"Oi! Woman!"

C.C. flinched, startled, and dropped the tray, toppling both the plastic cups and the steaming pot of tea that was atop it with a crash, sending a wave of inky brown liquid across the metal floor. Horrified, she began kneeling to clean it by trying to tear off a piece of her dress, when a voice cut in.

"Oi, something wrong with you?" the man who spoke earlier said, obviously embarrassed, scratching the back of his head sheepishly. "You're not usually that nervous, woman..."

"Um..." C.C. stepped back, casting her gaze downwards, biting her lip. "I'm sorry, I was just getting some tea for master, I didn't mean to cause any-"

"Whoa whoa whoa!" he said, holding his hands up as if in self defense, blinking in surprise. "What's with this attitude? You hit your head or somethin'?"

"I-I... I don't know what you mean," she stammered, keeping her gaze fixed firmly at her feet, shifting on them nervously.

"I mean you're not being a bitch like usual, that's what I-"

"C.C.?"

Almost immediately, a flush of visible relief came over the green haired girl's face and she turned, bowing deeply. "Master," she greeted.

Zero strode into the hallway imperiously, first glancing towards C.C., and then to Tamaki, and lastly to the growing puddle of tea on the floor. "I asked you to stay inside the room," he said in reprimand, though his voice was soft.

"Oi, Zero, is she sick or somethin'?" Tamaki interrupted, gazing confusedly at the green haired girl who was currently trying to hide behind the folds of Zero's cape.

Instead of answering, Zero turned towards the girl and pushed her gently behind the door he had come from. "Go back to the room," he commanded levelly.

"But, I made a mess, I need to clean it up-" C.C. began, panicked, trying to push past him. At this, he felt a brief pang of sorrow, and, wryly, thought to himself that he never realized how much of her catty, selfish nature he had gotten used to.

Gently, smiling placidly beneath his mask, he restrained her, causing her to look up into his featureless mask. "It's fine," he said quietly, and, after another moment, she nodded, and slipped away, back to his room.

"What the heck is going on-" Tamaki began, after she left, but then Zero turned, and interrupted him.

"Tamaki."

Even the brash headed older man could understand that, right then and there, he was to shut up.

"She is not herself," Zero said slowly, measuredly. "Do not presume to bother her with questions about why she is this way, what she does, or anything else."

"But-"

"It is not a request," he cut in, a definite edge to his tone now. "Make sure you inform the rest of the Order as well. Until further notice, C.C. is not to be bothered about anything."

Tamaki was about to protest this clearly biased order, but fell silent as he realized just how serious Zero was about this, and he nodded sullenly. "Aye."

After getting his confirmation, Zero nodded once, and then turned on his heel and strode off satisfied. Just before he went through the door, he added, "Oh, and clean this mess up, would you?"

Tamaki's outraged cries were audible even on the bridge, several decks above.

--

"C.C.?" Lelouch called out, removing his mask after entering his private quarters, shaking his head once to clear it. Wearing the mask was never truly comfortable, and he always felt much more free once it was removed.

He glanced around the room, frowning to himself as he was unable to spot the green haired witch anywhere. "C.C.?" he called out again. "Where are you?"

"C-coming, Master!"

Immediately, there was a loud crash from the direction of his closet, and C.C. herself tumbled out of it. She groaned slightly, and Lelouch shook his head in disbelief, unable to believe that this clumsy, shy waif was the same person as the collected, mysterious witch he had made a contract with.

"Here," he sighed, holding out his hand, which she took gratefully.

"I was trying to clean up some of the clothes that were piled up in the closet," she explained hurriedly, without being prompted. "Whoever was here before was very messy."

Yes, you were, Lelouch thought to himself, shaking his head. "I told you before, that's not your job," he muttered, ushering her gently towards the couch. "You don't need to clean or cook or anything like that ("But master", she began)- and stop calling me master, for God's sake."

C.C. opened her mouth to protest yet again, but he shushed her.

"You are not my servant," the exiled prince murmured quietly, capturing her gaze with his own, violet eyes meeting amber. "Nor are you my slave. You are my..."

His mouth, the mouth of a demagogue who could stir up a crowd into hating his beloved sister that he killed with his own hands, which continued to change the world, was unable to come up with a satisfactory answer.

Accomplice. Comrade. Confidant. Friend.

"I made you a promise," Lelouch finally whispered, and at this, C.C. stilled, not from fear, but with hope. "I promised you I wouldn't let you be alone, that I would make you smile."

She gazed up at him, eyes so wide and innocent it pained him to see it. "But... why?" she asked, whisper soft, as if afraid to know the answer.

Because he promised. Because C.C. was the only person who was there for him after he killed Euphie, the person who promised to stand by him forever. Because without C.C. there would be no Zero, no Black Knights, and Lelouch would have been forever impotent, powerless to change his world.

For a million reasons he didn't really understand himself.

"Because you are important to me," Lelouch answered at last.

For this, C.C. rewarded him with a tiny, beautiful smile, one he had never seen before on the witch's face.

And he found himself smiling back, for he had managed to keep at least one promise, and found at least one reason to keep the other.