Title: Stratagem

Author/Artist: YamiPaladinOfChaos (ypaladinofchaos)

Character/Pairing: Kallen, Lelouch, Rivalz

Fandom: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

Theme: #14 chess

Summary: In which Kallen plays chess and Lelouch evaluates.

"Hmm?" Kallen blinked once, then again as the rectangular box toppled off the shelf to land with a soft thump next to her. She paused in her rearranging of the Student Council cabinets (as ordered by Chairman Milly), bending down to pick it up.

"Oh wow, I can't believe that's still here," Rivalz chuckled as he reached over, plucking it before she could turn it over.

"What is it?" she questioned, glancing up at him.

"An old chess set, from back in the days before we all gave up trying to beat that guy," Rivalz explained, jerking his head to the vice-chairman, who was currently occupied with finishing some paperwork, "At the game."

Kallen's eyes flicked over to Lelouch for a moment, weighing him up yet again. "I suppose I should have known that he'd be the one to use the game," she remarked, brushing herself off as she stood back up. After she was upright, she shot a questioning glance at "He's that good?"

Instead of getting a chuckle or a "definitely" like she expected, Rivalz shot her an amazed look. "Good?" he echoed faintly, eyes wide. "He's more than good- hell, he's downright scary. We've won so much money off his chess skills... though he hasn't done it at all lately..."

"Is that right?" Kallen murmured, feeling oddly curious. Part of her felt she shouldn't be surprised, considering how much praise everyone always had for Lelouch's intelligence. On the other hand, the fact that he committed so much time to such a complex game despite how lazy he seemed was a little disconcerting.

She made up her mind in an instant.

"Oi."

Lelouch stirred, purple eyes flicking up from the pages to gauge her questioningly.

"How about a game?" Kallen offered, inclining her head towards the box in Rivalz's hands.

For a moment, he said nothing, and only stared at her for a moment. She shivered unconsciously, feeling as though those eyes were staring right into her deepest thoughts and weighing her, judging her.

After another uncomfortable moment, Lelouch shut the book, an affable smile on his face. "Why not?"

--

They were silent as they set their pieces up (Lelouch, as per his preferences, chose black, and that left Kallen with white, naturally), never once looking at the other until the entire board was set up.

"The stage is set," Lelouch muttered distractedly, smiling oddly.

"What?" Kallen blinked in confusion, feeling as though that tone of voice was oddly familiar.

"It's nothing," he said in reply, waving his hand in dismissal. "Shall we begin?" he smiled genially, inclining his head toward her respectfully.

Kallen nodded, glancing down at her pieces. She knew the basics of the game, being of a somewhat noble house, after all, but never really found all that much interest in it. She preferred living comrades to unfeeling pawns.

That didn't mean she was completely in the dark about strategy, however. Placing her hand on the pawn directly in front of her king, moving it two spaces forward.

"The Queen's Pawn, hmm?" Lelouch said slowly, gazing at the pieces first, then up at her, smiling that odd smile still. Without waiting for a response, he gazed down at his own pieces.

Dutch, Modern, Polish, or Closed, he mused to himself, wondering which of the countermoves he should employ. Each had their own characteristics, and would set the tempo of the game. How would he play it? Kallen was unlikely to be an expert at the game, so going all out seemed overkill- yet at the same time, he wanted to test her strategic capabilities.

Who knew when that might come in handy during his rebellion?

Modern, then. It was fairly defensive, focusing on allowing the opponent to take the center, drawing them in while undermining their position- flexible and tough. An unusual play.

He wondered how she'd fare.

--

Damn, he is good. Kallen frowned to herself, brow furrowing in concentration. She knew she wasn't likely to win this game, but nonetheless, the fact she had been beaten back fairly handily so far was pretty surprising.

His every move seemed to be just one part of a greater scheme she couldn't even begin to guess at. Every time she thought she understood the game, found a counter, he was ten steps ahead, and had planned for her to do just that and to turn it against her. And what's more, he seemed to be ruthless, constantly sacrificing his own men to further his goals, whereas she strove to win with minimal losses.

In a way, she was reminded of her battles under Zero.

Lelouch, on the other hand, looked fairly impassive, save for a slight smirk on his face as he crossed his legs, staring at her with amusement. Despite her depressive thoughts, he was quite impressed with her for having kept this up for so long. She'd even managed a few surprisingly good moves.

She wasn't much for long-term strategy, but she had a knack for improvisation. Just what he'd expect from her after seeing so many of her battles. Still smirking, he moved. "Check."

Her counter was swift and decisive, but overall cost her more than it did him.

"That was a bit wasteful, don't you think?" he questioned, smiling oddly yet again, glancing at her.

"It's all about the king, isn't it?" Kallen responded promptly, gazing at her pieces, weighing her next moves carefully. "If he falls, the game's over."

The odd smile widened, and Lelouch's amusement grew along with it. Again, just what he'd expect, especially from the leader of his special protection squad.

"That's very true," he admitted freely, slowly, smiling still. He made his own move, then continued, eyes flicking up towards her, "How much do you think should be sacrificed for the king, then?"

Kallen glanced at his newest gambit, then at him, with a questioning look. "The pawns, definitely. But the other pieces are very valuable, and you shouldn't waste them on needless moves." She moved her rook.

"Another excellent point," Lelouch remarked, advancing another piece yet again. He glanced down at the board, choosing his next words carefully. "What piece would you be, then?"

This time, she just looked straight at him, bewildered, but deciding to play along. "I don't know..." she rubbed the back of her neck, glancing back down at the board as well. She refused to be a pawn. Maybe a knight, then? She liked the idea of that.

Oddly, she was starting to think of Zero and the Black Knights. She had once noticed Zero had a chessboard in his private room- did he imagine the Knights as pieces on the board? And if so, as what?

At the idea that he thought of her as only a pawn, she felt oddly hurt.

Wanting to put off the question, her eyes flicked up towards Lelouch. "What do you see yourself as?" she questioned, both to stall and because she was honestly curious.

"The king," he answered succinctly and without hesitation, fingering the piece with a bemused look. Your king, to be exact. "It might have no special abilities, but the king is the only piece that truly matters, isn't it?"

"I guess so," Kallen admitted quietly, feeling oddly disturbed by his rationale. "Are you saying the other pieces mean nothing to you?" she asked, unconsciously soft.

Lelouch blinked. The pawns meant nothing, true. But there were some pieces that were more significant than others- Tamaki, Diethard, Ogi, Toudou, C.C, Rakshad, and of course, Kallen. Each was far more useful than the rank and file of the Black Knights, and he would definitely be loath to spend them freely.

"The others are useful," he replied slowly, measuredly, giving her an unreadable look, before continuing in a deceptively cordial voice, "I wouldn't say I'm fond of them though, because after all they're just chess pieces, aren't they?" he smiled, giving her a quirky look.

"That's true," Kallen nodded, making another attempt at staving off defeat.

Which wasn't enough. Lelouch smirked triumphantly, placing the last piece down slowly. "Checkmate."

Kallen stared at the board for a moment, shaking her head in astonishment. "Wow," she muttered, wondering how she hadn't foreseen that particular move. She looked up, and smled honestly. "Well, I guess that's what I get for challenging the chess master, hmm?"

Lelouch merely smirked in reply, inclining his head, in the back of his mind thinking that when she smiled like that, sacrificing her seemed just a little bit more difficult.