Notes: There's actually a lot of focus on Milly this chapter, partially because of the, ah, rather unique relationship between her and Kallen. Also, lots of new PLOT developments (you asked for it!) and the return of a certain pinkhead cutie.
Dream of the King
A Code Geass Fanfic by
Nate Grey (xman0123-at-aol-dot-com)
Part 6: Kallen the Radiant
When Lelouch vi Britannia seized the throne, Kallen Kozuki became recognized as the most powerful Knightmare pilot alive. But contrary to popular belief, this was not because the new Emperor proclaimed it so, or even because Kallen's only real competition, Suzaku Kururugi, readily agreed with the notion. It was because both Lelouch and Suzaku had experienced the power that dwells within a heart stricken with unrequited love. Suzaku had made peace with his loss, but Kallen's was a gaping wound, one that was torn open anew each time she looked into Lelouch's eyes. She would only permit Lelouch to wound her, and unleashed the full fury of her ever-bleeding heart on any who sought her beloved's life. For this reason, it is said that two things know no bounds: the depths of Kallen's love, and the depths of Lelouch's cruelty.
Milly had dreamed of the day when she would wake up in Lelouch's bed.
She was incredibly disappointed to find that it turned out exactly the way she'd pictured.
Lelouch was touching her, at least, but only because the size of the bed made it necessary. Otherwise, he was practically wrapped around Kallen, who was snuggled so deeply in his arms that it was a wonder they hadn't fused into a single person.
It was a very good thing that Milly had taken her turn first. She couldn't imagine watching Lelouch and Kallen, and then having Lelouch look at her with what remained of his passion, if there was even any left for her.
Milly was a blond, but she wasn't stupid. She and Lelouch had become friends more out of convenience than desire, and the love between them was completely one-sided. Lelouch would be upset if she wound up dead, but he wouldn't send the whole of his army after her killer. Perhaps a small, elite portion of it, but little else. So it wasn't that Lelouch didn't care about Milly.
She just wasn't Kallen. No one was.
But that was okay, really. If anyone deserved Lelouch's love, it was Kallen. She deserved to be happy with him.
That didn't make it any easier to watch, though.
Sighing, Milly slipped out of the bed, knowing that she wouldn't be missed. It was a simple matter to track down a comfy bathrobe, as there was already a set of three hung neatly in the closet. Someone had obviously planned ahead (probably C.C., as only she would be so practical about such a thing).
Milly didn't feel the least bit guilty about running herself a bubble bath, even if it woke up her bedmates. It felt odd to think of Kallen that way, but Milly distinctly recalled nibbling on an earlobe that wasn't Lelouch's. She'd been bored, frankly, and her only options were to either join in or pretend to sleep.
Predictably, Milly had just settled in the tub for a good soak when Kallen poked her head into the bathroom. "Room for one more?"
Milly closed her eyes. "Only if you agree not to do something silly, like hide that gorgeous body with a towel."
There was an exceedingly long pause, some slight rustling, and then quick footfalls as Kallen rushed to jump into the bath before Milly could get a good look at her.
Milly ruined the plan by standing up herself just as Kallen reached the edge of the tub.
Both women stared at each other for several moments, Kallen with fascinated horror, and Milly with obvious appreciation.
"I could adjust my bubbles so they don't cover as much, if you like," Milly finally said.
Kallen turned bright red and looked away.
Shaking her head, Milly reached out and gently tugged Kallen into the bath. "You're hopeless, you know that?"
"It's not something I expected to wake up to," Kallen snapped.
Milly couldn't help smirking. At least she had Kallen beat at something. "Turn around and I'll do your back for you."
The redhead eyed her suspiciously. "You're not going to do anything weird, are you?"
"If I did, trust me, you'd love it," Milly giggled, pushing lightly at Kallen's shoulders until she sat down.
"Why do I doubt that?"
"Because you were a virgin yesterday."
"MILLY!!!" Kallen shrieked in outrage, glaring over her shoulder.
Milly rolled her eyes and began to soap Kallen's back. "Well, you were. I think it's sweet. You saved yourself for the guy you love."
"Why didn't you?" Kallen asked, suddenly curious.
"Call it a last act of defiance. Did you think I wanted to get married while I was still in school?"
"But, if Lelouch hadn't taken the throne, your family-"
"Would be screwed, yes. But I mean, it WAS Lelouch. The moment I met him, I knew he'd do it. Just like I knew I'd talk him into marrying me one day."
Kallen looked skeptical, but didn't comment. "So, your first time. Anyone I know?"
"Rivalz," Milly answered with no hesitation.
"That was easy. I thought you'd make me work for it, at least."
"Didn't see the point. He was willing, and I knew he'd let me take command the whole time. Why would I pick anyone else?"
"How was it, then?"
"I didn't hate it," Milly answered. "He blushed way too much, though. Like he had a rash or something. It was sweet at first, but I made the mistake of looking at him in the middle of it, and I couldn't stop laughing. Killed the mood instantly."
"But you didn't hate it?" Kallen asked.
"Nope. Can't speak for him, but I haven't laughed that hard since."
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
Milly grinned. "For what? It wasn't your fault."
Kallen shook her head. "No, but when I think of how my first time was, and compare the two..."
"Oh, don't worry about that. I asked for this, and for that. The only thing I regret is not sampling you before Lelouch did." Milly paused to lean down and press a soft kiss against Kallen's shoulder. "You've got a very yummy body, Kallen."
"You're being weird, Milly," Kallen murmured, though it was clear that she didn't exactly hate the attention.
"Yeah, and you're blushing, sweetie," Milly laughed. "If you can't even handle a little kiss like that, you'd better stay far away from Kaguya."
"Kaguya? Why, what's wrong with her?"
"Nothing, except she wants to eat you up. Personally, I think you'd enjoy it, but it'd probably be a bit too much for you right now."
"That doesn't make any sense. She's got Tianzi and Lelouch. Why would she want me?"
"Because three hotties are better than two, and she's got good taste. Don't make me prove it right here; I don't know if I can hold my breath that long."
Kallen turned her head, staring back at Milly in shock. "How can you possibly still be horny after last night?"
Milly narrowed her eyes. "I'll have you know that you and Lelouch going at it for five hours straight isn't quite as satisfying from the outside looking in. You're a beautiful woman, Kallen, and it's time you accepted that. Now, you'd better turn around and let me finish your back. All I can think about when you look at me like that is how fun it would be to kiss you."
Kallen quickly turned around, blushing harder than ever.
Milly made a point of taking close to an hour to finish washing Kallen's back. Curiously, at no point did Kallen complain about it, although when Lelouch walked into the bathroom unexpectedly and spotted them, Kallen jumped up like she'd been electrocuted and shouted that it had all been Milly's idea.
Lelouch handled it pretty well, though. He merely hugged Kallen, kissed her forehead, and asked if anyone had thought to wash her front yet. Kallen tried to stammer out a weak protest as Lelouch dragged her back to the bath, but there was no point in resisting.
The brief glance that Milly shared with Lelouch when she handed him the washcloth (not that he would need it in the end) was probably the most genuine communication they'd had in days. In that moment, Milly saw that Lelouch truly did appreciate her, if only because she had opened her heart to Kallen.
Or maybe it was because he never would've managed another threesome so soon without her.
Milly preferred to think that it was the latter.
C.C. typically slept in as late as she could, less because she needed to and more because she enjoyed it immensely. This morning, though, she was restless: she was alone in her bed. That hadn't happened in quite some time: the few nights when Lelouch hadn't been with her, Mari had been. Still, C.C. didn't feel like getting up, so she just laid there for several minutes.
Not long after that, a familiar scent wafted into her nostrils. C.C. looked up to find Lelouch walking towards her, carrying two large, thin, clearly marked boxes.
"What did you do?" she demanded at once, sitting up.
He frowned. "Why do I have to have done something to bring you pizza in bed?"
"Because you got one for Mari, too. Again: what did you do?"
"I spent the night away from you, and even though that was your idea, I still feel guilty about it. So I thought it'd be nice if I brought my girls pizza in bed."
C.C. closed her eyes. "Just so you know, two pizzas do not make up for you sleeping with two women. But it's a fair start."
Lelouch smirked. "Wasn't one of them for Mari?"
"It would spoil her breakfast," C.C. said imperiously, snatching the boxes from him. "Anyway, she is a child. She prefers mini-pizzas."
Somehow, this didn't surprise Lelouch at all. He sat back and watched, amused, as C.C. began to eat. "I was thinking we could at least spend the morning together, but if you and the pizzas would like some time alone..."
"After I'm done," she stated, her eyes locked on his, "I will give you a taste of eternity."
"Uh, could that possibly wait?" Lelouch asked weakly. "It was a long night. And a long morning..."
"Very well," C.C. replied. "I suppose I can list all of your faults in excruciating detail later."
He stared at her blankly. "You know, I used to think it was amazing that you were just, this, goddess of sex. But now I see that it's almost necessary, because your mouth completely kills any kind of romance in the room."
"You speak as if you would be getting any of said romance any time soon."
"I brought you pizza in bed! Two of them!"
"All that means is that you found your way down to the Pizza Hut I put in next to the kitchens."
"I bet I could get a hug from Mari with no pizza at all."
"True," C.C agreed. "But as I said, Mari is still a child, and thus easily swayed. I haven't taught her to hold out for better offers yet. Next time, her forgiveness will cost you three boxes of mini-pizzas, at least."
Lelouch shook his head. "You're just evil this morning, aren't you?"
"Only for you, my king," she answered mockingly.
Kallen had been looking forward to something of an extended honeymoon. Frankly, it wasn't possible to release all of the passion that she'd stored up for Lelouch in just two days. Unfortunately, she was too embarrassed to admit that to anyone, which was why she ended up having tea with Milly, Kaguya, and Tianzi instead.
It was good tea, but no tea was an equal trade for sex with Lelouch. Nothing was, for that matter, except perhaps sex with Milly AND Lelouch.
But that only served to make the tea taste far worse by comparison, so Kallen put down her cup and glared at it, though no one present knew why.
"We need baby names," Milly said suddenly, and for no reason at all, in Kallen's opinion.
"Not now," Kaguya groaned. "I was up all night trying to think of one."
"You weren't," Tianzi corrected. "You did that for ten minutes. Then you got bored and fell asleep while I wrote down names for you."
"Well, it felt like all night," Kaguya grumbled. "What about you, Kallen? Any thoughts?"
"Junior," Kallen said firmly, clearly not intending to give the matter any further thought at the moment.
"And for a girl?" Tianzi asked, already dreading the answer.
Milly shook her head. "All in favor of abducting Kallen's child at birth so she can't name it?"
Three hands shot up (four if you counted both of Kaguya's).
Kallen glared at them each in turn. "Look, if I wanted to talk about this, I would've asked, okay?! I'm not going to name something that may not even exist at this point! I don't see what the big deal is!"
"A baby is always a big deal, or it always should be," Milly replied.
"Well, it's not like YOU have a name picked out already, right?"
"Joseph Louis Ashford," Milly answered without missing a beat.
Kallen gaped at her. "Wait! Why is his last name Ashford?"
"Because that's what I'm naming him, of course."
"And you don't think someone's going to notice that he isn't Joseph su Britannia?"
"Nope," Milly replied smugly, grinning at her.
"Oh, that's very clever, Milly!" Kaguya laughed, clapping her hands.
"It's not clever!" Kallen snapped. "It's crazy, and more importantly, she can't do it!"
"Kallen," Tianzi sighed, "what area was Milly just placed in?"
"The Ministry of Information, but what does that have to do with anything?"
"And who is the Minister of Information?"
Kallen opened her mouth, paused, and blushed. "I don't know..."
"Well, try this. Who do you THINK it is?"
"C.C.," Kallen answered at once.
"Now, why do you think that, considering that C.C. is the LEAST informative person that we all know?"
"Because the Ministry of Information isn't about keeping people informed. It just gives them enough information to make them feel that way."
"C.C. already approved the idea," Milly added. "Frankly, she thinks that all of the kids should have two names, just in case they ever need to go underground. It's already tradition for Tianzi, and practically for Lelouch as well."
"Wait, does that mean I have to come up with two Chinese names for every child?" Kaguya asked, pouting at Tianzi.
The Chinese Federation Empress smiled and patted Kaguya's knee. "Of course not. It'd be better if the second name was largely unrelated to the first."
"You're using Chinese names?" Kallen asked in surprise.
Kaguya nodded. "Ji-chan and I thought it would be neat if we exchanged traditions when it came to naming. So all my children will have Chinese names, and all of hers will have Japanese names. Maybe you two should try it. You're practically a matched set, anyway, just like us."
"What do you mean by that?" Kallen asked sharply.
"Well, Lelouch married you both in a double ceremony, same way he did us. And you do spend an awful lot of time together. But I think that's true of all of Lelouch's wives so far. Sayoko and C.C. seem to be get along much better than they ever did before."
"I think I like the idea of being stuck to Kallen," Milly murmured, wetting her lips suggestively.
Kallen turned bright red. "But I'm not, um, you know. Not that there's anything wrong with that!"
Tianzi and Kaguya stared at her for a moment before glancing at each other and laughing.
"What's so funny?!" Kallen demanded.
Tianzi was the first to regain her composure. "At this rate, Kallen, I think you may be the only wife that supposedly isn't. And based on the way you and Milly were glowing when you came in, I don't think your claim holds much water."
"I'm not gay!" Kallen shouted.
"Neither are any of us," Kaguya replied with a straight face, just before she glanced at Tianzi and started laughing all over again.
"Yes, you are! Everyone knows about you two!"
Tianzi shook her head. "Kallen, dear, no one at this table is exclusively attracted to men or women."
"No, just men AND women," Kaguya added, giggling a little.
"What?! I'm not-"
"Really?" Kaguya asked, grinning at her. "Then can you look Milly in her eyes and tell her that you're not attracted to her at all?"
"W-Why would I do that?" Kallen stammered. "I-I mean, it's obvious I'm not! And it would hurt Milly's feelings!"
"Only if you meant it, Kallen," Milly corrected. "And even if you could say it, I'd know you never meant it. Your lips don't lie, and I should know. I felt them plenty of times this morning in the bath-"
"SHUT UP!" Kallen cried, blushing and slapping a hand over Milly's mouth.
"Have you noticed that she does that to Milly an awful lot?" Kaguya noted.
Tianzi nodded. "It's her best option, since she's still too afraid to kiss Milly in order to keep her quiet."
"Kissing would be easier, though," Kaguya added. "I mean, it's just leaning forward and MMMMM!!!" She waved her arms wildly as Tianzi quickly stole a kiss. "I was making a point, Ji-chan!"
"I'm sorry, Kaguya. But you can't keep going on about kissing and not expect me to get in the mood."
"How would you like it if I kissed you while you were making an important point?!"
"I'd thoroughly enjoy it," Tianzi replied. "Didn't you?"
"Yes, but that isn't the point!"
"What does the point matter if you got a good kiss out of it?"
Kaguya pouted at her. "We're never going to have a proper fight if you keep cheating!"
Tianzi scooted her chair closer so she could lay her head on Kaguya's shoulder. "And if all I have to do is choose between fighting you and kissing you, we never will."
Kallen watched this all with a kind of fascinated disgust. She couldn't imagine ever being that sappy with anyone, not even Lelouch. Her thoughts were rudely interrupted when Milly licked her hand. Kallen found that she was less embarrassed by that, and more embarrassed by the memory of all the places on her body Milly's tongue had traced just that morning...
Lelouch was surprised to find Mari sitting on a bench in the middle of the gardens, not far from where she'd killed Tamaki. This fact didn't appear to bother her at all, and he quickly reminded himself that it shouldn't: she had done it to save him, and he had reassured her that it had been the only choice. Still, he thought it was a bit morbid for Mari to act as if it had never happened.
"I was looking for you," Lelouch said as he sat down beside her. "I thought the three of us could spend the day together, but your mother kicked me out to be alone with her pizzas, and you, apparently, were hiding from me."
"I wasn't really," Mari said, leaning against his side. "I'm waiting on a response from my pen pal."
Lelouch noticed that she was searching the sky, for some reason. "Is that something else I forgot, or have you just not mentioned it?"
"Both, I think. I don't talk about her much. She asked me not to."
Something about that answer gave him a bad feeling. "Mari, does your mother know about this?"
"Of course! Otherwise, they might shoot down my pen pal when she makes deliveries here."
Knowing he would regret asking, Lelouch did so, anyway. "And why would they do that?"
"Well, because she didn't want to learn how to drive or ride a bike, and there's really only one thing she knows how to travel in. Oh, look! There she is!"
Lelouch closed his eyes as he lifted his head, afraid of what he might see. He wanted to trust in Mari's judgment, as it hadn't failed him so far, but everything about this seemed wrong to him. But when he heard the familiar sounds of a Knightmare with a Float System coming in for a landing, he just had to look.
He regretted it instantly.
The Mordred stood before him, obviously restored to its former glory. There was a single, curious addition, however: a ridiculously large orange painted on its chest, and was, inexplicably, smiling. Below it, someone had printed in bold lettering, "Orange You Glad To See Me? Orange-kun Farms Delivers!"
All too soon, a head of pink hair emerged from the cockpit.
Mari began waving wildly. "Hi, Anya!"
Lelouch was too stunned to move as Anya Alstreim walked up to them, wearing so much orange that his eyes were tempted to bleed. It clashed horribly with her hair, and indeed, every other part of her that was exposed, but she didn't seem to notice.
"For you, Your Highness," Anya said, producing a large orange and handing it to Mari.
Lelouch watched, horrified, as Mari opened her mouth wide, obviously intending to eat the fruit without peeling it. "Mari, don't-"
"It is good for her," Anya interrupted coldly.
By then, Mari had already taken a big bite, and was chewing slowly, making a face every time she got a taste of peel.
"Why are you here, Anya?" Lelouch asked after he managed to tear his eyes away.
"I have a message for you and the Empress, Your Majesty. Jeremiah Gottwald is dead, and his Geass Canceller is missing."
"What do you mean, it's missing? How is that possible?"
Anya glanced down at Mari, and then said, "It was forcibly removed. That was how he died."
"Do you have any idea who was responsible?"
"I have no proof, only suspicions." Anya paused, as if thinking over something, and then nodded. "I have turned over control of Orange-kun Farms to a trusted party. I formally request to be allowed to rejoin the military."
"In what capacity? Your old job doesn't really exist anymore."
"I understand that your daughter does not have a Knight assigned to her. This is an enormous oversight."
"No, it isn't," Lelouch disagreed. "Between Kallen and Sayoko, there is no need for-"
"Unacceptable. If the princess is away from you and the palace, she will be completely exposed. That is how Jeremiah was killed."
"First of all, it would've taken an army-"
"I'm quite sure there was one. I found several of them in the orange fields. Jeremiah did not die easily, but still, he died."
Lelouch was fairly certain that this was a very bad idea, but C.C. never seemed to be around when he really needed her input. "Anya, don't take this personally, but you have been known to exercise poor judgment in some day-to-day situations. Give me one good reason why I should allow you to protect Mari."
"I can convince her to eat all of the foods that taste horrible, but are good her for."
"That's a pretty big boast."
Anya arched an eyebrow. "You don't think she actually likes eating oranges without peeling them first?"
Lelouch didn't want to admit it, but he was already impressed. "I'll have to discuss this with C.C. first."
"Take your time. We will be here." Anya extended her hand, and Mari obediently spit out a few seeds. Anya immediately knelt down and began digging in the garden with her free hand, obviously meaning to plant the seeds that very minute.
Lelouch felt like he should stop her, but suspected it wouldn't do any good. Sighing, he headed inside to find his first wife. On the way, he risked one last backward glance, and saw Mari carefully refilling the hole while Anya lectured her on the proper care of orange seeds. He couldn't say why, exactly, but somehow the image did not strike him as strange as it would have ten minutes ago.
Then again, if whatever Mari saw in Anya's heart allowed her to trust the former Knight of Six, Lelouch knew he would have to do the same.
Suzaku reread the letter three times before finally accepting it as being lawfully binding. Then he sighed and dragged himself into the bedroom, where Nunnally was reading a book in bed, with Arthur perched possessively in her lap.
"Nunnally? Darling? Goddess of my heart?" Suzaku asked as charmingly as he could.
Nunnally slowly put her book down. "Oh, Suzaku. What did you do this time?" she sighed.
"I was just going to ask how you feel about... oranges?"
She paused. "Well, they're not my favorite fruit..."
"...but I enjoy one on occasion. Why?"
"So, hypothetically speaking, if I happened to go out and buy, say, a few million oranges, you would be, what? Only slightly miffed?"
Nunnally stared at him. "Suzaku, if you tell me that you went out and actually did that, know that my legs would be the only thing stopping me from leaping across this room and strangling you."
He beamed. "Good news, then! I didn't do that at all!"
She frowned, sensing there was more to the story. "You didn't?"
"Nope! I inherited them!" Suzaku laughed, showing her the letter. "Anya named me the C.E.O. of Orange-kun Farms! Eh heh heh. AHAHAHAHAHA!"
"Suzaku," Nunnally said calmly, "pretending to go mad won't save you this time."
"Who's pretending? I own millions of oranges as of noon today! That IS mad! What am I supposed to do with millions of oranges, Nunnally?!"
"I'm sure I don't know, dear. But I do know that I'm not eating or drinking more than two orange-related products per day, so you're on your own with the rest."
"How is this my fault?" Suzaku asked desperately. "I didn't ask for this!"
"You befriended Anya. You might as well have."
"I wouldn't have done it if I ever thought she'd stick me with millions of oranges!"
"Well, I'm sure nobody ever thinks that will happen to them, Suzaku. But this is Anya. You should've kept your distance on principle alone. And we both know you have a weakness for pink hair. In fact, I don't think I want you talking to her anymore."
He stared at her in shock. "Nunnally, be reasonable!"
She frowned at him. "I AM being reasonable! She has more of a connection to my mother than I did, and she just stuck you with millions of oranges!"
"Well, when you put it like that, I'm starting to see your point. But still-"
"But nothing! You send her a thank you note for the orange farms, and then politely tell her that you want nothing more to do with her!"
Suzaku blinked. "Wait, what? I thought you didn't like her?"
"I don't," Nunnally replied, "but that's no reason to be RUDE about it. Honestly, Suzaku, I'd think you know me better than that."
"But we still hate her?" he asked, seeking confirmation.
"Yes. But only in private."
"So if see just happened to show up here tomorrow?"
"We'd serve her lots of orange juice and send her on her way. And that had better be a hypothetical situation, Suzaku."
"It is, it is! Anyway, I don't think she'll be coming here anytime soon. From the sound of the letter, she's going back into the military, and C.C. will want to keep her close."
Nunnally frowned. "To what? Home? Herself? Mari?"
Suzaku shrugged. "I don't know, just close. She just seems to connect with Anya where no one else does."
"I suppose having the same person possess you can forge that type of bond. Or force it, anyway."
Rolo's eyes shifted as he felt a familiar presence within the Sword of Akasha. He didn't get many visitors, so he made a point to remember each one, if for no other reason than to reassure himself that he wasn't gradually losing his mind, among other things. Staring at two people he hated had gotten boring after the first ten minutes, and he couldn't really be sure how long he'd watched over them since.
It took some effort to plaster a somewhat pleasant smile on his face as Mari ran up to the broken column he was sitting on. "Uncle Rolo!" she cried, scrambling up the column with that same boundless energy that he envied so much. Thankfully, Mari remembered the rules halfway up, and slowed down just before she reached him. "I missed you," she murmured, plopping down beside him and patting his arm briefly.
"Same here," Rolo replied. "You're bigger every time I see you."
"I brought Anya with me."
"I know," Rolo said softly. Anya had only come here once since he'd taken up residence in the temple, back when Mari was still a baby. He thought it odd that she would come back now, so something must have changed. "Why don't you visit with your grandparents while I talk to Anya? We'll just end up boring you, I'm sure."
"Okay." Mari stood up, pausing as she started to move away. "Uncle Rolo, does it hurt you? Being here all of the time?"
He blinked, staring at her curiously. "Most of the time, no. My Geass slows down the aging process. So I don't feel much pain, or anything else, for that matter."
She bit her lip. "Do you want to?"
"Sometimes." He watched her walk over to Charles and Marianne, even as he sensed Anya's presence behind him. "Anya. You're watching over Mari again?"
"It was a mistake to ever stop," Anya answered. "I was too busy trying to make sense of my past to realize that my future was here, with her."
"She'll be in good hands with you."
"Have you constructed it yet?"
He closed his eyes. "You're early, you know. You said it wouldn't matter until she was at least sixteen."
"I also thought that Jeremiah would outlive me. I was wrong. I can't afford to be with this."
"It isn't something I can rush. One mistake and it'll be useless, and we won't get a second chance."
"Finish it," Anya stated. "Mari may need it sooner than I anticipated. C.C.'s blood won't protect her forever. For every year that the child exists outside of her mother's womb, the protection grows weaker."
"I know all of that. But this isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world, or it would've been done already."
"If you love your niece, get it done," Anya said simply.
Rolo sighed as Mari made her way back over to them. He had known from the first time he'd been allowed to hold her that he would die for her. It had never bothered him, at least not until he'd realized what tricky business it was. Dying without first ensuring her survival was unthinkable. It would've been easier to ask for C.C.'s help, but that was no good, either. Mari's parents were too biased: Lelouch too ready to die for her, and C.C. too ready to die, period. And there was no point in Mari living forever if she couldn't share it with the two people she loved most.
Some women, in Kallen's opinion, were born to be mothers, or at least it came to them as second nature. She could always easily imagine what Kaguya or Tianzi might look like when they became pregnant, and indeed, the images in her head were proven rather accurate when the two women began to show. In those mental pictures, though, they were standing and walking around. So one might assume that all pregnant women should be capable of the same thing. Kallen had certainly thought so.
That is, until SHE began to show, and all of the problems started. Kallen had a much harder time keeping any food down, and as she'd been very trim even before she got pregnant, had to gain some much needed weight, which felt both uncomfortable and unnatural. But it was either that, or increase the risk of her child suffering serious problems later on. And Kallen had already decided that if she was going through nine months of sheer hell, she was going to make damn sure that it wasn't for nothing.
Oh, and there was pressure. Already it had been confirmed that Kaguya was having twin girls, which thrilled Mari to no end. Tianzi, despite the fact that she was having a boy, was just as serene as she'd always been. Even Milly still managed to look gorgeous mere minutes after she'd emptied her stomach in the bathroom each morning. It was downright annoying. They walked around patting each other's bellies and saying good morning to children that weren't even born yet, and it made Kallen want to have them all fitted for maternity straightjackets.
Kallen, on the other hand, eventually found herself confined to her bed, where she could do little more than glare and pout. Crying was also an option, but Kallen still had some of her pride. Everyone already knew she was extremely moody, and only Sayoko and Mari popped in to check on her regularly. Sayoko brought her anything she might need or want, but Mari was mostly there to ask odd questions and point out things that were often best left unsaid. Fortunately, Kallen had been around the girl far too long to be sensitive to such things, which was a good thing, because any other pregnant woman unfamiliar with Mari might very well have strangled her.
Most people did not wake up to find the Crown Princess of Britannia peering at them over the edge of their bed. Kallen personally knew the few that had, and could be certain that it was rarely ever pleasant for very long.
"Kallen, you're fat," Mari noted after a long moment.
"I know," Kallen agreed miserably, pouting. "Stupid baby. Stupid Lulu. Stupid Milly. Stup-"
"Why's Milly stupid?" Mari interrupted, crawling closer and propping her chin up on Kallen's arm. She sounded remarkably open-minded for someone who was so fond of Milly.
"Because she's the one who forced me into this! 'Get married, have Lulu's baby, you'll be so happy!' I've never been more miserable in my life! This is so unfair! I'm the best Knightmare Pilot alive! Japan's Second Sun! Kallen the Radiant! I shouldn't be stuck in this stupid bed for months on end!"
"I'd be mad if I was fat and couldn't get out of bed, too," Mari murmured, giving Kallen's side a careful poke.
Kallen absently brushed her hand away. "It's not that I CAN'T get out of bed. It's that I shouldn't. For the stupid baby's sake. Or mine. Maybe both. I forget."
"That is stupid," Mari agreed. "What if you have to pee?"
"You don't want to know," Kallen replied flatly.
"Oh, alright." Sighing, Mari squirmed her way under Kallen's arm, pressing her ear to the redhead's belly. "Aw, I don't hear anything. Doesn't the baby make any noises yet?"
Kallen smirked. "I know you may find this hard to believe, Mari, but the baby isn't here to amuse you."
"So how come you haven't named it?"
"I don't know," Kallen replied hesitantly. "I just don't want to, yet. I can't explain."
"Can I name it, then?"
"I don't think that would be a good-"
"Call it Lloyd!" Mari blurted out.
Kallen blinked several times. "There are so many things wrong with that idea that I'm afraid to ask why you can't see them."
"But Lloyd's great! He's really funny, and he's always got pudding to share!"
"True, but that's no reason to name my baby after him."
"Why not?" Mari demanded. "YOU didn't name it after anything."
"I'm still considering my options, okay?" Kallen snapped.
Mari was quiet for a long moment, and then she asked softly, "How come you don't want to name your baby, Kallen? Why don't you want to be a mom?"
"Because... I don't want to end up like my mother," Kallen muttered. "No child deserves that."
"But you won't be anything like her," Mari insisted. "It isn't in your heart. Anyway, I wouldn't mind having you for a mom, and you know how picky I am. You'll be an awesome mom!"
Kallen closed her eyes tightly, but it was no use: she could feel the tears doing their best to escape, anyway.
"It's okay," Mari whispered, hugging her gently. "I won't tell anyone you cried."
"You never did tell me," Anya said, "why it was that you entrusted Mari to me."
"Your fate is forever tied to that of Marianne vi Britannia," C.C. replied. "I should hope that this one treats you far more kindly, however."
"She thinks I'm her best friend. But even I don't know what or who I am."
"You are my daughter's Knight, and you would lay down your life for her, even if it were not required of you. You are easily the best friend she'll ever have. You may not believe that until you die in her arms, but even then, it will be true."
Although there were several reasons, Lelouch eventually took his father's Code for a purely selfish one: he wanted to be able to remember his children. Not because of the awkward feeling of staring into an unknown child's face and fearing it belonged to him, though. Lelouch knew that one day, out of all his children, only Mari would be with him. He could not say how he knew, only that C.C.'s silence and Mari's clinginess implied as much.
He understood the unspoken conflict perfectly: C.C. still intended to die, passing on her Code to Mari in a final act of love, so that Lelouch would not be alone. But Mari would never accept a reality that didn't include herself being with both parents.
Lelouch knew he could not intervene. The only idea that he could safely support was that Mari had to survive. Truthfully, he had little desire to be immortal, knowing what it had done to C.C., and what it might do to he and Mari. But if it meant he could share more than one lifetime with his girls, he would gladly live as long as he could.
In the Near Future...
"Ming! Ling!" Kaguya shouted. "Get back here, you little scamps!"
Tianzi watched in amusement as Kaguya's twin girls crawled rapidly across the carpeted nursery floor, giggling like mad. "Poor Kaguya. If only there were two of her."
"It's her own damn fault for promising Mari twin sisters," Kallen replied. "Let her chase the little brats down by herself. One day, she'll learn to keep them in her lap, like the rest of us do."
Tianzi thought that comment was a little biased. Of all the children, only Kaguya's girls, Liling and Mingyu, seemed to be the really adventurous type. They were always wandering off the minute Kaguya's attention was elsewhere, and almost never in the same direction at once.
On the other hand, none of the other mothers really gave their babies the chance to prove otherwise. They were all firmly what Kallen called "lap mothers," never letting their children venture more than a few inches away. This was surprisingly true of Milly as well, who never allowed her precious little "Joey" to get even a speck of dirt on him. He was easily the cleanest of the children, despite being an adamant thumb sucker.
On the other end of the spectrum was Kallen's son, Naota. He was always playing with something no one could ever recall giving to him: small pieces of machinery, royal seals, spare pairs of Nina's glasses, and once, the Guren's activation key (which Kallen swore had been locked away in New Camelot at the time). Mari insisted that his Geass was stealing, but no one took her seriously until ten boxes of mini-pizzas went missing, only to later be found underneath Naota's crib.
Tianzi's son, publicly known as Seijin, but privately called Zenkei, was the best behaved. With his calm demeanor and soft, white hair, he was often likened to a tiny old man. He was known for shooting withering looks at nearby adults while his sisters, younger by little more than a week, tugged playfully on his arms. Lelouch was convinced that he was Schneizel reborn, often saying that Zenkei was the most likely to surpass his older siblings and claim the throne. Mari was fine with the idea, but already Shinji had been caught trying to push Zenkei out of Tianzi's lap and claim the spot for himself.
In the Distant Future...
The gunshot was one of the loudest sounds that Mari had ever heard. Ironically, the shot was never intended for her, even if it was aimed at her heart. But it would be at least a few hours before even her father made the connection.
The shooter had known, long before he ever picked up a gun, that it was technically impossible to kill Anya Alstriem, Knight of C. Within her Knightmare, the impenetrable Mordred Agravain, she was completely protected, and outside of it, she was far too evasive a target, even with her signature pink hair.
Ironically, the only way to kill Anya was to force her to take a bullet for her princess.
Mari, for the first time in her life, had been unable to move while under attack. One moment, she had been waving to a crowd of cheering Chinese citizens, and the next, Anya was in front of her, and there was blood absolutely everywhere.
It was only when Anya finally hit the ground that Mari remembered who she herself was. It took her three seconds to find the shooter among the crowd, another to lock in on his heart, and only half that to crush it. He fell beneath the surging, panicked crowd, and would later be found trampled nearly beyond recognition.
Once that was taken care of, Mari had turned back to Anya. Lelouch was at her side now, applying pressure to the gaping hole in her chest, but at the same time knowing it was pointless.
Anya's eyes fluttered open as Mari's fingertips brushed her cheek. She seemed to have trouble focusing, but her grip was like iron when she grabbed Mari's wrist. "Your Highness," she gasped, "you must..."
Mari had caused so much death in her short life that she knew instinctively what Anya was asking. But it had always been an enemy standing across from her, never a dear friend. "Anya... I can't," she whispered. "You... you're my best friend. You can't die..."
"Your Highness," Anya repeated, "please..."
"Mari," Lelouch said quietly. "Sometimes dying is better than being killed. If she really is your friend, you must grant her last wish, no matter how much it hurts."
Taking a deep breath, Mari leaned down and gently pressed her forehead to Anya's. "Goodbye, Anya. I'll miss you more than you'll ever know."
Geass had become second nature to Mari, but it took everything she had to summon it this time. Anya's heart was terribly simple to read, even now. There was concern for the Mordred, admiration for C.C., fondness for Mari, and little else.
There was no need to crush Anya's heart. A gentle squeeze was all it took.
Anya shut her eyes tightly, and then she was gone.
Two days later, Mari stunned everyone by announcing that she would become the Mordred's new pilot. "He wouldn't fly for anyone else," she told Lloyd when he asked. "Anya did everything in her power to protect me, so it's only fitting that Mordred become my Knight now." Even more amazing, C.C. gave the idea her full approval, and the Mordred Agravain was officially recognized as the new Knight of C. Within a month, Mari joined three of her brothers on the front lines, and anyone that witnessed the Mordred in action knew that Mari's kills had nothing to do with her Geass.
Next Chapter: Marianne vi Britannia
The red haze receded, and as Marianne took her first breath of freedom in what seemed like forever, a slight noise behind her made her spin around.
"Hi, Grandma," Mari said softly, staring up at her namesake. There was no warmth in title, but then, there never really had been.
"Hello, Mari. It's good to see you again. You're getting so big."
"Yup. We need to talk."
"Yes," Marianne agreed, frowning as both their eyes lit up with Geass, "on that much, we agree."
Okay, I know the pinkhead comment in the notes probably threw some people. At least, I hope it did.
Knight of C is not a typo.
Naota's Geass isn't really "stealing," although Mari would see it that way, since he took her favorite treat.
Almost forget: Agravain is another of Mordred's brothers in Aurthurian legend, so you can assume that the Mordred Agravain is an upgrade. Er, more on that Knightmare next time.
The Imperial Family So Far:
Lelouch vi Britannia, Emperor
C.C. (Cecelia) vi Britannia, Empress
Marianne vi Britannia II, 1st (Crown) Princess
Sayoko le Britannia, Imperial Consort and Palace Security Coordinator
Shinji le Britannia, 1st Prince
Kaguya la Britannia, Japanese Representative and U.F.N. Chairwoman
Liling la Britannia, 2nd Princess
Mingyu la Britannia, 3rd Princess
Tianzi (Jiang Lihua) li Britannia, Chinese Federation Empress and Foreign Minister
Seijin (Zenkei) li Britannia, 2nd Prince
Milly su Britannia, Ashford Heiress and Ministry of Information Spokesperson
Joseph (Louis Ashford) su Britannia, 3rd Prince
Kallen u Britannia, Emperor's Knight
Naota u Britannia, 4th Prince
Nunnally vi Britannia, C.U.J. Viceroy
Suzaku Kururugi, Viceroy's Knight and Nemo Squad Leader
Rolo Lamperouge, Knight of Zero
Anya Alstriem, Knight of C