Title: Just Once
Rating: R
Theme: Uncertainty
Pairings/Characters: Kallen/Zero
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for Season One, between episodes 10 and 12.
Time Period: Between episodes 12 and 13.
Summary: Kallen knows no one has seen his face, but… she is beginning to understand that she wants more than just that.
Word Count: 7,630
Dedication: To Bella, because I know how long you've waited for another Code Geass fic from me. And because you're going away for so long, and I'm really going to miss you. Have fun while you're away! :3
Disclaimer: Code Geass and its characters are not mine.
Author's Note: This is an unofficial continuation from I Believe In…, although you can read the stories separately as well as together. For my Code Geass readers, I hope you can enjoy this fic as much as you did the last one. Some things have been stretched, but I've tried my very best to stay as in character as I could given what I had planned for this fic. Forgive me if it does not echo the same sentiments and feelings my last one did.
P.S. Yes, I changed "Guren Type 2" to "Guren Mark II", because they're the same thing and the latter sounds better to me.

- - - - - - -

Do I trust in you? Does it matter? Sometimes I wonder why I bother to question it, and then I have to wonder… if I'm not questioning the wrong thing.

Sweat was trickling down her back, making her itch. She swung her arm around behind her and hooked her thumb in the ridge beside her spine, grunting as she put forth the effort to reach the tingling point just beyond her grasp. After a feeble whine escaped her lips she gasped in defeat and dropped her arm, hanging her head. She favored the feeling of rolling her shoulders to try and rid herself of the irritation anyway, she told herself lamely as she tried it to little avail.

The chatter of weary, victorious soldiers was dwindling, joining the noise filling the hangar with the rumbling of Knightmare frames shutting down, artillery being placed back into position, and people departing for their individual homes. If not for the drab, gray underground environment and the fact that they were enemies of the Britannian nation, the atmosphere could almost have been called cheery.

She glanced over her shoulder as the new recruits dispersed and her old teammates turned and called out to her, beckoning that she follow them. "Alright!" she shouted at last, a smile on her face, and made a show of catching up by loping towards them. Yet, still far from them, she dipped her head and huffed in gentle disbelief, still a bit incredulous that they—they, a meager rebellion force of what was left of those who called themselves the Japanese—had succeeded in revoking Princess Cornelia's superior forces, even if they had retreated in the end.

Still… It was an incredible victory. And they had only achieved it because of—she blinked.

Less than halfway from the others, the sweep of a familiar dark cloak brushed past the edge of her line of sight and she lifted her head, turning it after the silent figure of their departing leader.


The thought skimmed the edge of her mind, and her lips parted automatically, as though she wanted to call out after him. But an arm was thrown around her neck out of no where and she tipped to the side, one foot aloft in the air in an elaborate attempt to keep her balance, and the brash, welcome laughter of Tamaki was suddenly barking in her ear. She gagged upon the words that had wanted to slip from her mouth, and ended up croaking out a mingled cry of surprise, disapproval and elation.

"Ack! Tamaki you basta—"

Tamaki cut her off, a broad grin on his face, practically shouting the words in her ear. Kallen, in the meanwhile, was struggling to escape her comrade's embrace—sadly, to no avail. "Damn, Kallen! You murdered Cornelia! If tha—"

"Technically," Ougi interjected thoughtfully. "She didn't murder the Princess. Cornelia was still alive when we retreated."

Tamaki seemed flustered by Ougi's comment only when Kallen burst into laughter upon hearing it, but he nevertheless released her and took a step towards Ougi as he retaliated emphatically. "Well, damn it! If that tight-assed white-head didn't get in the way, she would have obliterated the wench!"

"Except that Kallen would have been going against orders, so she really couldn't have anyway," Ougi noted once more, leaving Kallen to her growing fit of laughter, and allowing a smile to cross his lips, even as Tamaki shouted, "That doesn't count!" in exasperation.

Kallen still had tears in her eyes as, this time, she hooked her arm around Tamaki's neck and dragged him down to where she could grind her knuckles against the top of his head in a fierce, playful noogie. She let her words grate forward in mixed glee and vicious teasing. " 'Course the boss's opinion counts you knucklehead. Now stop keeping me from my bed! I'm exhausted, and I wasn't being the lazy one!"

"Hey!" Tamaki shouted reproachfully as Kallen released him and began to follow the already leaving Ougi. "That's no fair, Kallen! I did too carry my weight! And you can't say I didn't just because you were too busy kicking ass!"

"Beautifully! Say it, Tamaki! It was beautiful!" she sang out, turning around and sticking out her tongue in jest, skipping backwards in almost a giddy manner.

"Whatever! Just don't go saying I didn't do anything!" he shouted after her.

Their dwindling rapports of joy and lighthearted teasing soon left the building in silence. Without breaking the heavy thickness of the still atmosphere, the cloaked form of Zero slowly departed from the premises without looking back.

It's not that I don't trust you. But I don't understand the messages you're sending me. I think I'm starting to be too much like you, maybe… Over-analyzing everything. But how will I ever know otherwise?

There was a meeting the next day, after the battle in the Narita mountain range, and their compact group gathered in the vehicle donated to the cause of the Order of the Black Knights. Many things were discussed, including Tamaki's continued insistence upon Kallen's superiority in battle.

"The Kyoto Group said that we put the Guren to good use. They were really impressed," was the sentiment that Zero put forth during that meeting. Kallen did beg to differ though, interjecting passionately with a note of disappointment in her voice. "But that white-head beat me!" she had pressed, hoping for reassurance, more than anything else.

"No he didn't!" Tamaki insisted again, coming to her rescue. "It was a draw, man! A draw!" And although her initial doubt was eased away by her comrade's comment, she still found herself a little disappointed by Zero's silence on the matter.

Yet there were larger troubles that came into play during that meeting, ones that would perturb every member of the inner circle of their growing resistance force. Zero had burst the bubble of contentment that they had held claim to even after having forfeited their leadership to him the first time he joined up with their group in Shinjuku.

"Anyway," Zero had swiftly dictated after a small bout of contention between Tamaki and Kallen about the former's generosity with their funds. "Let's have Ougi take care of our finances from now on."

Tamaki cut in immediately, fervently disapproving. "Hey, I've always handled the money! Don't you think—"

"If you want me to trust you, you'll have to show me you're trustworthy," Zero objected, cutting him off in the middle of his comment. But Tamaki scoffed at Zero's logic without hesitation.

"Look who's talking! You won't even show your comrades your face! Really…" He got to his feet and leered at the masked man, challenging him. "How about it, Zero?"

"Just hold on now," Ougi gently interjected, but a strong voice cut him off.

It was Kallen. She had leapt to her feet, thrusting herself between Tamaki and Zero, her gaze as fierce as her sentiments.

"It doesn't matter who Zero really is!" she bit off. "He's shown his worth as our leader by virtue of his victory over Cornelia." There was a pregnant pause before she continued in mild exasperation. "What more can you possibly ask?"

But that had not been enough to appease the minds of the rest of them. Although Kallen had been convinced, strove to believe in their new leader, the rest were just as suspicious as they had been before, even though they followed him well enough.

After the meeting had broken up, Zero had departed from their congregation and moved to the small room upstairs where he often stayed by himself for countless periods of time. The rest had collected downstairs, their mutual dissent evident in the conversation that continued even as Kallen mounted the stairs that led to Zero's small office.

"What are we going to do?" Tamaki had asked.

"Well, we were originally Naoto's team. Why don't we listen to his sister, Kallen?" Ougi softly suggested.

"Because he passed the mantle of leadership over to you," Tamaki forcefully reminded him.

"You all obeyed him in Narita," Ougi countered in his almost meek manner, still retaining the quiet, observant air in his voice.

The last two comments echoed and faded gently as she climbed out of earshot.

"Yeah, but he practically blackmailed us," a female's indignant voice said.

"He should at least let his inner circle in on the secret," a male voice agreed in an almost wistful manner. Whether they continued or not after that, Kallen did not know. She had stopped in front of Zero's door for a second before knocking twice. After a moment of silence, the familiar voice of the room's inhabitant called out, "Who is it?"

"It's me," she called back, knowing that he'd be able to tell immediately who it was. "Listen, I'm sorry about what they said in there." She had been disheartened by their display. She had been deemed an optimist before, and perhaps that made her naïve, but it was what encouraged her fighter's spirit, and hadn't Zero and all the others always valued that in her?

But to be faced by a room of people that all thought differently than you, especially when the room was filled with those you thought you knew so well, was a blow to anyone's standing. It had made her question her strong faith in Zero even just the tiniest bit. And she did not want that to happen. She had been more than happy to fight for him, knowing that their objectives were one and the same, even if their reasons differed.

But he broke through her thoughts, bringing the very subject of her turmoil forward, in that blunt manner he had. "Kallen, do you wish to see my face, as well?"

There was a long silence between them, and Kallen's thoughts settled on the memory of the woman she had seen with Zero back in the Narita mountain range. I think she's seen it… And a part of her quivered, and she was surprised to feel the whisper of something akin to jealousy creeping over her heart.

She had always made it a point to be honest with Zero, because up until then, she had had no reason not to be. They all felt he was real enough, open with them about his intentions and reasoning. Yet… now…

She answered shortly, at last, with, "No, I apologize," and moved away from the door, heading back downstairs. In that instant, she thought she had forfeited all of her desire to know the man behind the mask.

Then… why couldn't I let go? What kept me seeking after you? Even after I had decided that I would follow my own dedication to you by not questioning who you were openly, I was still just as bad as anyone else. And, unlike them… I don't think I'm ready to let go of this.

It had been unexpected, yet simultaneously so much more than they had hoped for. One of the largest funders and spokespersons of the Japanese underground had collaborated to meet with the Order of the Black Knights. This had brought them all together for an elaborate play on the parts of Zero and the hidden spokesperson of the Japanese underground as well.

When the face and name of their host had been revealed, they were all awed and shocked to find themselves faced by the very leader of the Kyoto House, which was the subversive society of former elite Japanese that supported countless rebellion groups that fought against the Britannian Empire. Yet even that unreal encounter was nothing akin to the certainty their host invoked in them about their leader, Zero.

"It's just as you thought," Zero had admitted as he stood before Kirihara Taizou, the leader of the Kyoto House. "I am not Japanese!"

"Seriously?" Tamaki had gasped quietly in awe, watching from behind with the others. "So that's why he wouldn't show his face…"

"Why do you fight, if you are not Japanese?" Kirihara had questioned of Zero, mindless of the background mutters. "What is your goal?"

"To destroy Britannia," Zero had pronounced without hesitation.

"You believe you can do that?"

"I can, for I have a reason why I must!" he replied with fierce determination before continuing in a knowing, inclusive tone. "I'm glad that you were my counterpart." But the end of his comment descended into an unintelligible murmur. And much to the surprise of all of the observers, he took off the mask he wore and continued to speak further with Kirihara below their level of hearing.

"Shit!" Tamaki had announced irately, stepping forward with his next comment. "I can't see!" But Kallen had thrust out her arm, holding him back, glancing wordlessly at him. Yet the effort was quickly disrupted by the commanding voice of their host.

"Ougi!" Kirihara had called out.

"Y-Yes?" Ougi replied, still mildly shocked.

"This man is, without a doubt, an enemy of Britannia," Kirihara Taizou announced with finality and promise. "I understand why he could not show you his face. This I assure you: have Zero lead, and we will help you cover your tracks and find a base of operations."

The surprise and swift celebration that swept the congregation was echoed by Ougi's awestruck reply, made with deep gratitude. "I thank you," he had said simply.

"Yes," Zero had added as well, replacing his mask before turning back to his followers. "Thank you, Kirihara." They had departed promptly after that.

There was nothing else to question, nothing more to say. Now, not only were my feeble misgivings assuaged, but also the major doubts of my comrades. I had nothing to worry about anymore. Nothing to question. So, why couldn't I still shake free from that desire…? That desire… to know you? Or… for something else?

There was no way to tell what had led her here exactly. The entire hangar had been evacuated swiftly, there were no meetings called, no plans to muse over as of yet. There was absolutely no reason for Kallen Stadtfeld to be stepping through the door of their motorized headquarters. And, in that case, no reason for her to be dressed in the attire of the Order of the Black Knights other than not having changed since when they had last met here, hours before.

She had gone for a walk, and she had not returned for so long a time that the night was silently stepping into the two o'clock hour. The world was darkened and quiet, except for the few common nightly noises that came out in the city.

It had rained earlier, while she had been out. She had been stuck under the ledge of a building for a couple hours, waiting for it to stop. Now, as she shut the door behind her, she breathed in the comforting warmth and the smell of leather furnishings and carpets darkened by night. It was an unusually welcome respite from the chill of the rest of the world.

Yet, why was she here?

Even as she slowly mounted the stairs, leaning lightly to the side to try to peer ahead, around the corner, she still entertained thoughts of what exactly she was doing here, at this hour. This had not been the first time she had wandered this way, into their headquarters, at some indiscriminate hour, searching for something she had never found, not completely sure if she wanted to find it in the first place.

Yet she had no choice this night. Eventually she would have wandered in on her objective, and now, pressing open the door that had already held a darkened crack in it, she came face to face with the source of all her inner turmoil.

"Kallen?" A gun was lowered, and swiftly placed out of sight. "What is it that you want?"

For the first time, she found herself without a thing to say to him. Having at last found him, after searching after him for so long, like a child terrified of having their worst fears proven true by the one they trusted they most, she was silent with her thoughts. How could she possibly reveal all her troubles, knowing that there was a great chance that they were in fact just mere fancy, and not based on anything more than the bond between comrades? Between soldier and commander?

But Zero had asked her what she wanted. And before she could catch herself, the words had spilled from her mouth. "Just once," she said, revoking all the thoughts that had filled her mind, all the fantasies that had played at the edge of her heart, tormenting the woman that had somehow confused devotion for love all along. "Let me know who you are."

The silence that greeted her sentence had not been unexpected. She knew he was musing over her intentions, her reasons, her past devotion and record, attempting to figure out what the best course of action would be. She could not hold back the smile that broke free, twisting the corners of her lips up faintly. It was so like him.

He had seemed ready to say something, yet paused, noting her expression. She was certain his thoughts reflected her inelegant summation of 'Is this woman for real?' Yet she had nothing to fear from him. Every comment he had ever made about her had been truthful, as much as his compliments. And his faith in her was proven by his gift of the Guren Mark II to her. Not once, out of all of the people that he commanded, had she ever presented a problem to him. She fought also, not merely for him, but even more so for herself. She had been fighting for long before he had ever taken upon himself the responsibility to get involved in the rebellion against the Britannian Empire.

She was strong, determined. She knew what she was doing, and rarely said what she did not intend. To an extent, all her movements, her actions, her words, were calculated. And he had never seen any reason to concern himself with her.

Which was exactly why he suddenly realized that she was not here to discover his identity, and that her desire was not for who he was himself, but who he was in relation to her. Her wry smile had only clinched that his assumptions were true.

He paused.

How ironic! That he had mistaken love for devotion in her! Love for one part of him, where she could care less for the other and his way of dealing with things. How… bemusing.

Steadily, he found himself taking a step towards her, continuing slowly until he was as close to her as he had previously ever been. What a curious sensation, that this time such space was shared with more than just mere camaraderie.

Yet, this could not be love on her part, he reasoned, even as he moved closer. Strangely, he found he had a curious desire to tilt his head in query, to see what her reaction would be if he let her know she had him intrigued by this puzzle. What a brand new perspective this knowledge had granted him! That he would act so, and suddenly find such curious desires and queries whispering sweet nothings to his mind, encouraging him to follow the path that had never before opened up before him.

And she merely gazed steadily back at the blank, dark face of his mask. She wondered silently then, perhaps more openly than ever before, what it was that lay beyond its confines. Oh, how many times had she entertained the thoughts? Of what features the man held, the man that presented so much hope to all of them. Such an intricate, wistful desire to know… She raised her hands and softly placed them upon the sides of his mask, wondering at her own gall, wondering that he did not tense at the movement. Yet, perhaps he had realized…?

Softly the swish of his mask releasing played over the background of his thoughts. He did not stop her, and she was awed at the fact that she was actually carrying this through. This had to be a passing fancy on her part, he reasoned. Something that she entertained fleetingly, that she had mistaken for something it was not. She knew too little of Zero to be in love with him. Even she had to realize this. Yet, still he did not stop her.

Why did she continue on so, she wondered? Would she risk such rejection as was sure to come, merely for a feeble moment's attempt at tasting that dream that had played in her heart when she fell into sleep at night? Could she bear to face, not merely who it was behind the mask, but how he would respond to her foolish, distracting emotions and fancies?

She was fast passing the lines of what was acceptable, destroying, in essence, all the efforts and days and battles she had fought to prove her unfaltering devotion to this man. How dare she? She wondered at her own gall, and yet… she had come so far, without reproach or stilling word from her leader. Was he testing her? He had to be. And if she did this… he would either kill her, or force her not to tell a soul, or something ridiculous and necessary in such a situation. Yes, she knew she was grasping at straws now.

But, the most important question was, could she revive her devotion to their cause, if she found that this very night her heart's inane fantasies would be dashed, and her underlying feelings towards their leader shattered by his rejection? Would she risk so much, for a moment's satisfaction?

Yet she continued… For, she had not come here to discover a face. She had come so far to establish a tangible result in that maddening query. Was there any chance… that his trust and compliments were more than mere camaraderie? She refused to turn back now. Not now…

And even as she lifted the mask slowly, revealing steadily a chin and lips, and paused—he made no move to restrain her. Shifting her grip upon his mask, her free hand suddenly appeared in his line of sight and played at the edge of the cloth he wrapped around the lower portion of his face, pulling it gently down, until it fell silently around his neck in disuse.

An intangible chill raced through his body. This had been the most open he had ever been around her, under this guise. In a way, it was a thrilling sensation to be so unmasked. Oh, there would be consequences, he knew, if she was to discover who he was. But in the darkness, in the stifling room, there was little that threatened him so much as it instead presented a faceless, cunning debacle he found he would rather engage himself in. He was throwing himself into this whole-heartedly, of a sudden, he realized, slightly pleased. And he would deal with it, as he always did, and win.

They could not see each other, yet this did not restrain her fingers. Steadily they wandered up his neck, returning to his lips, the touch so soft and curious, studious and awed that it was almost shocking it could be so gentle and inquisitive. How must it feel, he wondered suddenly, to not know who it was behind the mask? He had no such enigmas to puzzle over, and indeed knew much more of Kallen's appearance than she could possibly imagine. That almost brought a smile to his lips, but he restrained himself at the last moment, allowing himself to instead entertain thoughts of this encounter's outcome. Would she spring back in shock, he wondered, if she discovered him? Slap him? Attack him and demand to know where the real Zero had gone?

Yet her intentions were nothing so dramatic, nor to be suspected so. She had come this far, and refused to fall into his trap, would not allow herself to destroy the one thing she cared so inanely for. He had become a dream to her. A living, walking fantasy, encouraging her in all her endeavors. And, oh, she would get over the disappointment, should it come. She depended on no one to fulfill her dreams for her. And that was why…

Suddenly she shifted in his vision, catching his attention, and slowly ducked beneath the mask she still held up to the rest of his face, tilting her head, moving in towards him—and, to the surprise of them both, she found him meeting her lips halfway.

How could he? He had, in the end, crossed the line with her.

Was this what he was going to do then? Allow his bemusement from this turn of events to be his reason for toying with her? But he had never been in a situation quite like this one. How could he resist the temptation of watching her reaction upon the revelation of who Zero really was, should she discover him? Or even disregard the subconscious desire to know what it felt like to be so tangibly admired?

And again, it had not been the first time, but there was a difference this time in her touch, in her body, in the feel of her lips. Immediately the mask fell away, and he found her hand wandering along his jaw and—daring to peek at her face for a split second—discovered, much to his surprise, that her sapphire blue eyes were hidden from view.

They had been closed before she could ever see his face.

He blinked softly and closed his eyes slowly, even as she seemed to mould to his body, dispelling the distance between them in a second's breadth, her mouth surprisingly gentle for such forward movements as she was making upon the rest of him. And something inside him clicked into place, and he found himself deeply chastised.

Then, first…

Gently he raised his hands and pressed them lightly against the sides of her head, thumbs resting against her temples, rubbing tenderly as he slowly pulled down her headband, bit by bit, until it covered her eyes.

It felt as though she knew what he had done. Her lips gently broke away and trailed over his jaw, and she made no move to fix what he had done. It was… just as she had thought.

He was truly apologetic, for once. Because he should not, and did not, enjoy playing with the emotions of those who were this close to him. He should not have allowed himself to fall into temptation and engaged her in this fulfillment of her fantasy, nor encouraged more of the kind. And now, he had silently fixed the situation he had gathered them into, he realized bitterly.

But he had not done it merely to protect himself. For once, he had made the decision to spare her. He had done it to shield Kallen from the burden of knowing the truth, and from the possibility of destroying their camaraderie as enemies of the Britannian Empire. He wanted her to keep her image of Zero intact, so that she could go on to fight another day, and not agonize over who he really was… nor think of his silent betrayal of her, for not telling her who he really was.

He had been kind.

He needed her, he realized, to be what she had been all along. An unsurpassable fighter, devoted to the cause even to the point of death, and willing to trust in a leader whose reasons were little more than uncouth revenge. Of the two of them, she was the purer. She was superior.

Slowly he drew himself back, glancing over her masked face. It was blank and cautious, waiting for a command again. Something inside him seemed to cringe at that feeling, suddenly. He had had no qualms about ordering people about, but to see such personal options taken away from her, in her moment of truest weakness, was almost mournful.

It was then that he made the decision…

He softly searched out her lips, and was a little encouraged when she turned them to him, privately relieved that she had not had her will taken away completely by his action. He sought after her more fiercely suddenly then, determined not to let her go like this, to revive the sultry passion that had been in her touch mere moments before.

He wrapped his arm around her tightly, pulling her against him, breaking the swift pressure of their lips with a demanding tongue, fighting to have her open up to him. And he could tell by her muffled gasp that she was surprised, tensing almost in his arms, but he was more concerned with infiltrating her mouth, refusing to let her remain so flaccid around him. Not when she was always so strong otherwise. Not when all she ever strove to be was an awesome and terrible pinnacle of a soldier's strength—and proved herself to be such at every other turn. He would not allow her to stay like this around the man she had always shown such determination around. He would not allow her to remain like this around Zero!

It was the sheer thrill, then, that sent shivers down his spine when she stepped into him, a knee rising forcefully between his legs, an arm thrown around his neck, crushing their mouths together, another hand pulling away at his shirt, skimming over his suddenly revealed chest with surprising swiftness. There was a sudden spark of challenge in her touch, and though her lips parted for him, when her tongue swiftly met his, it slithered over it in nothing less than a pure desire to overcome.

He would have gasped if he could, almost overwhelmed for a split-second by her fearsome intensity. This was the fighter in her, asserting itself and dominating whatever sought to trounce her. This was what he so admired in her.

And in that moment they had signed a silent contract with one another. Its termination to approach soon, and they would not disrupt the vow that came after it had been fulfilled. Just once… just once, this would be realized. It had been sealed by the silent agreement between them, of mask and headband.

It was freeing.

Swiftly their exchange was broken as he gripped her chin tightly in his hand, leaning back from her, and intensely eyeing the glimmer and dribble on her lips, falling down her chin in an acutely attractive manner, just like how her lips were parted for a split second in a breathless gasp. But soon her head tilted to the side, eyebrows furrowed, and her lips pursed in an impatient, irate manner that was, incredibly, just as cute.

A soft laughter escaped him and immediately her free hand swept to hit him—which he stopped by releasing his grip around her midsection and clasping her wrist, probably only able to achieve such because she could not see in the first place. He could practically feel her bristling with a feral vehemence at this unexpected turn of events. Then she surprised him, by snarling and suddenly biting at his hand. He jerked away and released her chin, which left a very languid and untamed, blindfolded woman with free reign for her next move standing in the center of the room.

Still mildly shocked, he could not refrain from examining her. He wasn't sure if he had ever seen her like this before. So close up, and for once, with her predatory intent to achieve her objective focused solely on him. There was an audacious air to her almost feline luxury and enjoyment in the midst of this predicament. He could not help but note it, his lips still tingling from their last exchange. She was an intense experience, he realized with a smirk, and it was not wise to let such go to waste.

Not now. Not when they had gone this far past the line of decency and reason.

He shed his cloak and shirt, dropping them to the ground, and slowly circled her, completely aware of her cocked head, listening to his every move, waiting to see what he would do next. It was an entertaining, half-delirious thought, he knew, but he couldn't help allowing it to slip past his fancy. What angle would he like to get at her from? But the vicious, patient gleam of her teeth in that wry smirk was enough to convince him that whatever personas they had once adopted, they had been shed in favor of a far more inane and unreasonable attitude. Yet somehow, this felt truer and more real than any virtuous guises they had concealed themselves in before. What they were doing, he reminded himself as he wrapped his arms around her midriff from behind her, sliding his fingers into her dark, short skirt as a preemptive, was completely off-limits.

But the way she suddenly began to move against him, abruptly becoming living water, arching into his touches, sliding herself against him with such precise force and pressure, it was enough to entice and befuddle anyone's senses. So he slowly, absentmindedly tugged off her shirt, with her aid, her arms tangling in his single arm and her clothes, as his other hand slipped further into her skirt, fingers sliding over her pelvis, exploring every hairline crack between her legs, making her shudder rousingly against him. Her hips swayed gently in a silent plea, and she found herself rising up on her toes to force his fingers to reach the sensitive area he took his maddening time in getting to.

His lips slowly trailed down her collarbone, her shirt falling away, leaving her arms rising up above her head, fingers running into her hair in a hapless motion of madness, stretching her entire body against him enticingly. A deep, guttural moan pressed from her lips. She could feel his strengthening arousal against her lifted skirt, her slick moans mingling with his heated breath and tongue against her neck, suddenly pierced by a cry of pleasure and surprise on her part as his fingers dug remorselessly beneath her soiled panties and inside of her.

Swiftly she thrust her hand into her mouth, biting down sharply to hold back any further outcries, allowing only for plaintive mewls to pass her lips at his motions. Throwing her head back, she half-buried her face in his hair, her hand still in her mouth, yet gripping and tangling itself in his short tresses. His lips were maddeningly provoking against her skin.

A sneer crossed her lips suddenly—she steadily slid down against him, rubbing her buttocks slowly over his pelvis as she gradually, rhythmically began to grind against his hand between her legs. Dig deeper, she wanted to say, but she twisted in his grasp instead, her hand clenching in his hair tightly as she slid a brusque tongue over his lips, assaulting his mouth, warmth spreading throughout her chest, careless of his other hand as it unclasped her bra and did away with it momentarily.

He wedged another finger inside of her, and she arched into him with a scream of pleasure as he smiled in elation and—oh, softest, most freeing, arousing sound—moaned for the first time since they had become caught up in their heated exchange. He was pleased, and it sent a thrill throughout her as she assaulted his ear with cunning teeth, nibbling along the edge before sliding her lips over his earlobe, suddenly skipping formality and sucking violently on it, making him gasp in surprise and grip her tighter. Again, as a first, he had breathlessly cried out her name, "Kallen!"

She couldn't help herself, she laughed breathily in his ear, and she could feel how terribly aroused it was making him. She continued, sliding her tongue generously over his earlobe, softly dragging her lips down his neck, working over his chest, pausing to kiss and swivel her tongue over his nipple. As penance, she felt the vicious scissoring of his fingers inside of her and was sure that he had to smirk at her responding gasps and the wave of weakness that overcame her.

But she had not finished yet, even as he continued and she felt him finally extract himself from her, one hand tangling itself in her red tresses while the other teased her breast with slickened fingers. She smirked. Oh, she would counter this. And suddenly, she had him pinned against the wall, reveling in the way he gasped sharply as the wind was knocked out of him. And then, her hand splayed over his chest, she allowed her lips to feel slowly down over his belly, lowering herself to her knees until at last the rough texture of cloth met her lower lip.

She smirked, and was sure he had guessed what her intentions were when a noise of protest and shock reached her ears. But her lips were already kissing the button to his pants, and she took her time in working it open, even as she felt him struggle beneath her. Unfortunately, that only made it worse. The feeling of her mouth, moving over his zipper merely intensified when he shifted. He was beginning to regret allowing himself to be trapped like this when she hooked an incisor tooth in the hole of his zipper and pulled the tab down slowly, relying solely on her mouth to feel out what she was doing.

He could feel himself swallow when she moved her mouth over to the crotch of his pants and bit the fabric securely, tugging his pants down, her hair brushing over his undergarments and manhood. Although he certainly did not disapprove, she was certainly going to make things difficult, blindfolded or not. And then her free hand took over, fingering the edge of the last piece of thin, seemingly soiled cloth separating her from her goal. She had on a cunning grin too, as she pulled it off, and it sent trills of excitement through every last inch of his body. He could only imagine the heart-stopping gleam that must have been in the sapphire eyes behind her headband.

Her hand was unbelievably strong against his chest, holding him back as her mouth ghosted up his inner thigh, slowly moving to invade his coarse pubic hair, making him tremble as she buried her teeth at the base of his shaft, her falling hair tickling him, bringing forth another wave of subtle pre-cum from his already intense arousal. So many sensations all at once threatened to overwhelm him. It was torturous, how her tongue slid elegantly along the length of his shaft, encouraging the steadily building pressure in his manhood, making him squirm and his breathing intensify. And her tongue, swiveling skillfully to gather up the evidence of his arousal, even as his mouth parted in a silent, agonized expression of impatient provocation. He was on the edge of delirium at this point.

And, oh! How he wanted her to get on with it! When at last her lips met his head, her tongue sweeping over the rounded crown, before her lips parted, and her teeth grazed over the rim of his head, coming to a point with a sharp, tender nibble at the tip, he moaned intensely, feeling almost light-headed with desire. But then she slid her lips over his head, and enveloped all of him with teasing tongue, languid progression. He felt his knees tremble, deep tremors rippling through his body, even as he helplessly bucked his hips, his hand searching out her hair, gripping it viciously as she dragged on his member.

"Oh, dear God," he moaned headily, feeling as though any moment his legs would give out under him, goading Kallen on with his hands buried in her hair, even as he felt her deep throat him and pull swiftly on his manhood.

But, no.

"No Kallen!" he managed between gulping down breaths of air, and could feel her mouth slide slowly down his engorged length. And suddenly he had her pinned on the floor beneath him, his mouth finding hers, even as she moaned and arched beneath him. His hand pushed down her skirt and undergarments, and he could feel her rising up against him as he tasted the potent mixture of her and himself upon her lips and in her mouth.

He would not hold back any longer, lining himself up with her even as she rose to brush his manhood with her pelvis, desire echoed in her glorious, rhythmic, elaborate voice—only broken when he finally pierced her, entering her with a cruel, fierce thrust, making her cry out in pure, unfettered pleasure. It was in the way she pivoted her hips, how she rose up against him, screaming out ultimate gratification as he drove himself into her, deeper and deeper, reaching further, rocking into her, as she wrapped her legs around him, even going so far as to sink her teeth in a brutal expression of indulgence into his neck, rocking up against him with more and more force.

Oh, how close he was coming to the breaking point! He could feel himself slipping as they pitched against one another, lurching together, grinding her into the ground even as she urged him higher and higher, their momentum growing at an exceptional pace as he reached and grazed the very spot that sent her crying out in ululation and him shaking from the effort of keeping himself from expulsing.

He could not hold it in any longer. Everything was coming to a head, even as he drew himself out of her so far as to elicit a keen of desire from the glistening, slick body beneath him, he reciprocated with utmost violence, thrusting into her with such vehemence, pinning her pleasure spot, making her scream gutturally, throwing his head back as he joined her, not able to hold back, exploding inside of her, the deep flow of semen flooding her body as they arched into each other with glorious, deep-throated cries of satisfaction.

And suddenly they collapsed from their efforts, tangled in one another, heaving breaths, bodies slick with sweat and the passion of their lovemaking. His eyes fluttered open, his lips brushing over her breasts as he turned to look at her lustrous mouth, her neck glistening with perspiration and her forehead dotted with beads of sweat.

There was a moment of respite before slowly she felt his lips cover hers, the commanding tongue of her superior sliding into her mouth for a leisurely, sultry kiss, neither of them having enough energy to do much more, but still determined to remain breathless after the magnificent event.

Their lips broke apart, although she could feel his breath against hers.

"Just once," he murmured huskily, and a gracious, elated smile spread over her face, even as she could feel her heart soar from her very chest in elation.

Thank you… Zero.

There was a rush of bodies, people racing to their positions, preparing for battle. There was a second chance to gain a complete victory over Cornelia, and the Order of the Black Knights would hardly waste it. Knightmares were pulling out and entering the transport units, soldiers with artillery moved out in units, everything was done with as much order and silence as was possible. This would be a night attack.

Kallen's face bore a gaze of fierce determination. She swung herself into the seat of the Guren Mark II, and swiftly barked an order to a comrade, a wry, playful grin settling her lips as she heard and responded to her comrade's remark. Swiftly the capsule shut and the face of her Knightmare raised itself up, moving out without hesitation, ready for battle and to fight to accomplish any objective that would bring its master closer to her goal, and that of the whole she represented.

Zero likewise was unfazed and steadfast in his orders and direct mindset. Nothing would interfere in the new world he was creating, and his ultimate objective of throwing down the Britannian Empire once and for all.

It was as though nothing had ever happened between soldier and commander. Kallen fought with the utmost passion, as always she did, and Zero's mind was unwavering and precise as ever. No one knew of their exchange, nor of any ripple or whisper of difference in their actions, feelings, and personas.

Yet they both came from the experience with a newfound assurance and contentment in their minds. Questions had been answered, and she took what she was given and ran with it. Revelations were unearthed by him and resolved, leading to even an increase in the performance of his key fighter, Kallen. They had no reason, desire, or need to speak of what had gone on between them, and they would not. They merely fought on, as exceptional leader and outstanding follower, a common cause in mind and heart.

And Kallen? She could put to ease her heart, her festering desires for understanding her leader's mind. The butterflies of curiosity no longer fluttered in her chest, and her doubts and suspicious were completely assuaged. Her eyes retained a newfound light and fire in their crisp, sapphire depths, and there was a steady warmth of satisfaction that rested in her chest that had been brought with the insurmountable knowledge she had gained in that one night. Her one chance.

Because when he had murmured those words to her, "Just once," he had allowed…

She breathed deeply.

…he had allowed for her to hear the warmth and gentle purity of the smile in his voice.