"Very well then Zero-sama. I'll finalize these plans and send them to Commander Xing-ke as soon as possible," Diethard said quietly, servile tone evident even over the communicator.

"I'll leave it to you then, Diethard," he responded immediately. "I'll be retiring for the night. If anything comes up, wake me immediately."

"Understood, Zero-sama."

The connection cut.

Lelouch groaned slightly, wincing as he felt the muscles in his back strain, as though a great weight had settled atop his shoulders. It had been a long, long day- the formation of his long planned Union of Nations, soured by the Emperor's return and utterly shattered by Suzaku's single demand.

Never before had he felt the crushing responsibilities he bore so acutely, and, almost drunkenly, he tossed aside his cloak and shirt, making a mental note to have them pressed and cleaned tomorrow morning as he left them haphazardly on the couch before he stumbled towards the bed, lifting the covers slightly and then practically collapsing atop them.

Just as he began to feel the tension leaving his body as he sank into the soft, welcoming embrace of the mattress, he heard a soft whisper.

"Um... master? What are you doing?"

And even though he was totally exhausted, Lelouch's eyes snapped open and he came face to face with the wide eyed expression of C.C.

Oh damn it. Lelouch had, somehow, gotten used to sleeping in the same bed as the green haired witch that he hadn't even thought twice about it. Last night, however, he had chosen to sleep on the couch- but that had been when the issue of C.C.'s lost memories was a tad more pressing and he was in a much more rested state of mind.

"Ah, I'm sorry, we used to-" he began slowly, when suddenly she interrupted him.

"Oh... okay. I understand, master," she answered hesitantly.

"You do?" Lelouch felt a rush of relief, thankful she understood his intentions.

"P... p... please be g-gentle," C.C. whispered shyly, eyes as wide as moons, soft as silk and bright as firelight.

"What?" Lelouch blinked, uncomprehending, before he felt his cheeks flush cherubic red and he blurted out, "No, not that!"

C.C. drew back like a frightened kitten, and Lelouch felt a pang of regret, eyes softening as he reached out, placing his hand on her shoulder. "I mean... I didn't mean that I wanted you to... comfort me, or anything like that," he explained slowly, patiently. "I just meant that we used to share a bed- without doing anything," he stressed.

"You mean... master, you let me sleep in the same bed as you?" she asked timidly, peering out at him over the covers.

Well, I didn't really let you so much as... Lelouch cut off his train of thought and smiled slightly at her, nodding. "Ah. That's right."

"Thank you," C.C. murmured softly, a genuine smile on her face.

Tentatively, she reached up with her hand, and placed it over Lelouch's hand, which had remained atop her shoulder. An unsure smile lit up on her face, and she added in a hushed tone, "None of my other masters ever let me sleep in a bed, let alone theirs... and without asking me for my body... you're so kind to me, master."

"Ah, well..." Lelouch began reluctantly, before his eyes were suddenly drawn to the bandage on her hand. In a quiet, almost bitter tone, he muttered, "I wasn't very kind to you earlier, was I?"

"This?" C.C. blinked, eyes flicking over to the bandage. "Ah, it was nothing... it only hurts a little now," she murmured in reply.

"I'm sorry," he said, tone remarkably subdued. "I had no right to take my anger out on you." After a moment's pause, he added, "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No, no, it's fine... you can't really do much for wounds like this," C.C. answered quickly, shyly. Then, almost as an afterthought, she murmured, "I've always had wounds like this... and most of the time they didn't get bandaged."

Lelouch listened, and remembered the sight of C.C. as a child, beaten badly, clothes a shabby, filthy mess.

"You know," she whispered, mostly to herself, "I always kind of wished for a friend to help me with these wounds... I heard that they can 'kiss it better'." As if realizing where she was again, C.C. immediately added, "Ah, forgot it, master. I'm sorry, I was just rambling, and-"

Her voice fell silent as Lelouch suddenly pressed a kiss to her bandaged finger, lips ghosting across her porcelain skin just for an instant, then pulling away. His face flamed, but he still managed a quiet question.


C.C., blushing herself, nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

Feeling the need to fill this ever increasing gulf of awkward silence, Lelouch spoke again, without thinking. "My mother used to say the same thing... and my sister was always asking me to do it for her..." he added, an unconscious smile tracing itself across his lips.

"Your family sounds very nice," she offered bashfully, a small smile on her face. "You must have been very happy."

"Ah... they were nice," he muttered, eyes suddenly cold and distant, fists clenched, the weight of the world descending upon his shoulders once again. "And I was happy... a long time ago."

Before mother was killed. Before Nunnaly was crippled.

Before he murdered Euphie. Before Suzaku became his enemy.

And all the darkness that he had let go of as he sank into the embrace of the mattress suddenly came rushing back, howling a dark hymn like screaming shadows.

For a long while, there was nothing but the sound of Lelouch's harsh breathing as he grew more and more entangled within his own dark memories.

And then, a quiet whisper.


Her voice was distant, barely audible beneath the roar of all the sins he had committed.

"I don't know why you're suffering... but is there anything I can do to help?"

Lelouch turned away from her, unable to let his naked weakness show any further. "No... I'm fine," he answered roughly, shutting his eyes. "You can't help me anyways."

And again, there was silence again, leaving him alone with his ghosts once more.

"Master..." she began again, and he could feel her warm breath tickling the skin on his back. "I don't think I can help make you feel any better."

A rustling of clothes and a shifting of sheets.

"But I can help you forget."

Lelouch said nothing, ignoring her words, certain she would eventually see reason and leave him be-

When suddenly he felt a sudden softness pressing against his back, and two thin, ivory arms encircling his chest to press him against what was unmistakably C.C.'s utterly unclothed form.

"C.C.?" he drew in a breath sharply. "What are you-"

And suddenly C.C.'s face loomed over his, eyes wide, biting her lip hesitantly. "You've been so kind," she murmured, "And I know I used to be able to help you so much, but right now, this is the only way I think I can help you."

Before he could say another word, C.C. impulsively leaned down and pressed her lips to his, unknowingly echoing the last kiss they shared.

For a few moments, Lelouch simply laid there as C.C. kissed him, before his hand, on instinct, drew up and rested on the side of her hip. At this sudden touch, she pulled back, flushed, hair falling around her face like an emerald curtain, smiling.

"Let me help you forget," she whispered softly, and then her lips descended once more, hesitantly pressing against the side of his neck, leaving a trail across his slender neck, eliciting a soft groan from Lelouch.

"Did that... feel good, master?" C.C. asked hesitantly, peering up at him, chin resting gently atop his chest, the rest of her form thankfully cloaked by the darkness.

"C.C..." he said softly, gazing back at her, trying his best to keep up with the situation. "You don't have to do this for me. I don't... expect this sort of thing, and I certainly didn't ask for it..."

To his surprise, her lips turned into a shy smile. "I want to," she answered, and leaned forward till her face was inches from his. "I... I hope I'm not being too forward," she added, suddenly uncertain.

Lelouch's face flickered, a myriad of emotions running through his eyes like water, before he finally smiled kindly, genuinely.

"Thank you, C.C.," he whispered, and kissed her.