Summary: Milly tries one last time for happiness.

Dead End

She was always happy just being with him, just seeing him smile. Even if it was with Shirley, or Nunnally, or Suzaku, or anyone and everyone other than herself. That, she knew, was what love was about. But you can't be with someone who's not there, you can't see a smile that's a world away. And she knew. She could tell, he wasn't staying for much longer. Not even for Nunnally. A boy like him, a man like him; he was destined for great things.

He'd just up and leave one day and be gone forever, and she'd weep and cry. Because she had so many opportunities, so many chances, and she wasted them all telling herself that she was happy as things were.

She was miserable as things were. But even if she did so silently, even if he never noticed, at least she was by his side. She'd rather that than to be forever estranged from him for a chance at a girlish fantasy of a prince upon a white horse. And that was her choice. She took that path knowing what it meant, so she wouldn't complain about it. She hated when people did that – complain about something that's completely in their own hands, that they can change any moment of any day – and she wasn't about to become a hypocrite any time soon. But she did wonder, every now and then, what it would be like if she chose the other path. How miserable would she be if he deserted her, how ecstatic would she be if he loved her?

It's no use wondering about things that won't happen, though.

Slouched over, almost with her back on the seat of the swivel chair, Milly swung it back and forth in front of her large desk piled with a mountain of paper work and random objects she picked up from wherever. It was June, it was hot (nevermind survival of the fittest, couldn't they do something about global warming?), and the president of the Student Council was bored out of her mind. On days like this, she starts thinking and wondering, about all the things that could be but aren't. On days like this, she's honest. "Remember when I threw the whole school into chaos just to find out your secret? I was always reaching out for you. But it seems that what I've snagged is just a strand of hair, and I've failed to grasp your person."

He didn't respond, opting instead to be engrossed in the figures and statistics. "Being serious doesn't suit you," he finally replied evasively.

"And trying to be funny doesn't suit you. Tell me, Lelouch, who are you? I'm tired. Of guessing, of trying, of seeking... Who are you, Lelouch? Where are you?"

He never ceased scrawling across the sheets of paper, his pencil scratching along. "I know you're a poet at heart, but I'm not. Stop saying all these bizarre things." His incessant wrist finally paused. The lines on the paper were thick and converging into each other, and the pencil's point was clearly dulled. He stared around the room, spotting a sharpener on the other side, and a mechanical pencil within an arm's reach. He took the mechanical pencil. "Hey, if you have so much time on your hands that you're talking philosophy, sharpen my pencil for me."

She sighed, and reached over for the pencil. She sharpened it and came back, carefully placing it on the edge of his desk. "What a lousy subordinate you are."

He offered a mere grunt and "thanks" in return, but continued writing with the lead pencil. Propping her elbow on her desk and placing her head in her palm, she stared at Lelouch's completely expressionless face. "Ya know," she slurred casually, "You were so much more interesting and easy to provoke when you were younger. All I had to do was introduce you to the building and you started screaming at me about prejudice."

"What are you saying – you prefer it when I yell at you?"

"Compared to this? Yes. By far."

His face finally pulled up from the spreadsheets and he dropped his pencil down. "You're acting strange today. Ten minutes and not a joke about kinky sex." She liked to think that was his way of asking what's wrong.

She sighed. "Oh, where do I even begin? It's like...I'm a tadpole. My shape always changes, but in the end, I'm still stuck in that same, small pond. But you, you're a piece of driftwood. Your shape may never change, but you'll be able to travel the seven seas and back. And well...the tadpole misses teasing the driftwood sometimes."

His gaze remained fixed and serious -- more so than usual -- although she was pretty sure she saw confusion in it too. He was a chess mastermind, but analogies were always more of her thing. "Then," he replied, "Grow into a frog, and hop into the next pond, the next lake, the next ocean. And if you like, you can even hop onto the piece of driftwood and take a ride."

"Oh?" Milly smiled lewdly, albeit a weak imitation of her usual roaring laughter. "Are you asking me to ride you?"

"To ri—Whatever you're talking about, no!" Despite his protest, he probably wasn't entirely adverse to the sudden change in mood. They had been friends for years, but even so, he rarely saw her more serious moods.

He took that as his cue to resume his work. Still watching him, and probably unnerving him too, Milly settled back into her thoughts. No analogy is perfect, Lelouch. Truth is, you're going somewhere far away and you won't let me follow you. Not that she'd ever tell him something that like. It was too direct, and she was always one for insinuations.

They spent the rest of the day like that, with him calculating and scribbling, and her staring and wishing. He finally called it a day when the sun started setting.

Her eyes followed him as he walked to the door. His hand gripped the handle, and turned. It was her last chance. She knew. If she didn't do anything, Lelouch would leave her pond and the stream would be closed off forever. "Lelouch!" She yelled out, jumping up from her seat.

He cringed and turned around to face her. "I'm on the other side of the room, not the other side of the building. What?"

With a whisper, she answered, "I love you."

He stared at her, carefully weighing her words and judging her face. It's moments like this that most people say was the longest silence of their lives. But for her, it was the most terrifying. He finally replied. "That's not funny. Stop trying to tease me like that." He turned the handle and walked out the room. The door slowly closed behind him and she watched it until the handle clicked into place.

She slumped down, sitting back on her swivel chair. They always had an understanding between them; when they were joking and when they were serious. And he knew, he knew she was being serious. "I guess that's—" Her voice cracked and she could feel the tears, heavy on the outskirts of her eyes. She took in a deep breath and breathed it out. That would have to keep the tears at bay for a while.

She remembered saying to Shirley that in evolution, organisms that don't change will go extinct. But some evolutionary lines are duds leading to nowhere. And from the moment someone chooses that path, no matter how much they try and change, they will only reach a dead end.