Title: 370 Days in A Year
Fandom: Code Geass – Hangyaku no Lelouch
Pairing: mild Suzaku x Lelouch
Genre/Themes: Angst, romance, drama, friendship fluff, angst and romance some more
Rating: Nothing above PG-13
Word Count: 4,012
Note: I'm going to discard all possible spoilers of the coming episodes for the sake of this fic :P Set in a universe where war is no more. Beware of clichés and minor ooc-ness (I think…?). Oh, and lookout for mentions of character deaths and… um… a brotherly Schneizel. Unbeta-ed.
On his bed by the window overlooking the invisible shadows of the sky or out in the garden bathed in sunshine, Lelouch vi Britannia counts the passing days… 320… 360… 365…
Uncertain hands hovered over the doorknob separating him and the person lying on the pristine white bed beyond the door. Kururugi Suzaku was torn between just entering the room or turning away and leaving like he had done so many times before. He wanted to go in, wanted to see with his own eyes that it wasn't just a cruel joke that Lelouch vi Britannia was alive.
Lelouch vi Britannia, because Lelouch Lamperouge was never really there in the first place. The determination to live, the will to succeed, the power to prevail – those were what defined Lelouch vi Britannia. He stopped being Lelouch Lamperouge when he discarded the mask of Zero away – when he led the loyal Order of the Black Knights under no disguise and pretense. He was Lelouch vi Britannia when he was still followed and hailed despite his bloodline.
Suzaku let his hand fall to his sides, unable to bring himself to open the door. Just when he was about to turn around, a gloved hand went past him, turned the knob and pushed the door open. Suzaku looked up to see Gino Weinberg's unreadable eyes looking down at him in annoyance.
"Go in if you want to see him that much and stop being a goddamn coward," Gino reprimanded.
Wars changed people, Suzaku noted. The Gino that he first knew was a joyful young man, carefree even in the battlefield. Still, human beings have a limit as to how much deceit and lies they could take in before everything crumbles to bring them down to a reality where pristine white is blotched by dark blots.
When he didn't respond, Gino huffed and pushed him roughly through the open door. Suzaku's breath caught in his throat at the sight he was presented with. Lelouch looked like he was sleeping peacefully on the royal bed. He could as well be if not for the occasional beeping sound of the heart monitor and the IV that was constantly seeping through his punctured flesh.
He wondered if Lelouch ever looked that peaceful in his sleep.
"I knew him when I was a kid," Gino broke the silence, keeping his eyes on Lelouch. Suzaku didn't see it coming. He tried to picture a young Lelouch and a young Gino, but all he came up with was the young Lelouch he knew when he was young.
"He was really kind, you know. I heard from other noble kids that he was just another stuck up prince, so when my father brought me along to the palace, I sneaked around to see if I could see him. And being the idiot that I was, I fell into the pond in the garden," Gino recounted his memory, eyes softened. "His Highness found me and helped me out. He even fetched a towel for me."
Suzaku watched the steady rise and fall of Lelouch's chest in something akin to relief and happiness. "Why are you telling me this?"
"Because you need to know you're not the only one who's regretting and remembering."
And then Gino was gone, leaving Suzaku alone with Lelouch in the empty room where the latter kept his eyes closed to the world.
"Regret…" The word tasted bitter on the tip of his tongue, yet it rang oh-so-true in his ears.
"When will you wake up?"
The heart monitor continued beeping, as if telling Suzaku "Soon! Soon!" repeatedly in the daunting silence.
Lelouch woke up when Spring was in full bloom. He was not surprised to find out where he was, not surprised in the least to see the people around him. He didn't speak, didn't say anything to any of them as the doctors went about to record his vital stats. He smiled a little when he saw Schneizel. When he saw Nunnally by his bed with her eyes open, tears clouded his eyes.
But he didn't speak; he didn't even sniff when the tears ran down his cheeks.
He didn't ask what happened; he didn't ask where C.C was. He didn't question what happened to the Emperor, to V.V to the entire Geass Cult. He didn't ask what happened to Ashford Academy, to Rolo, to the Order of the Black Knights.
Lelouch had stopped crying by the time Suzaku arrived to join them. He had a look of confusion and wonder in his eyes when Suzaku started to cry. Gino broke the poignant silence with a chuckle, which turned into little snorts.
"Never mind him," he said in between snorts. "He's actually just a big baby."
The solemn atmosphere somehow transformed into a lively reunion of sorts as laughter roared.
The 10th day since I woke up in the palace,
Nunnally played the piano for me today. It's been far too long since I last heard her play. Even after years without practice, her fingers glided gracefully across the keys.
The song she played was a happy one. All I want to do now is hug her and thank her and tell her I'm sorry. But I think she already knew all of the things that I wanted to say. When she finished playing, she came over to me and kissed my cheek, and told me she loved me too.
Koudzuki Kallen came by once in a while to visit Lelouch. She walked with him to the garden where they would have afternoon tea together. Sometimes, Nonnette would accompany him as Kallen filled him in with what was going on in Japan and around the world. Sometimes, Gino would be there watching over Lelouch, nodding as Kallen left as a form of thanking her for visiting.
Kaguya visited him sometimes too, with Tian Zi and Xing Ke. Like Kallen, they would tell him stories of the world – the world after the war. Lelouch's eyes would brighten at some random points of their tales and shadows of a smile would come to his lips.
Sometimes, Suzaku would take over Gino and Nonnette's duty, standing in the shadows to watch over the reinstated prince. Lelouch looked pale under the bright sun, but his dark hair didn't seem to have lost its shine. Sometimes, he would turn to look at Suzaku and smile.
But he never spoke a single word.
Not to Suzaku, not to Nunnally.
Not to anyone.
When there were only the two of them in the sunshine garden, Suzaku would stand closer to Lelouch. He registered the look of disdain on Lelouch's face and wondered if his presence was what troubling the prince. But Lelouch surprised him one day when he suddenly picked up his pen and scribbled on one page of the notebook he always carried around. He held the page up, showing it to Suzaku, who blinked in confusion at the sudden action.
Like every other Knights dedicated to protecting Lelouch, Suzaku would be the one to make the tea. He would never allow anything or anyone to poison the prince.
The 130th day since I woke up in the palace,
Kallen told me there's this large flower garden they're building in Japan to commemorate lives lost to the war. She said I should pay them a visit sometimes. Kaguya told me they missed me.
Somehow, I don't find it surprising that it's hard to believe.
p.s/ Knights of Rounds make fabulous tea. I bet the kitchen hands are threatened.
p.p.s/ Nothing much happened today. I guess I need to be more patient.
Still suffering from the aftermath of the war, Lelouch walked the hallways with limps in his steps. He always wore the expression of someone expecting something to happen whenever he saw Suzaku, or whenever Suzaku found him. He would listen when Suzaku talked and he would walk alongside Suzaku as he listened. When they part ways, Suzaku never failed to notice the look of confusion and sadness on Lelouch's face.
What exactly Lelouch was expecting from him, Suzaku had no idea. He was too afraid to ask, not sure if he really wanted to know the answer.
The doctor told them it was Lelouch's choice if he wanted to speak or remain mute. There was no damage to his vocal cord and his lung was perfectly healthy. No part of his brain was damaged where communication was concerned too. It remained an unexplored secret as to why Lelouch refused to say anything for more than six months after having woken up from his state of comatose.
The 265th day since I woke up in the palace,
Gino was actually quiet today. I think it was because of the picture he found under the sofa in the lounge. Anya was next to him in the picture, void of expression like always. He tried to act like he was happy, but I was a pretty good actor myself too. It was not hard to see through his mask.
Suzaku decided to replace Gino and play chess against me when he was supposed to assist that Lloyd guy in some kind of device check. I couldn't blame him for sneaking off duty for a while or so. Things have been pretty mundane these past few days.
But sad to say today is not the day too. I wish he would just hurry up and decide.
On the anniversary of Euphemia's death, Lelouch could not be found anywhere. They tried his room, the library, the garden – everywhere Lelouch would usually spend his time. Schneizel all but firmly ordered his Knights of Rounds to search for Lelouch and ensure his safety. It was the first time Suzaku saw Schneizel in such a distressed state. The young Emperor looked about ready to break down with worry.
"Did you find him?" Gino asked Suzaku when they met each other in one of the many hallways. Suzaku shook his head in exasperation. They listed down all the places they had gone to in search of Lelouch, 60 percent of which covered the exterior of the palace. Maybe it would be best to search for him from within the palace itself.
It was already evening when they reported back to Schneizel, empty handed. Schneizel was about to join in the search when Cornelia entered the throne room with Nunnally.
"We found him," Cornelia stated. "But I think we should let him be for the time being."
"Where is he?" Schneizel almost barked, anxiety and relief mixed together in his command.
Cornelia did not answer. She led them to where she claimed to have found Lelouch instead. It took three turns before everybody noticed that they were going down the hallways leading to the personal quarters of the royal family.
A beautiful yet haunting melody filled the air, rendering them immobile and stunned where they stood. That was when Cornelia insisted they go back to the throne room and leave Lelouch alone.
"Sister Euphie's favourite piece," Nunnally finished it for Schneizel.
Cornelia's eyes softened as memories overtook her. "The same one he played on her 5th birthday."
Schneizel cast a forlorn look at the door leading to Euphemia's room. A heavy sigh escaped his lips as he turned around, motioning for everyone to follow him back to where they were. Cornelia was right. It was best to let Lelouch be alone for a while.
Suzaku, however, did not move an inch from where he stood and Schneizel knew better than to order him to leave. They left him there, knowing Suzaku would not let any harm to come to Lelouch. Slowly, Suzaku took soft, tentative steps towards the enormous white door to the late princess' room. He pushed the door open to let himself in, only to be greeted with Lelouch's back facing him and a louder melody as the prince carefully let the bow caress the strings.
Lelouch's hand stopped playing upon hearing the sharp intake of Suzaku's breath. Suzaku himself was surprised at his own gasp. The dimly lit room bathed in silence, as if time suddenly stood still around them.
"Lelouch," Suzaku called out the prince name with a small trace of Japanese accent he still had after all the years. He watched as Lelouch turned around slowly to meet his gaze. Again, there was the expectant look on his face that Suzaku was never able to interpret. It was hard to imagine this frail, young man as the same person who led an ocean of army to victory – to the truth beyond the truth that no one ever thought existed. It was hard to imagine that once, Suzaku had thought of this frail young man who only wished for a small taste of happiness as a cold-hearted murderer.
He blinked and noticed Lelouch's eyes no longer met his own. The latter was looking at the room; the light-yellow rug resembling a large plush sunflower, the cabinet where fancy boxes housing various trinkets lined the shelves, the nightstand where photos in fancy frames stood watching the bed, a small corner of the room where the walls were decorated with framed children's paintings slightly yellowed by age… Suzaku realised with a sudden jolt that these must have been what was left of the traces of life Lelouch once had. Of him and Euphemia and Nunnally, and everyone else. A woman whose face he almost forgot once told him:
"You don't know how hard he cried when he realised the only way to stop her was to kill her."
Suzaku was an idiot. Lelouch had known Euphemia all his life. They grew up together, played together, laughed and cried together like good children would. Perhaps, Lelouch had always treasured all of his siblings like he treasured Nunnally. Perhaps, Lelouch had wanted to protect Euphemia too – wanted her to see the 'kinder world' he swore to build for Nunnally too. To be forced to kill someone who meant a lot to you…
…the violin sang again. Suzaku let the tears fall from his eyes. When Euphemia died, he had cried for her and hated the one who killed her. This time, this moment, Suzaku didn't cry for her. He cried for Lelouch and for himself, for being too blinded by rage to think that he was not the only one who suffered the blow of her death. Lelouch had suffered when he pulled the trigger, and Suzaku had added to his suffering with his words.
He closed the distance between them and embraced Lelouch like a lover, tightly as if he feared Lelouch would disappear if he didn't hold on strong enough. The violin and the bow in Lelouch's hand fell to the floor with a resounding clang. He turned in Suzaku's embrace and touched the man's tear-stricken face. Suzaku blinked his tears away; Lelouch was giving him such a sad and remorseful look that Suzaku felt like yelling aloud that he was not crying because of Euphemia. And then Lelouch hugged him and buried his face into Suzaku's white uniform.
On the slightly dusty table in Euphemia's room, words written in black ink over a white piece of paper fluttered as soft breeze came through the half-open windows. The name 'Euphemia' was beautifully scripted in calligraphy that could only have been crafted by a deft and graceful hand of a prince. The paper was the only sign of warmth left in the abandoned room.
They stayed in that position until Lelouch fell asleep in exhaustion. Suzaku carried him back to his room and guarded his sleep like a knight that he was to a prince who had his loyalty.
The 310th day since I woke up in the palace,
I woke up at 4.30am today. I had a dream, but I couldn't remember what it was all about.
All I know now is that I'm still alive and my chest burns.
My heart hurts.
It rained on the anniversary of Shirley's death. Suzaku found Lelouch staring into the mirror, one hand caressing his left eye absent-mindedly as if trying to look for the trace of Geass that was no longer there. He saw Suzaku standing at the door from the reflection, and the hopeful look Suzaku was starting to despise returned to his face. He never gave that look to anyone other than Suzaku.
What exactly was Lelouch expecting from him?
Tired of looking expectantly and getting nothing in return, Lelouch returned to staring at his own reflection, looking into the violet of his own eyes.
"Lelouch," Suzaku's voice was soft, like he was afraid Lelouch would run away from him if he didn't choose his words wisely. "Your brothers and sisters are expecting you to join them for dinner."
Lelouch made no move for a moment and Suzaku wondered if his words were actually registered. It was not until approximately five minutes later that Lelouch finally tore his eyes away from the mirror to join his siblings in the dining hall, Suzaku following a few steps behind him.
The slight limp in his steps had almost vanished and more colours had returned to his skin; these, Suzaku noted with utmost relief. He was actually afraid of Lelouch pulling the missing act again this time around. The palace had made notes of all dates that might affect the prince's mental stability.
Watching Lelouch silently, Suzaku wondered why he once suspected Lelouch of killing Shirley. He should have known that the anguish cry he heard before he found Shirley was nothing less than genuine.
Dinner was pleasant. Nunnally talked to Lelouch about various things she found amusing, mostly about the time when they were still at school. She obviously did not mind her brother's lack of verbal response at all. Suzaku once asked her about it. Nunnally's only answer was that having Lelouch smile at her was more than enough. The young prince's smile slipped for a split second when Nunnally mentioned Shirley's name.
The next day, Schneizel found a note on his desk written in Lelouch's princely handwriting, asking if it was possible for him to visit Japan for a couple of days.
It's the 368th day since I woke up in the palace,
My brother Schneizel told me he would hand the throne over to me when I fully recover. For a moment, I see a younger version of him looking at me with gentle eyes and brotherly smile. When he spoke to me today, I found no trace of the cunning man he is known to be. There was no trace of malice or ill-intention; just genuine brotherly love I always knew he had towards us his younger siblings. He kissed my forehead before leaving.
When I was little, before all the tragedy that torn us all apart, I think I remember Father doing the same thing too. He'd spent some time with us, and before he left, he'd leave a kiss on our foreheads.
And yet, he was the same person who I thought would not hesitate to use his children as tools to aid his cause. But now, after everything, I know better. I know, Father, that in the depth of the heart I thought you abandoned, you love your children. I know you loved us. I know you loved me.
It was a fine morning and the palace was in a mess as Lelouch ran all over the place looking for something he refused to tell. When asked, he simply scribbled on a piece of paper that he misplaced something important and he must not stop looking until he had secured the missing item. Gino offered to help him, but was answered with an exasperated glare they had come to associate as to mean a strict 'No'. After trying for a few times to get Lelouch to accept his help, Gino stopped trying and pretended to sulk in mock hurt.
Lelouch only rolled his eyes at the younger man's antics.
Suzaku knew better than to ask if Lelouch needed any help, so he chose to remain silent. It was a big relief to see more than one emotion on Lelouch's face. He was reading a book in the garden when Nunnally came over to him. The princess pursed her lips to speak the right words.
"I think Brother is looking for this," Nunnally told him hesitantly, handing over a black notebook which looked like a journal to Suzaku.
Suzaku raised an eyebrow. The book didn't look like it was all that important. It was a plain black A5-sized notebook about an inch and a half thick.
"Maybe it's a good idea if you give it him," Suzaku suggested. "Or would you like me to give this to him?"
"I think it's better if you hand it back to him."
Something was not right. Nunnally actually looked flustered. Suzaku decided not to question her and promised to give the book to Lelouch as soon as he can. He was about to leave when Nunnally called out his name.
"Is there anything else you want me to do, Nunnally?"
"… N – Never mind. Thank you."
Suzaku left the princess with two maids at the garden, trying not to think too much. It didn't work. He was confused by Nunnally's troubled expression and the degree of Lelouch's desperation to get back whatever it was he misplaced. It somehow reminded him of the incident with Arthur back then in Ashford.
As thinking and walking never exactly came as a set, Suzaku ran straight into a guard who had just turned the corner. He dropped the book in the process and waved off the guard's apology, saying it was completely his fault for not paying attention to where he was going.
He bent down to pick the book up.
And promptly froze when he saw the unmistakable letters spelling out his name. He knew it was rude to a high degree for intruding someone else's privacy, even more so when that someone else happened to be your prince and your friend. But he needed to read, at least one page, of what was written about him.
It's the 369th day since I woke up in the palace,
I saw Suzaku today. He told me about the new city they built in Japan. He looked so happy, so I couldn't help but smile.
Three hundred and sixty nine days, and I still wonder. It's hard to believe that Suzaku is still here, talking to me like nothing happened – like he' still my best friend.
No, like I'm still his best friend.
He was always the one I trusted the most. Even when we were facing each other as enemies on the battlefield, it was still him I trusted the most. That's why when he swore to kill the person I've become, I believed in him. I've been waiting and counting the days until he finally decides to fulfill the promise.
Three hundred and sixty nine days he had the chance, but he never even tried.
I guess he won't kill me today too. I still don't understand why, though.
Suzaku snapped the book shut and glared at it like it was alive.
What kind of bullshit was Lelouch writing about?
And then it hit him. The expectant look, the confusion, the disappointment…
… Lelouch was waiting for Suzaku to kill him?
He heard hurried footsteps coming from the garden where he left Nunnally, effectively stopping his lines of thoughts. Lelouch might have found out from his sister that the 'important object' he was looking for was probably with Suzaku, hence his hurry to find the Knight to retrieve the item. He came to a halt in front of the man, out of breath from all the running he had done for the most part of the day.
When their eyes met, Suzaku stopped thinking.
The next morning, Lelouch surprised Nunnally when he greeted her "Good morning."
It's the 370th day since I woke up in the palace,
Suzaku kissed me today.
I think I understand now.