embarrassed about, you know." By the furious set of Lelouch's brow and mouth, it was something to indeed be embarrassed about. Poor, poor Lelouch. How could someone so together and confident in all other respects be this clueless?

"Don't make too much of it. Girls aren't easy, but they're not as tough as they're supposed to be." Suzaku shrugged. "You just have to remember that they need a lot of attention. You gotta bring them things, call them, let them know you're thinking of them - that sort of thing. Same thing in bed." Lelouch almost winced at the word "bed." "We guys, we're okay with whatever, but a girl needs a lot of care. So lots of kisses, lots of caresses - just going at it doesn't do a whole lot. Oral sex is always good - "

"Suzaku!" went the anguished cry.

Suzaku shrugged again. Apparently, the air was as easily embarrassed as Lelouch himself. "What? They like it."

If, in that moment, Lelouch could have melted into the stone, he probably would have. If the probability of surviving weren't relatively high, he'd have jumped. As it was, he just clenched his hands and said, "If you could not be so - vulgar - " At Suzaku's shrug, he closed his eyes. There was a long moment of silence.

"So you've - " Lelouch started suddenly. Then he pressed his lips together, and Suzaku had always assumed that Lelouch's face was too pale to blush but there was a bit of pink standing in his cheeks. "You have - experience?"

That question came a little late, didn't it? Oh, well. "Some, yeah." More with romance than with sex - he'd dated maybe...six girls? Seven, if he counted Kaguya, but that was when he was nine. He'd had sex with two - there'd been Iku, an Honorary Britannian who'd joined the army at the same time as him and who'd been his only friend for quite some time - they'd broken that off when she'd been stationed in Okinawa.

And then there was Gwen - Sergeant Walker - who he'd been entangled with for three months, until he'd expressed a desire for the relationship to turn into something a little more. She'd dumped him immediately. She'd said he was a nice kid - she'd actually used that phrase, "a nice kid" - and said that the relationship was fun and kind of delightfully dangerous, but that she had a future to be thinking of. As it turned out, it was perfectly all right to screw an Eleven, but the thought of dating one was absurd. Still, that was the decision she'd made, and he wasn't bitter. He couldn't blame her at all.

"All right, then." Lelouch opened his eyes again, nodded, cleared his throat. "All right. Since you're...experienced, I..." He cleared his throat again. "I suppose I came here for information, and I..."

Suzaku took a bit of pity and swung his bag off his shoulder. "Here - " He fished out a piece of paper and a pencil and sketched out a few visual aids. Maybe Lelouch would be less embarrassed if he didn't have to respond.

"Maybe these will help," he said, handing them to his thoroughly puzzled friend.

As soon as Lelouch caught sight of what was drawn there, he looked away. "I see," he said stiffly, and folded each piece of paper into eighths and slipped them into a deep, deep pocket of his own bag. Then, as the silence stretched just a moment into awkward: "I see you've been practicing your art. You're very good."

Aw, geez. "Thanks," Suzaku said, and it really, really hurt not to laugh.

So Lelouch cleared his throat and said, "So, then. Perhaps I was...overeager." Oh, yes, he'd seemed very eager. "Perhaps we should stick to simple romance."

Oh, poor, awkward Lelouch. Sex was the easy part. "Well, I don't know how much I can tell you," Suzaku said. "Every girl is different, and every girl is especially different there. With yours, you just sort of have to figure out what she wants." He tilted his head to the side. "You're looking for romance, now?"

"Any advantage I can get over her," Lelouch said grimly. "Anything that can help me win this war."

"Oh, don't think of it like that, it should be something fun!" Suzaku said, and successfully sidestepped Lelouch's glare. "Not war - think of it as, like, a game. Here."

He positioned himself in front of Lelouch.

"I'm the boy, you're the girl. Okay?"

Lelouch's eyes were narrowed, and his nod was wary.

"Okay. So, let's say we've decided to meet right here. Right? We set a date. Okay?"

"You and I," Lelouch said uncertainly.

Strange thing to say, but all right. "Yup. I have gotten here early, because the man never leaves the woman to wait by herself. Any awkwardness, the man is to take upon himself. Okay?"

"Sure."

"Okay, so I'm waiting." Suzaku positioned himself against the railing and struck his best debonair pose - leaning back casually, his face angled to its most handsome degree, staring out as though he was lost in thought. He waited a moment; then, when Lelouch didn't move: "And you're coming up to meet me."

"Oh!" Lelouch backed off a few steps, muttering, "All right." Then he cleared his throat, took the few steps back again, and said, "Oh, hello, Suzaku. I'm glad to see you here."

That Lelouch. What a lady-killer. Suzaku turned his face towards Lelouch and smiled at him so brilliantly that even his stoic friend blinked. "Lelouch," he said, his voice warm with affection. He closed the distance between them and took Lelouch's hand and pressed it between his. "I'm glad to see you, too." He gave the hand a squeeze, then grinned more naturally when Lelouch snatched it out of his grip.

"This is absurd," Lelouch muttered, rubbing his hand as though Suzaku had crushed it.

"Romance generally is," Suzaku agreed amiably, and held out his hand. Lelouch looked for a moment as though he was going to refuse, then put his hand in Suzaku's once again. He practically squawked, though, when Suzaku bent down to kiss the back of his wrist.

"What the hell - "

"I just don't think we've been in this relationship long enough for me to go any further. Lelouch - " Suzaku laughed when his friend turned to go.

"This is a ridiculous game," Lelouch growled as he stalked off.

"Lelouch, Lelouch - " Suzaku laughed as he caught up to him. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend."

"I wasn't offended," Lelouch mumbled petulantly, but he stopped walking and turned toward Suzaku. "Just - what are you trying to say with all that?"

"That it's all a game," Suzaku said. "That if you have fun with it, and don't make it a big, melodramatic production like you always do with everything - " When Lelouch looked like he was about to spit, Suzaku held up his hands in surrender. "Just, if you seem to enjoy her company, she'll be happy."

"I don't enjoy her company."

"Well, okay, but, pretend," Suzaku said. "Pretend that you love her, or even just like her, or whatever. Make sure that there's chemistry between you."

"She doesn't attend Ashford."

Well, another little clue, even if it was one that made Suzaku laugh again. "No, not Chemistry, Lelouch, it's - Okay." He looked at Lelouch and said, flatly, "My name is Lelouch." Then he leaned in, and lowered his eyelashes just a touch, and put his hand on Lelouch's elbow. "My name," he said softly, "is Lelouch." Then he leaned back and said, "What was the difference?"

Lelouch was, for once, at a loss for words.

"That's chemistry," Suzaku explained.

"A-ah," Lelouch said in a strange, high voice.

Suzaku watched his friend writhe in the most exquisite discomfort. Really, he shouldn't be finding it as amusing as he was. "Now you try it."

Lelouch cleared his throat, and grabbed Suzaku by the upper arm, and glared into his eyes, and spat out, "My name is Lelouch."

Well, some girls found angry sexy, but not many. Still, the fact that Lelouch had been game enough to try it at all - "Not bad for a first time," Suzaku said, nodding supportively. "Good job."

"Thank you," Lelouch muttered, and looked slightly appeased.

"Okay. So - " Suzaku stood in front of Lelouch. "You can be the boy this time. We're on our date, right? And we've met up, and what are we doing on our date?" Suzaku had hoped that Lelouch would volunteer some ideas. Instead he treated the question as rhetorical, staring at Suzaku until some answers were provided for him. "Let's say we're going to a restaurant, but we don't have a reservation so we have to wait. Okay?"

"All...right," Lelouch said, sounding as though he had no lack of reservations.

"So we get a chance to walk a bit. It's a nice, grassy park - " Suzaku indicated the tar-and-pebble roof with a sweep of his arm. "And we're walking arm-in-arm." Lelouch didn't move. "How would you do that?"

"Oh - " Lelouch stepped next to Suzaku and hooked their arms together - the girls-going-shopping hook, rather than the one Suzaku was looking for.

"Not quite. Here - " He positioned Lelouch's arm, and then put his hand in the crook. "Like this. See?"

"All right," Lelouch mumbled.

"Okay. So we walk forward - " Suzaku started out before Lelouch, and Lelouch tripped to keep up. "Remember, you're leading here - " Lelouch surged forward, and Suzaku almost lost his grip. "And have some things to say to her. Like, 'You look so beautiful tonight.'"

"You look so beautiful tonight," Lelouch repeated flatly but dutifully.

"'I'm so fortunate to have you here with me.'"

"I'm so fortunate to have you here with me."

"With a bit of feeling, Lelouch."

Lelouch got louder but no more genuine as he repeated, "I'm so fortunate to have you here with me!"

Suzaku sighed. He wasn't going to be able to feed Lelouch lines, and Lelouch was more than capable of coming up with the right things to say himself. "Just - say whatever feels natural to you. As long as it's nice," he added. "Okay. So we've wandered a while, and now we stop to rest under a tree." The pole leading to the building's external floodlight served as their romantic rendezvous spot. "Now what?"

"Presumably, we converse."

Lelouch was a romantic at heart. "Yup. Can't just go for it, like I said." Suzaku stretched out his legs and drew Lelouch a little closer. "And if there's chemistry between us?" Suzaku asked in a low voice.

Lelouch cleared his throat and was silent a minute. "Then I - "

Suzaku reached over and tilted Lelouch's face towards his. "If the time is right," he said, staring up into Lelouch's eyes, "then, at that moment - " He leaned in so close that he could feel Lelouch's breath against his lips. "You - "

Lelouch closed the last of the distance between them, pushing his lips against Suzaku's with bruising force and just holding them there. Suzaku grunted in surprise. He'd assumed - but no matter, now; Lelouch had done it, and this too could be a lesson.

So Suzaku pulled back away a centimeter to pull Lelouch's bottom lip between his, to run their skin together in the right way to kiss. Lelouch's eyes were open and challenging, and Suzaku demonstrated by closing his; when he opened them to check, Lelouch had followed suit. He wound his arms around Lelouch's neck. Lelouch grabbed him around the waist and buried his other hand in Suzaku's hair. And for just a moment, their tongues met, rough against one another, pushing against one another -

And Suzaku pulled back away. "Good!" he said, and cleared his throat, and smiled, happy that he could help his friend in such a way. "That's the way to do it."

Lelouch was breathing hard, and his face was flushed, and he swallowed and said, "Suzaku - "

"I, uh - " Suzaku checked his wrist, realized he wasn't wearing a watch, and then checked his cell phone. "Look at the time. I should go. Was I of help?"

"Yes," Lelouch said loudly, then, quieter, "That was - I didn't mean anything more by that. You know."

"What could you have meant?" Suzaku laughed and pushed the door to the stairs open. "See you around, Lelouch. Good luck with your - girl."

In the bathroom, Suzaku looked up at himself, and ran his fingers along his still-buzzing lips.

He was gone for two days after that, called out to the base to test the slightly-more-powerful engine Lloyd had installed on the Lancelot. On the third day, he came back to class, but spent the whole time staring at the back of Lelouch's head. Once, Lelouch raised his fingers up to his neck, and Suzaku tensed; but Lelouch just scratched his neck, and sighed, and wrote something in his notebook.