Before the Fall

"Hey, Zero!" Tamaki banged on Lelouch's private quarters with his usual lack of courtesy, much to the boy's annoyance as he was left erasing a stray pencil mark on his makeshift map. "Have ya seen C.C.?"

"Hm? No. Why?" As a matter of fact, he hadn't seen her for almost a week. He had given her an odds and ends job (Chief Director of Miscellaneous Activities and Proceedings, he called it, although on a whim, she seemed to only remember the first two words of her title sometimes), keeping her quite busy. He had also told her to send him written reports if she had anything to say, because they were "less time consuming than your slow slurring and constant insults."

"Well, she told me to run by any new recruits to her. Bitch threatened to cut my balls off the first time she found out that I had gotten some new guys without her permission. Scary chick. 'Course, you already knew that, didn'cha? Man, she must be really good in bed for you to put up with her."

Lelouch pursed his lips, and continued methodically drafting with his pencil and ruler. "Don't you have something to do right now aside from finding C.C.?"

"Ah, yeah; got that whatchacallit to organize. See you, Zero!"

A day, twenty drafts, and god knows how many cups of coffee later, Lelouch groaned as he heard irritable knocking on his door once again. It was Lakshata this time, demanding either C.C.'s person or her measurements for some suit or other that she was making. He told her off as well, and reminded himself to place a no smoking sign on his door – either he was getting delusion from all the work, or that was some terrible smelling pipe the Indian woman was smoking. While he was at it, he also needed to put up a sign saying "what part of accomplice spells sex or mistress?"

On the third day, it was Kaguya knocking on his door, asking for her dear court lady playmate (Lelouch wouldn't even bother to try and figure what that meant). And that was the last straw.

"Hey, pizza woman!" Lelouch threw open the door to C.C.'s room and strode in. He pulled his mask off and slammed the door shut with a swift kick. "Tamaki and a bunch of other people have been looking for you. What the hell are you doing, holed up here without answering the door?" he demanded testily. "And while I'm at it; what is with your room? There are pizza boxes and paper balls within a meter radius of your garbage can! Don't you realize you actually have to empty that once in a while?"

Unfazed, C.C. pulled herself up from the desk she was sitting at, holding out a folded up sheet of paper to him. He snatched it, and read the large letters on the front, "Letter of resignation? What do you mean letter of resignation?"

"Isn't that what the Japanese do when they quit? Since you've come back, there's no reason for me to be involved with the Black Knights anymore. Or to even live on this base. I'm going to rent a nice apartment in the settlements and eat all the pizza I want without some annoying megalomaniac complaining."

"Wait, what do you mean you're living somewhere else? Don't you have to be living with me—"

"I'm touched, Lelouch, I really am; but I'm not your security blanket. Sorry." She ambled over to three suitcases placed on her bed, and began packing clothes in and out of them. "Besides, you already have one. Her name's Kallen."

"Security—What in the world are you going on about now? We have a contract; you're staying. Why do you want to leave so badly all of a sudden?"

"Why should I stay? You've got plenty of people filing applications to be part of the Black Knights. They probably know more about doing whatever it is I do than I know, and I'm sure most of them are more loyal and easier to manipulate to your liking than I am."

"You're living off my credit card, so you'd better be paying it off." His arms were crossed, and his voice definite.

C.C.'s eyes met his. His fingers twitched; she looked like a kicked puppy. Except, of course, she wasn't. The woman who would never learn her place didn't have it in her to be hurt. "That's the wrong answer, Lelouch. The correct one is 'Because I love you and I'd die if you left my side!'" The boy couldn't help but crack a small smile at her completely deadpan voice.

"If I ever said something as creepy as that, you'd leave me in an instant. Now stop being so silly and unpack all that stuff. And how much clothes do you even have? That's three suitcases."

"I was serious about that. I'm leaving." Lelouch stared at her face. She really was.

"Why? It makes sense that you don't want to work, but you're not one to refuse free food and board."

"Because." Satisfied that it was physically impossible to store any more clothes in her suitcases, she closed them all. Lelouch waited impatiently with his fingers tapping on his arm, while she stared at the floor and mulled. "Because... There's no need for me to be here. I'm dead weight." Lelouch opened his mouth to protest, and recite her job description, but she continued on. "Use that brain of yours for something practical for once. Who am I to you? Your inspiration, your raison d'etre? That's Nunnally. Your protector, your loyal soldier? That's Kallen. Your secret weapon, your trump card? That's Rollo. Your confident, your advisor? It seems both Kallen and Rollo are vying for the position quite well. So who am I, other than the person to turn to once a blue moon when you have problems with your geass?"

"Didn't you tell me yourself a year ago?" Lelouch questioned her in return, a bitter tone to his voice. "Even if the world turns against me, even if everyone else forsakes'll be the one who will never leave my side."

She smiled wryly back at him. "You make everything passing through your lips sound so romantic. I could almost kiss you for saying that."

"It's not romantic. It is—it was the truth. Whether it still is..."

"Why do you have such a need to cling to the past? You've gone a long way since I met you and made that promise. I told you that the Power of the King is a lonely path to walk...but apparently not. Look at your creation, look at your Japan. These people will walk with you until the very end. So I ask again. Who am I? Why do you need me?"

"You are C.C. and I need you because...because I need you."

"What a childish answer."

His voice switched to the offense at a moment's notice. "Only fit for a childish woman. Stop asking me these ridiculous questions. For all your years of living, you're acting like a brat – all this wondering about whether or not you're needed and wanted and loved. Stop it. You are; won't you be content with that answer?"

"No." She sat down on her bed, pulling her knees up to her chest, waiting for a long explanation. Waiting for a bedtime fairytale.

"Because," Lelouch sighed, and in a droning voice, decided to indulge her, "I love you and I'd die if you left me."

"Say it..." Her whisper was all too soft and broken for his comfort. "Like you mean it. And with that stupid, cheesy spin you always put to your words." The reply she received a simple, obstinate glare. "Call it a last favor."

"No. There will be no last favors between the two of us. We made a contract – we're accomplices for eternity. There is no end, no last for us."

A soft chuckle escaped her throat, and in a weak voice like she was crying, she replied, "You're either a very cruel man, Lelouch, or a very stupid boy." She threw her back onto the bed. "Nevermind. Go away."

"Don't order me around. Besides, you still haven't agreed to take back your stupid letter."

"Because I've been using your credit card? If it's money you want, I can get it back to you in no time. You won't believe how much a translation of Mayan glyphs will sell for."

"And as a side job, I suppose you'll be selling off information about Zero?"

Her sharp eyes snapped to meet his, and he had to consciously keep himself from taking a step back. "And I suppose," she answered, her voice laced all over with venom, "you're going to geass me into doing otherwise?"

His jaws clenched at the memory. The only thing more embarrassing than screaming at the top of your lungs for a girl to stay by your side was for her to reject and laugh at it. Obstinately, he held his ground against those piercing eyes, trying to think up a retort. Failing to do so, he gave up. "Fine, fine. I don't care. Go off and rent an apartment and slobber pizza all over Mayan glyphs. See if I care."

He turned around, throwing his mask back on, and held the doorknob a second longer than he needed to. He quickly glanced back through the corners of his eyes. She was still staring at him. Less daring now and more blank, but not doing much else.

He turned the doorknob and stepped out.

That was completely fine with the both of them.