The Chess Match

13

-L/L-

The door opened and the green-haired woman leaned against the door frame. For a moment, she watched him with eyes that gave nothing away, and then she smiled. "R.R.," she intoned, using his nickname that mimicked her own.

"Miss C.C.," he replied, nodding as a greeting. "I have a hunch."

Her brow furrowed gently, and her smile was replaced with a deadpan mouth. "A hunch? Meaning what exactly?"

L looked out at her from under his dark hair. Their eyes were only level because he slouched so much. He let himself smile; he enjoyed talking with her. She didn't mince words so that subtlety was made boring and disrespectable. She was much more intelligent than the crew gave her credit for, but didn't care if anyone knew it. She had quite a few characteristics that L prized in himself. "I know where Zero is."

"Oh?" She raised her eyebrows. "Where is our infamous masked leader?"

"Kaminejima," he answered. She didn't even blink.

"Then I'd better go tell Commander Headband and Captain Serious." She paused with a sigh and a smile. She didn't seem concerned or in a hurry, but exited the room. The door snapped shut behind her and she turned to him, here eyes sparkling with a kind of laughter. "…Unless you want to let them know?"

They both knew he would be taken less seriously than she would be even if she called Ougi Commander Headband and Toudou Captain Serious to their faces. He shook his head with a frown, a little put-off at her teasing. "Just tell Zero when we get him that I prefer not to hold guns, but would rather help with communications or computer operating systems. I used to work as a tech before the invasion."

She nodded, her playfulness fading and her eyes unnervingly wiser than the rest of her face. "We'll talk again."

L watched her walk away. She moved with a confidence and grace that was not found in a youth. No matter what her face and body looked like, L was convinced she was most certainly not a teenager.

It was a mystery he might not have the time to engage in while he was busy with the Zero and Kira cases, especially while on board the submarine, but fortuitously, he happened to know a few people who could use the challenge.

He only needed a few moments on his cell phone to type out the message.

"W, please pass along:

Eyes like cool sunshine,

Hair like freshest lime,

I am wise beyond my youthful years,

And oh-so-close to Britannian fears.

I wear no mask but hide my name;

Nobody knows from whence I came.

Petit, mellow, playful, and wise

I am matted in unspoken lies,

Find me near to your obsession,

Now quick! Who will answer this question?"

That should get the job done. He shuffled off to the cafeteria where he would be sure to witness the news when they recovered Zero and quite possibly a Princess and her knight.

-L/L-

It was no use worrying what his parents and Sayu might be thinking at this moment. No doubt he'd be able to come up with a plausible lie as long he wasn't captured by Britannia. He felt like he stood out terribly in his Black Knights uniform. If worst came to worst, he could always make the eye trade with Ryuk…. He shuddered to think of it.

He pushed another leafy branch out of his way. The eye trade would be stupid. He needed to live as long as he could in order to make the world better and making it would just kill himself faster. It was pointless to use it in a situation where he felt like he would die since logically, it would just kill himself faster.

"Liiiiight, this is totally boring." Ryuk, of course. "All you're doing is wandering in a huge circle. What good is that?"

Light willed himself not to explode. As if the situation weren't bad enough to be stranded on a deserted island, he had a child-like Death God as his sole companion. The jungle heat and Ryuk's seeming imperviousness to it was making Light irritable. He closed his eyes and breathed through his nose. "Ryuk, can't you fly up and see if there's anything on this godforsaken island?"

"It's not godforsaken as long as I'm here." Ryuk guffawed at his own joke and floated upside down. Not for the first time, Light wished the Death God was tangible so he could strangle him.

"I'll make sure you get at least one apple each day if you help me get off this island safely."

Ryuk looked at him, his large yellow and red eyes weighing the bargain. It had been nearly two days since his last apple, and Light could tell the Death God was sorely tempted, despite his original plan not to help Light. For being a god, Ryuk certainly had far too many human characteristics. Addiction of any kind was something Light found fairly disgusting, but in a situation like this, he didn't mind using it against the god. In some ways, the god was the easiest 'person' around him to manipulate.

"What about… two apples a day? One is… not a lot."

"Ryuk, it's hard enough to find time to go shopping in between school, keeping the Death Note updated, and being a terrorist," Light retorted. "I already have my hands full. It would be more boring to watch me walk to the store every day than watch me bushwhack my way through a forest, right? I can fit at least seven apples in my fridge at school, so I can make do by shopping once a week and storing them there. If you want two apples a day, the apples aren't going to be very good, especially during this summer weather."

Ryuk frowned, his mouth impossibly long and jagged. "But… I don't know how to get you off this island either."

"As long as I have your word that you'll help and do as I ask until we are not here, I can find a way." Light answered. It's not like he was about to follow the god's strategic advice, just use him to scout.

"…So, even if you don't make it off safely, you'll still give me apples?"

Half of Light wanted to just say yes and be done with it; Ryuk was unfathomably stupid. "Ryuk."

The monster looked at him expectantly.

Light continued, exasperated. "If I don't make it off this island safely, I will probably never be able to give you apples again. I'll be dead or in jail."

Ryuk seemed to get it, twisting his head awkwardly. Light surmised the god's withdrawal symptoms were starting. The god flapped his wings. "I'll… just go see what the layout of the island is."

"And look for people!" Light hissed as Ryuk floated up above the treetops.

Almost immediately, he flew back down, shouting excitedly. "Light! Light! There's a girl on the beach!"

Kallen! He thought, and rushed through the foliage. Was she actually alive? Or would it be her body washed ashore, limbs missing or some such atrocity….

He came to a dead halt at the edge of the jungle when he found himself staring at none other than Princess Euphemia. And she was staring right back at him.

Damn.

Or…

Already, Light was calculating how to make the best of the situation. The Princess seemed to be alone, and had apparently washed up the same way he had. He could easily overpower her—she was a girl in a long wet dress—or…

When would he ever have the chance to meet a Princess again? She undoubtedly could be a fantastic bargaining piece or used somehow to get at other Royals. And she knew Suzaku! There was always that angle….

Not to mention, she undoubtedly knew Lelouch… but he quickly tossed that idea away. She thought he was dead and Light would sound like a liar, grasping at straws. No, the way forward would be through convincing lies rather than actual truths.

If he could get her real name….

"Um, are you going to shoot me?" Her voice was somehow both fragile and strong. Like she was both weak and honest, but at least she knew it. And considering her question, she expected an honest answer, despite looking straight at a member of the Black Knights. It was almost hilarious how gullible she really was. He could do this!

He shook his head. "No. Why would I? We're in the same predicament here."

"Oh!" Euphemia exclaimed, seeming surprised and delighted. "We are, aren't we."

She took a step forward, but stumbled over the heavy, wet folds of her dress. Light nearly flinched, wondering if maybe she was acting and in reality, she was pulling out a gun herself, but no. She regained her footing, holding her skirts up, and looking about as dangerous as a half-drowned kitten.

Light walked down to her instead. He needed her to trust him. "You know, it'll be very difficult to move until you dry off."

She nodded, looking down and embarrassed. "I know."

"You're probably better off staying here on the beach… and, well, please don't take this the wrong way, but if you could remove at lease one of your petticoats, you'll probably dry faster. I'm not really sure how dresses work, though…" Light trailed off, feigning awkwardness and turning away, like he was a gentleman and couldn't speak of a woman undressing.

She giggled, something that Light felt was extremely out of place. Just how sheltered was she? She already seemed completely at ease with him. Or was it all an act?

"Were you with the Black Knights when they rescued me?" she asked, and again, Light felt like compared to the rest of the world, she was out in left field picking daisies and dancing with unicorns. He couldn't see the connection between the situation and her words.

"Um, no. I… just joined." He responded, letting his confusion show through a bit. Didn't she know she was not making sense? Still, everything was a chance. "I…my… girlfriend…" he let his voice choke up, as if he were just now realizing the unbearable truth, "…she brought me in, but…"

He looked at Princess Euphemia and willed tears into his eyes. This performance could make it or break it. "I… I think she just… died."

He wasn't sure what he was expecting her response to be, but she still surprised him. Blue eyes widened slowly, her mouth closed with quivering lips, and she stood perfectly still. Light didn't take his eyes away, fascinated, as her tears formed and fell. She wasn't looking at him now, not really. "But that means…" she started.

The third princess of the Britannian Empire fell to her knees, her hands in her face and sobbed. It took Light a moment realize that the word she said in between gasps and sobs was actually a name: Suzaku.

Ah. So that's what it was. Unknowingly, he had hit a nerve and he couldn't believe his luck. He allowed himself a grin while she wasn't watching, then bent down and tentatively touched her shoulder.

"Hey, shhhhh," he said comfortingly, while trying his best to still force tears out of his own eyes. With his free hand, he poked at his eyelids, and failing that, he licked two fingers and trailed the wetness down his cheeks. The things he did to stay alive.

"But… but people are dying!" the princess choked out. "Your girlfriend and… and Suzaku, my knight! It's my fault he's dead, isn't it!"

"We… don't know that," Light tried, patting her hair reassuringly. "I mean, Suzaku at least was inside his Knightmare Frame… he's probably alive."

If I am, considering I was clinging to the Lancelot's leg, Light thought darkly.

Light continued, throwing the door open for her to feel connected to and trust in him. "I mean, I would never have gone along and joined if the plan had been to kill him; we just wanted to stop fighting against him. I know him from school, so…."

The princess paused in her hiccupping sobs and shakily looked up at him in wonderment. "You… you know Suzaku?"

Perfect. She was caught now. He gave her a sad smile and the barest of shrugs. "Sure, I mean, we're the only Honorary Britannians at school. We kinda have to know each other since a lot of the other students can't really tell us apart."

"Really?" She sounded hopeful.

He nodded. "Really. There's no way I'd have anything to do with hurting him after all we've been through together. And my girlfriend, she knows…"—he paused, and looked down, shutting his eyes against the tears he couldn't actually make appear—"she knew… him too. We only did this because we heard no one would be killed, just Suzaku captured. We wanted him to work with us, since we're all… Japanese."

"I'm sorry," Euphemia said softly. She wiped her eyes with her hand, but her real tears were still slowly seeping down her face.

He heaved a sigh. "I just wish the fighting would stop; that Britannia would leave us alone." He spoke into the air like the whole ordeal was simply tiring, careful not to sound accusatory.

There was a short silence. "…You may not believe it, but… that's exactly what Suzaku and I were working towards too. I… I have this plan, you know, but my sister keeps saying it won't work—sometimes she is just so pessimistic!—but I want to give the Japanese people back their rights as citizens and make a zone where everyone can get along. Britannians and Japanese can live alongside each other in peace and everyone will be equal and no one will be just a Number. I think everyone is the same and just wants to stop fighting and stop people from dying. We all want the same thing, so I think we can get there, don't you?"

Light felt a bit like vomiting rainbows, but he nodded in agreement and widened his eyes to look more innocent. "You really want to help us Japanese get our homes back?"

She nodded back, wiping sandy trails on her face in an attempt to rid herself of tears. She sniffed, her blue eyes staring in to his almond ones. "…I do."

"But you're a Princess! You can do anything you want, right? Why hasn't anything changed yet if you want to help us?"

Euphemia looked very worried all of a sudden. "It's not like that! Though I may be a Princess, no one thinks I'm any good at diplomacy or that sort of thing." She looked down, sullen and depressed.

Thinking to himself, Light could certainly understand why. This was ridiculous. He pursed his lips, waiting for her to look up and continue. She eventually did, slowly peering up at him under thick lashes. "I'm… sorry. I know I should try harder. All you Japanese are trying to make life better for yourselves, and I… I must look awful to you. Being a Princess and saying I have nothing and no power, when really, I've been very lucky to everything in my life."

Light looked away, feigning judgment he didn't want her to see. In reality, he was wondering where all this self-pity and righteousness came from. Was it parroted from Suzaku? Light had known Suzaku had a powerful personality and sense of justice, if being a little less than bright. It seemed likely that he had made the sheltered Princess realize the plight of the Numbers, and in the way only the idealistic and privileged knew how, Princess Euphemia had decided to try to remedy the situation by announcing peace. That she expected it to work showed her naivety. He didn't think she was a good enough actor to be making it all up—only someone really stupid would try to suggest this would work.

He looked back. "It's alright. Nobody's perfect…. It feels like it's just us Japanese fighting against Britannia's unfairness, but I guess it's just as bad for us to stereotype Britannia in response. You're not like other Britannians I've met, you know. I can tell why Suzaku—" He broke off, pretending that he was going to say something he shouldn't, or perhaps that the memory of Suzaku might upset one of them.

She just nodded, and placed a hand tenderly on his. "It's okay. I'm sure he's fine. We'll find him or he'll find us."

With a bit of surprise, Light realized that he hoped it was true. It would be much better for him to announce to Suzaku his own plans, rather than let the Princess botch it up later. And he assumed Suzaku was still living; there was no way Light had survived being on the outside of the Lancelot while Suzaku—and Zero—were on the inside.

He heard Ryuk laughing. "You sure are good with the ladies, Light. What's your girlfriend going to say when she finds out you were with a Princess? Won't she be mad?"

Light showed no response, but on the inside, he realized just what kind of valuable information Ryuk had given away.

Kallen was alive.

Light flipped his hand over and gave the Princess's a gentle squeeze. "For now, we should at least figure out what to do next in case it takes some time to be rescued, Princess."

Euphemia nodded. "Please, call me Euphie." She smiled, warm despite the sand and salt stuck to her face.

"Light," he responded, standing up and with his hand still attached to hers, he pulled her to her feet.

He was just distracted enough to not notice the man behind him and just off balance enough to be tackled to the ground, a knee in the center of his back. Euphie shrieked something, Ryuk laughed, and Light got a faceful of sand.

Shit. He thought, before feeling himself flood with a wave of anger. There was no way on this planet he was going to die. He was the god of the new world! He was Kira! He took lives, not the other way around. With a surge of hubris-charged adrenaline, Light grabbed his attacker's leg and jerked it forward, throwing the man off him and into the sand. He rolled away quickly and on to his feet, keeping low to stay balanced and alert.

It was then that Light was able to look over and identify the man who had attacked him.

"Light?!"

"Suzaku?!"

"Stop it, you two!" Euphemia cried over them. Immediately, Suzaku blanched as the Princess went over to her Knight. "Aren't you two friends? Light was helping me!"

Suzaku gave Light a surprised look, but there was still wariness in it. Light offered a wry smile. "You know I wouldn't hurt her," was all he said. It would be a more sly game with Suzaku around, but Light had planned for it from the moment the Princess had laid eyes on him.

"…You're in the Black Knights." Suzaku's voice sounded weary, and the Honorary Britannian sighed. Ryuk laughed, and at that moment, Light knew he was going to win this. He could do it! He had to do it. There was no one else who could—a sudden image of Lelouch flashed before him, but Light tossed it away. Lelouch wouldn't be able to dupe his own sister and his close friend even if he had the balls to fight Britannia so directly. Lelouch hid in the shadows, but Light… well, his name was apt. Only Light was capable.

Light nodded, looking away. "This is actually the first mission I've been on. It's all gotten out of hand though, I think."

Euphemia nodded to back him up, already on his side. "We were both worried about you and Light has another friend. She told him to join and…." She looked back at Light, growing silent as she took in what could only be painful thoughts for the new soldier.

Light continued looking away, hoping Suzaku would also catch the added tightness to his shoulders. He clenched his hand, knowing it could either be interpreted as anger or sadness, but hopefully, it'd be a bit of both. He held the position for a long time, as if he were warring with himself, but then finally looked back at Suzaku. He squared himself up. It was now or never.

"Suzaku, I know it doesn't seem like much, but I promise you that the intent of this mission was not to hurt anyone. Not you, not the Princess. It was just… well… I always thought you were more like us than like the Britannians." Light watched Suzaku flinch as if slapped, and hurried on. "So when Zero wanted to capture you alive, I thought it would all work out and you'd help us get Japan back. But… but now, after talking to the Princess, I think I get it. There are some Britannians who are like us Japanese. And…" he hesitated, as if thinking very carefully, "…if what Princess Euphemia says is true, then we could get Japan back in a much more peaceful way, and faster, if she can use her power."

Suzaku's eyes widened, green and trusting. "You… want to help?"

Light nodded once. "I only joined the Black Knights because I felt helpless at the state of things, and…" he grinned, "you probably know me well enough to realize that I don't care for that feeling much."

It appeared that Suzaku couldn't help smiling back. Light was winning him over again, and he was glad he had kept a good relationship with Suzaku at school. "You are a bit of a show-off sometimes."

"And you know how hard it is to be Japanese at Ashford," Light continued. "I don't even have the excuse of working for a Princess like you do."

It was working beautifully. Suzaku looked chagrined, and a bit ashamed, but it was Euphemia who spoke.

"It's difficult to be Japanese at that school?" she questioned, her tone sharp with worry. Suzaku immediately went into defensive mode.

"Oh, it's not so bad. It's like any school where it takes awhile for new students to fit in…."

Light stared at him, then turned to the Princess, another wry smile in place. "I'm afraid I don't care to sugarcoat things. Many of the students are racist; it's probably why Suzaku and I are in the same homeroom class: so that many Britannian students can avoid us and pretend like we don't exist. Although… Suzaku has gotten quite popular since you Knighted him."

Euphemia looked horrified. "You never told me that, Suzaku! I would have found you tutors or something if you were being bullied!"

Suzaku hung his head, and muttered. "But it's fine now, so there's no need to worry."

"And it wouldn't have fixed the underlying problem," Light continued for Suzaku. "It's necessary for us to be visible to Britannians or they won't even know we exist anymore."

"…Is that what Zero says?" It was a hesitant question from the Princess. She sounded almost defeated. Like she could understand exactly why Light had chosen to fight for the terrorist instead of working with Britannia now.

He nodded, and kicked at the sand, looking down. "Something like that. And it makes sense in a way. Nothing has changed for years, but now… forgive me if this is rude, but if it weren't for Zero, you wouldn't have cared enough to try to make Japanese and Britannians equal, would you?"

"I…" the Princess looked near tears then, her blue eyes watery like the sea behind her. Her voice was quiet, almost whipped away by the wind. "No."

"But she does now," Suzaku interjected. Light figured it was out of a strong sense of protection for his Princess, but it seemed clear that their relationship wasn't simply the Royalty giving orders. Interesting. "We're going to fix things now, change it all so things get better for everyone."

"Well, that's what I want too," Light said. "Why can't people just get along?"

Light could see the exact moment in Suzaku's face when he had won. It was in the intake of breath, and an opening of his face. It was how his eyes appraised Light curiously with barely-held excitement. It took everything Light had to pretend he didn't notice it.

"Light… why… why don't you join us?" Suzaku began, glancing over to the Princess for approval. She nodded, perhaps too enthusiastically.

Light pretended to be taken aback. He could hear Ryuk laughing again. "Join you? I thought you were going to arrest me!"

Suzaku frowned. "Well… I guess we probably should, but… I know you're not a bad guy. You helped Her Highness, when I bet any other Black Knight would have taken her prisoner, or worse…." He looked back to Euphemia hopefully. "It should definitely be taken into account when considering his sentence, at least."

For one horrified moment, Light thought it was going to backfire. He couldn't go to prison! Had he misjudged? Was Suzaku the kind of person who wouldn't even bend the rules when he had not only the power, but the will to make an exception? Everything would be ruined… why had he stupidly agreed to sign on to the Order with Kallen? How had he ever thought that would be a good idea—

"Nonsense, Suzaku. This man saved my life."

Light thought he had done no such thing, but wasn't about to say it now. He swallowed, waiting and hating the fact that his life was in the hands of this Britannian Princess.

"I am going to pardon him fully, of course. And he's your friend. If you trust him, then I trust him." She smiled, and Light could see immediately why Suzaku hadn't hesitated to accept his Knighthood. She was incredibly, radiantly, beautiful. It was as if the sand and salt and water only heightened her intrinsic prettiness. It was easy to see why Suzaku was in love.

Suzaku nodded, dropping to one knee and saluting perfectly. "Yes, Your Highness."

All good things happened to Light. He bowed gracefully, knowing that he wouldn't look as sharp mimicking Suzaku's well-practiced salute. He kept his eyes facing down, and spoke with his head lowered. "I know I don't deserve this, but I thank you for your mercy."

"Don't worry about it, Light," Suzaku returned, rising from his salute. The tenseness of the previous moment had vanished with the Knight's boyish smile. "For now, I'll see if I can catch some fish. Do you think you could start a fire?"

Light nodded and smiled back. "Of course. I'll get right on it."

He passed by the Princess to get scraps of driftwood, and when clear, Light looked into the air at Ryuk, and smiled honestly for the first time.

-L/L-

It was hot in the jungle and Lelouch was thirsty. He had found a waterfall not far away and had drank from it, not caring about whatever small creatures may have been lurking in the stream, hoping to invade his digestive track. The cool stream had been worth it. He had followed a small trail, hoping it was made by some kind of edible game, and then commenced building a trap.

That had been a few hours ago, however, and the hole was nowhere near deep enough. He had shed his helmet, coat, and cravat and had even unzipped the top of his suit, freeing his arms and tying the sleeves around his waist. If a man were Zero in the middle of forest and there's no one to hear him digging….

...then does he actually make any progress?

As he dug, he wondered if Suzaku were still alive. He was perfectly aware of the Geass he had shouted, on some sort of instinct, and was still wavering between mentally berating or congratulating himself for it. Hours later, he still wasn't sure. He had never wanted to use the Geass on Suzaku in the first place, but now he was worried that he really would need to kill his friend and had just made his life as Zero harder. Still, the Geass wouldn't make him live forever or anything—there was still a good chance Suzaku hadn't survived the explosion, or a fall from the Lancelot like Lelouch apparently had. Thinking about it all too much made his head hurt. Maybe he had a concussion from landing on the island. There was certainly some time he either didn't remember or was unconscious for.

He peered down at the dirt below his fingers. His hole was just about knee-deep, but it seemed to have been knee-deep for the last hour. It was hard to gauge his progress. He should really go back to the stream to get some more water. He was covered in sweat. Maybe he should just take a swim and come back afterwards to finish… once he was more refreshed….

Something rustled in the bushes, and Lelouch froze. It was behind him.

"…Zero?"

He knew that voice. Without thinking of anything else, Lelouch threw his hands up to his face, hoping to protect his identity as the rustling intensified and turned to footsteps on the trail. He took two quick steps to his mask, lying neatly on top of his cape—she was smart—if he could only get it on before—how had she ever survived—he knelt down, hand on the mask—

A sharp intake of breath. "You're… Le…louch?"

He turned suddenly, the mask in front of his face like a shield. There wasn't even time to put it on. He could still see Kallen Kouzuki's face through it, her brows wrinkled in misunderstanding and her eyes full of confusion.

It was too late. Damn. Why was it that everyone had been figuring out who he was lately? First Mao with his mind-reading, then Light discovering Lelouch as a long-lost prince, and now Kallen with plain bad-timing. And he had used a Geass on her already for something so trivial! This was ridiculous. He really must have gotten a concussion.

"It's really you, isn't it?" she asked, her eyes losing an ounce of confusion, being replaced by something a little more calm, if still wary.

There was nothing he could do but lower his mask and nod. "Are you… alright?"

She was, after all, his Knight—his favorite knight actually—and he had heard her voice behind him just before the flying ship had fired. He was almost surprised to realize he had actually been worried about her.

"Am I alright?" Kallen spewed suddenly. "No, of course I'm not alright! Why didn't you tell me sooner? Why are you Zero? You of all people! You tricked me! That time, in the shower—" Her face turned bright red as she remembered the incident. "I mean, you made it sound like you didn't care about anything." Her eyes widened in horror. "I slapped you."

Lelouch held up his hands as if her words were tangible objects being flung at him. "Yes, well, I… forgive you if you forgive me. Being Zero is… well, not a burden I can share with anyone so lightly."

She eyed him warily. "So it's a burden."

He stared her down stonily, silently thanking all his practice with Light. "Yes, Kallen. As being his Knight is a heavy burden I wouldn't place on anyone else other than you. Could you be Zero?"

She hesitated, suddenly not so sure of herself. "…Um, well, maybe if I had to. I don't' know."

Lelouch nodded and sighed. "That's all I meant. Look, I'm sure you understand why now I need to ask you to keep my identity a secret. From everyone. On the surface level, I think most of the Black Knights know I'm not Japanese, but it's different when confronted with it so obviously. We would lose everything. Do you understand?"

She nodded slowly. "I think so."

He shook his head, his hair swatting him gently in the face. It was clumpy from saltwater and sweat. Disgusting. "You can't just think so, Kallen. If my identity falls into the wrong hands… well, everything I'm trying to do fails. If you tell anyone, you will be immediately relieved of duty in the Black Knights and all communication with you will be cut off. Am I clear?"

"You—you can't do that!"

Lelouch waited patiently for her to realize that he certainly could, and had no qualms about it if necessary. He sighed again, giving her a frank look. "It's not because I don't trust you or like you. I probably would have told you soon enough, but there was no way I could when I first started as Zero since I didn't know you well enough then. I'm sorry for deceiving you, but not only is it my life at stake, but all those in the Black Knights who follow me. They believe in Zero, not Lelouch Lamperouge. It's important that no one else knows."

She nodded.

"And that goes for Light, too."

She flinched, turning a slight pink. "I never said I was going to tell Light."

Lelouch swallowed. This was… going to be difficult, but he realized it would be better to let Kallen know right now. Now that he had realized how important she actually was to Zero, and thus, to him. He didn't like seeing Kallen with Light—the manipulative and powerful teenager associated too strongly with Kira. "Kallen," he began, closing the distance between them, but avoiding his half-finished trap. "I know you care for him. That's why I allowed him into the Knights so easily. That's why I'm letting him move up faster than a normal recruit. He can be a great asset since you have great intuition when it comes to that but…."

Kallen suddenly became wary again. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "But what, Lelouch?"

"I don't trust him." Lelouch stared her in the eye, willing her to believe in him.

She stared back, blue eyes locked with his purple ones until she blinked and looked away. "Okay, well, that's your prerogative, I guess."

It wasn't good enough. Lelouch took the liberty of taking Kallen's chin and making her look at him again. "No. Kallen, I don't trust him. You need to be careful. I understand he's intelligent, Japanese, and all the things you want, but please, for the love of god, don't trust him completely."

She searched his eyes for some kind of understanding, and swallowed nervously. Good, Lelouch thought. At least she seemed to be taking him seriously. He released her chin—a few smudges of dirt marked where his fingers had been—and she took a step back, looking away now that she could.

"What is that?" she asked, completely changing the subject; he could tell she wanted some time to digest his words. He followed her gaze and pointed finger to the whole in the ground.

Lelouch winced. "That," he announced, clearing his throat, "is going to be a trap. For animals."

Kallen raised an eyebrow. She didn't say anything. For some reason, Lelouch found this action reassuring, and realized that it was going to be okay. He had fought alongside Kallen long enough to have gained her trust, regardless of who he was really, and it was a very comforting feeling. He, Lelouch, was trustworthy. And he felt that Kallen was trustworthy as well; she wasn't go to tell Light. He would be safe.

He smiled. "Okay, fine, it wasn't going so well, but it would have been a good idea if I had something more than my hands and that stick to dig with."

Lelouch could have sworn Kallen stifled a giggle. He didn't mind. It felt almost like they were themselves back in the clubhouse or relaxing after a meeting instead of stranded on a deserted island. Kallen shook her hair, a real chuckle escaping. "You… were digging… with your hands?"

Lelouch breathed out a laugh before firing back his retort. "Well, it's not like I keep a shovel in my helmet." He paused, then raised an eyebrow cockily. "…Don't tell me you keep one in your flight suit?"

The tension from a few moments before had completely dissipated now and she snorted in a most un-ladylike fashion. "You're so much different from when you're at school, you know that?"

"Coming from you, I will take that as a compliment," he offered gallantly, still wearing a smirk.

Kallen punched him in the shoulder playfully. At least he hoped it was playfully, as Lelouch thought he might bruise later from the force of her knuckles. Especially as he had already been thrown from a Knightmare Frame at some point in the last twenty-four hours and was leaning more and more towards the idea he was concussed. He tried not to show any pain on his face.

"Fair point," she nodded, her hair swinging around her face like ruffled feathers. "But, Lelouch, why are you so interested in helping us? You're Britannian, right? You even come across as more blue-blooded than most of the school…."

Looking away, Lelouch nodded. "Technically still Britannian, although…" he trailed off, not sure exactly what to say, and searching the jungle trees for answers. "…I feel I stopped being Britannian a long time ago. I lived in Japan before the war, out in the country. When war began, I carried Nunnally through trails that wound among stinking mass graves to Tokyo where we thought we'd be safe. …It's hard to want to be Britannian after that, but I pretend for Nunnally's sake."

He didn't look back at Kallen, but could feel her acceptance anyway. The trees waved in the smallest of sea-breezes, a shushing sound that eased away the painful memories. No doubt they had both heard so many stories from others who had been there during the war that it was easy to understand. He knew Kallen had lost her brother, and so many others had lost family and homes as well. Lelouch, too, had lost family, but sometimes he wasn't sure if he had ever really had it to begin with. He would always have Nunnally though. He wouldn't let anyone hurt her, and although the Black Knights were also her protectors by extension through Lelouch, they also protected more than just his sister.

For the first time, Lelouch felt like he understood what the Black Knights did for each other, not just for him. They protected other families that the Britannians had rolled over with bombs, other homes that had been destroyed. Other loving mothers killed and innocent sisters handicapped. It was a relief to stop hiding his own anger and sadness, and for once, he didn't feel like he needed to. Even though C.C. knew everything about him, the witch didn't seem to empathize with his emotions. However, Kallen understood what taking down Britannia meant, even if not the full reason behind his motivations, but it was enough. She still followed him. And what was more, he realized that he trusted her to continue to do so, perhaps even more willingly now than ever before.

He was, after all, still Zero, and nothing would change that.


Well, lookee here, it's another chapter for my lovely readers! I like to think of this chapter as when shit gets real and there's no going back to how things were. All the players have lined up in place and things are changing drastically from the Code Geass you once knew (as if they were ever really the same with the Death Note characters inhabiting the same universe, haha). Anyway, hope you all enjoyed it and please drop a review! I hope to continue updating more frequently (i.e. every few months as opposed to once a year), and your reviews keep me energized and thinking about this story!

Also, thanks for SlvrSoleAlchmst1 for forcing me to edit it before letting her proofread. You all get to read a better edition because of her.