The Guren's key is dangling on her nightstand.
Kallen hasn't touched it since that day.
It was the bluest sky she had ever seen...
A storm is coming.
But I, don't mind.
People are dying.
I close my blinds.
All that I know is I'm breathing.
All that I know is I'm breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.
With his face so close, he doesn't seem attached to the picture. One days where she's strong enough,
she might even look at his smile. If she's hopeful, she might look at his violet eyes and see them glimmer.
But of course, it's just a picture frame.
(It might just be a picture frame but the churning inside of her is anything but still.)
For a minute in time, in life, in this new world, Kallen almost feels like he's still with her.
and living, and living, and--
"...You miss me?"
She stands still in that little room; away from the blurs of new faces and familar languages and lettering.
The voice is so real that all of her hurts. A tremor forces its way through her entire body; a ripple, a constriction settles in her chest as she tilts her head back and closes her eyes and--
she breathes, in and out.
(A million images of him are all there is and all there ever will be.)
She's still having trouble on the exhaling part.
All that comes out is a trembling rattle.
She says finally,
and she can almost feel him smiling. It makes her smile,
even though she feels like crying.
Why isn't she crying?
(She breaks a little bit further down the line.)
"Because you won't leave me alone."
"..I sometimes wonder who is this girl looking at me, "
Her mother sits propped up in her futon; blinking away the last bit of of her dreamworld.
Kallen also liked that dream world, but it's dead; and so is he.
She lets her stroke the side of her face; fingering the fringe of red around her blue-blue eyes that have lived a million lifetimes that only span two years.
"..Looking at you, I look so young." She whispers regretfully; holding the other side of Kallen's face and Kallen smiles; because she got her wish and that is what she wanted.
"...Something took the fire right out of you, "
(Except she wanted him to be smiling at her as she thanked him for that wish.)
And Kallen wants to correct her about her age.
Kallen is not young, she is tired. And old. And lonely.
But all she can do is laugh and smile; because that is what his world is made of. And Kallen always, always stands behind him.
(Even though his shadow is gone.)
Kallen hates having her hands so empty.
Suzaku surfaces, if only for a moment within a lifetime of Zero.
"..He's not..in there..is he?"
She lays her flowers down on an untouched tomb. It's quiet and filled with flowers.
The grass is new with the footsteps that have not, and will not ever likely fall.
(She hates knowing and knowing she's almost the only one who knows.)
Already the mask is taken more of him than was left, and she can see it in the smile across his face,
that looks more like chipped stone than the once warm, friendly grin she knew.
"...I feel like he is,"
He whispers slowly; and Kallen can't help but shudder at how his voice is just as hollow as her insides are.
This sick weight in her stomach that never falls, and again, Kallen wonders why she is not on the verge of tears.
"..I feel like he's inside of me," And his voice cracks; gloved hands trembling and clenching. Kallen wants to touch him; but is is afraid that if she does she might feel a trace of him;
--..and she won't ever be able to let go.
Is afraid because she still thinks that he could be behind the mask.
"I can't breath, " He chokes; and she takes a deep breath.
(Somewhere in her heart; she hears his quiet laughter.)
"I'm suffocating inside of him..! I..I can't..I can't.."
She watches Zero tremble; a coagulated figure of hopes and coated on the inside with blood and muffled screams. It houses two best friends and it has no room for identities. No room for redheads would would have shared the burden, if only they had known.
(But it's too late now, isn't it? Why is she so late?)
Yet somehow she squeezes his hand; and in a different world, she imagines she is touching his.
"I know, "
The portrait doesn't fit him.
Kallen counts the times she almost looks at the face
but she cannot, and will probably not ever. It just hurts too much.
He lies on top of her blankets tonight.
She turns; staring at him with her eyes glittering too brightly in the dark.
"I don't know how to stop missing you, "
She whispers sleepily; reaching for the hand that is not there.
He smiles at her.
"Yes you do," He says softly.
Kallen wants to tell him that she doesn't but she's so afraid of him disappearing.
"Just keep moving, " He tells her gently; and his hand has never felt more real.
Kallen really wants to cry right now.
She smiles as a tear rolls down her cheek; shining in the moonlight.
"..I can't move without you, I said..I said I'd stay..." Her voice is slurred; only awake because the pain in her chest is too intense for words and because real or not real; he is still as lovely as she remembers.
He is smiling that calm infuriating smile. Her favorite smile.
(She hasn't realized why she loves that smile yet.)
"Who said I was leaving?"
Another tear rolls down her face.
"...I wish I had known him like you did. "
Japan is barely getting back into it's worn-down shoes.
Yet they walk, hand in hand; her head barely brushing the long of Ohgi's arm and her eyes taking in the life around her.
Children are laughing freely in the streets; there are people out donating clothes; medicare; all for their people. There's a weariness in her veins; Kallen feels like she's watching a long-lost child re-learn it's first steps.
To her and Ohgi, this sight is a beautiful thing. It's beautiful and painful and she has a feeling it will always be that way.
"Maybe I would have understood, " Ohgi mutters; and Kallen squeezes his hand because Ohgi always means well and if he had been among the four like herself that knew ( --She almost throws up at the idea that only four know.) the real story, the real Emperor, he would have this feeling.
(Or maybe it's just her. She wonders if C.C. feels like this, but she hasn't seen C.C. in months.)
She looks up at the lines in his face and the hard eyes are soft again because he's a father now. Life is all around Kallen yet for her she is locked in memories and moments and she's being torn this way and that and she thinks that if she just knew why maybe she could move on but--
"..Who was he?"
(Kallen drops his hand and sucks in a breath because she is not ready--not ready--)
Her insides collapse in themselves and she wonders why she is almost gasping. Ohgi is about to touch her but Kallen does not want to be touched. If he touches her it will be like touching all of the memories.
And those memories are of him. And her.
It has no room for anyone else.
Kallen closes her eyes; and bites her lip, feeling the soft; wet, fleshy pink underneath and imagines it not quivering though she knows it is. She holds in the pieces though for some reason they've forced themselves up her throat.
"...Who do you think he was?" She whispers back; reminding herself that she isn't cracking
Ohgi is treading solid ground while she's drowning in the wide open sea.
(The sea is violet. )
"...He was a leader.
Cold. Evil. Yet, I felt like--he wanted me to think that."
Ohgi hesitates; brows furrowing. He's still stuck on the betrayals, and if Kallen was smart; she would have let herself stay there too.
"...And very theatrical. But what a liar." Ohgi finished distastefully; brows scrunched up in that goodnatured way that made Kallen find it impossible to ever hate him.
He looks at her, and there's a lostness in his eyes.
"You knew him." He murmurs; as if testing it on his mouth; blinking once or twice. The redhead steps forward a bit; turns her back; and seems to breath big enough that her entire body rises forward. Like her breath is the only thing holding it upright.
(I can't do this, it's too soon, I can't..I'm not ready.)
"Y-yes, I knew him."
Her voice trembles and it's half-happy and half of it is too wild to name.
It cracks. It wavers. It's exultant and it's breathless.
She doesn't want to exhale because locked in her breath is his smile and his words, his beautiful words. And his beautiful, beautiful heart; that he covered so much that she began to hate it.
(He always gave her this little upward tilt of his mouth; it wasn't really a smile but it wasn't a frown--it was--)
("Will you come back to Ashford with me?" She loves the people she's met there, even though she can't bear to be under that flat-haired mask any longer. She realizes that their hearts are beating at the same pace; and she marvels at it. )
(His voice was so, so sad.
She tells herself it's easier that she believed his lies, but she ends up laughing at herself because it's so obvious now, that he never, never wanted to hurt her. Because the same person who drapes his coat over your shoulders cannot be the same person who purposely breaks your heart in half. )
(Beautiful. Already gone, smart, brave, selfless, selfish, stupid, cocky, arrogant, self-degrading, teasing, too damn complicated, beautiful, tender, warm, hot, cold, short-coming and enigmatic and beautiful and hopeless and half-dead and kind, and a big fat liar and almost true love but half-way her best kiss and beautiful and sadhorriblyhorriblysadandnotwantingtobesavedbut--SHE COULD HAVE SAVED HIM and selfless not selfish and--stupid--AND SHE DID NOT WANT TO SAY GOODBYE--see you later but NEVER goodbye--Lelouch--Lelouch!--Lelouch..! I--I--lov--..I lov--)
"A good liar.."She cannot stop smiling as the tears stream and freeze mid-lash. She hates that he can make her smile so even though she is breaking down into more and more pieces. How he can make her lungs scream for air though it's all around her,
it just doesn't have him in it.
"..He was...a really good liar.
Hell, if there was an award for acting, he would have won, "
She says with a wet laugh;
and Ohgi is not looking at the Red Lotus, he is looking at a small little redhead
whose smile is shaking and her hands are trembling and there's no hatred in that voice.
Ohgi thinks he needs to re-evaluate his assessment of Emperor Lelouch.
"..You're so pretty with your hair down."
Gino twists a strand of her red hair for only a midsecond before she twists his finger and he yelps. She hates that he's still smiling even though she's twisting each and every fragment of muscle in that one squeeze.
He laughs a bit. "Gee, you won't let anyone touch you, will you? "
Kallen stares stares at the sunlight as the train begins to pick up in speed.
"...It's not because I'm too different, is it?" His voice is soft, and Kallen doesn't want to look at his face because if she looks at it she'll see the dejected face that is too familar. She'll see herself again slapping the same pale cheek.
"..Ah, so you--then--" Kallen pleads with her eyes for him to stop talking. It shows with her grey-rimmed eyelids and her worn-thin brows. Her sad, hollowed out eyes.
"I'm sorry, " He says awkwardly, and he moves his hand as if to brush the hair against the side of her cheek; but she tenses up; because if he touches her she might break and she can't break--she can't break..--
When she opens her eyes he is gone.
"...Gino is a pretty good guy, Kallen. "
He stares at her so seriously, that she almost laughs. She smiles tiredly as she opens the door; the lights dark and half-lit. Her mother is asleep in her futon; half-shimmer photographs dangling on the lowtable.
Kallen won't look at those photos. Not now. Not when her heart is so mangled.
"...he is a good guy, Lelouch. "She says with a weak smile.
His half-visible form is as cutting as his departure from her life.
She wonders if she might hear his heartbeat if she tries hard enough, but she'd just be left with nothing anyway.
"...He's just not you."
"...Who is this boy?"
Her mother is bewildered at the photo on her bulletin board. She's seen the photos of the cold Emperor; clad in white and gold and she sees the student with the half-real smile and the twinkling violet eyes. The sad violet eyes.
Kallen swallows; and places her hand over the picture. Her mother stares at her with the words in her throat but Kallen begs her not to say them. No one can say those words but her.
She whispers helplessly;
limbs trembling and fingers trembling; a lost child at sea.
"..Not now--I..I can't .." She fumbles; blue eyes bright in the sunlit windows.
"What a beautiful boy."
Her mother says softly; and maybe she's seeing him too.
Kallen numbly grabs for her bed and promises herself that she'll one day be able to tell her mother who that boy in the picture frame is.
"..You can't be like this forever, you know. "
He glances down at her with the eyes she's memorized in every way possible.
She laughs brokenly. "..And why not?"
He frowned irritably at her. She almost laughed. It was so like him to do that.
"Because it's not healthy. And because there's no reason to be sad now."
Kallen chokes on her breath and turns, so she doesn't feel his presence as much.
She doesn't know why or how, but somehow he's so tangible when she's sitting still.
"..I can't find a reason Lelouch, so why don't you unravel it like you always do?"
Her eyelids are getting heavier again, and he leans in and kisses them.
"Because your wish came true."
She bites back the urge to sleep.
"...Only one wish came ..true.., " She protests thickly; and his eyes are questioning but she is already asleep.
She hates curious ghosts.
She figures it's only natural that Lelouch would be a curious one.
Her feet led her.
The grass is still cold and wet and her legs are shivering against the morning chill. The mist falls over the park and her eyes search for an ice cream stand. She searches for the group of thugs that attacked one of her own.
( She looks for the black-haired boy sitting on the left side of the bench. )
She places herself back in the same spot; leaning back so that wood and skin are fused together. She takes a ragged, rattled breath and lets two more tears fill her eyes and freeze as they shut before they can make their way down her face.
Her lungs hurt because she can't breath for some reason.
(Her hand touched the left side of the bench and stroked the top if it. She sits there until the sun comes up. )
..In her dreams she's watches a boy with dark hair smile gently at a redhaired girl. She marvels that the smile only appears when the girl has her back turned; her face angry and hurt. Betrayed. Doubting. Hating.
She wakes up and her cheeks are wet.
( One month since the day the sky was blue.
Kallen thought he looked really tired as the sword came closer. She heard a girl screaming at the top of her lungs but she didn't know who it was. It sounded like her.
Kallen thought the Emperor looked a lot like her classmate.
Kallen thought that she heard him say something before she had said goodbye.
(The thoughts all end as his heart is hit.)
He whispered something and then he fell, in his white, white, robes.
Her skin was cold because he was falling too slowly. His skin was so white.
She wondered why the sky was so very blue that day.
(She couldn't stop screaming, she just didn't want to stop screaming.)
All that I know is I'm breathing.
What is this world that he's made, she thinks vaguely; walking down the streets in her bare feet and the sunlight barely ghosting over the tops of the buildings. All around her is silence though she sees smiles all around her.
She's looking for a tall; slender boy in a student uniform. She bites her lip because she cannot find him. She's searched the slender beams of construction where things began and ended. She searched the concrete floor where she had never been so close to a man before.
She looks in the sky but cannot find a single Knightmare.
There is no black cape and there is no black hair.
The world doesn't have people with purple eyes anymore.
Above her Empress Nunnally speaks over a podium; her eyes blindingly violet and blue and Kallen's heart throbs faintly. She stands; holding her shoes and her shoulders being rocked by passerbys. Her lips half parted and her eyes misting over with tears.
He feels closer than ever now.
(She'd do anything to feel this again. )
"When are you going to pick up the key?"
He's standing over her shoulder; ever past the limit and ever reminding her of
what she no longer has. She thinks he's cruel but she breaths in his scent and closes her eyes.
"...I..I don't know." She answers truthfully, her voice soft.
He frowns at her; the arms around her neck feeling suddenly very warm and very real.
"..You aren't anything without that, Kallen."
She laughs and wonders why it sounds so lonely.
"...That's not all I'm without, Lelouch." She murmurs;
and her smile is ghost-like. She laughs and calls herself ironic.
"I'm so glad you came. "
Nunnally is a princess out of a fairy-tale. She's pitifully small in her iron chair; her hair floating around her feet in soft caramel wisps. She is small in her large room; with her big pink bed and her backyard being an entire country. Yet she is more solid than Kallen is.
She struggles to form a smile; eyes lowered as she nods her head. The Empress won't allow that, however; and wheels over; taking her colorless hand and warming it with her small ones. Her purple eyes are too startling for her; and she flinches. "Come sit with me, Kallen, " Nunnally whispers softly; her large eyes shimmering as she leads them both to the edge of the bed.
Kallen is about to offer to help but the Empress hoists herself by her little arms and falls softly onto the velvet coverlet. She's more surprised that she didn't float away before she hit the bed. Nunnally is gentle. She doesn't notice her obvious stares and off-glances; doesn't notice the way Kallen flinches whenever she looks right into her face and finds him in it.
"...Would you be mad if I said that I wanted to hit your brother over the head for all of this?" Kallen chokes; and she isn't aware that she's choking. It's a strangled whisper in her throat. Nunnally laughs quietly, not letting go of her hand.
"No, because you are not the only one who has wanted to do it. " Kallen looks into her eyes and blinks back the memories; and it shows because she turns away and the grip on her hand is tighter.
"--..You know what really happened too. I see it in the pain on your face." Nunnally whispers softly; her voice very small and her head is bowed. Kallen has not overlooked the picture on her nightstand; a beautiful darkhaired youth presses his cheek against a girl with closed eyes.
"Yes, " Kallen whispers; voice breaking in several places. She leans her head back and blinks back the moisture gathering in her eyes.
"Yes, and I wish more than all the world that I didn't, " She breaks off bitterly; smiling a smile she doesn't feel.
Nunnally leans her pale head against her shoulder. Her grip is gentle and soft again; and Kallen strains to hear the beat of her heart; because she knows she'll find him living in there.
"...Is it hard?"
"It is very hard. "
"You must hate me for being here instead, right?"
Her head shoots up.
"No, " She hisses bitterly; eyes swimming.
"I hate that he speaks to me when I go to sleep. I hate that I am trailing back to the places where he promised me things. I hate that I'm still following him around even though--he's--I hate that he let me say all those things to him and I hate how he assumed I'd never understand. "
(All that I know is I'm breathing.)
"--..I hate how he teased me about my temper and I hate how he--he--" She remembers the way he just stood there; not moving an inch. She hated how he was always like that.
" I hate how he so easily made me believe him; hate that he knew how to break me and I hate how he whispered that he was lying when it was far too late. But what I hate, what I really hate--"
And she's suffocating on a big lump of purple eyes and sad smiles and l--
"Is that he left me behind. "
And she didn't know how many times she'd dreamed of slapping him since that day. She didn't know how many nights she hugged her sides because something was hurting in there. She panics because his presence suddenly feels so small.
"...You loved him, Kallen." Nunnally whispers so soft; so sweet against her shoulder;
and something inside of Kallen just breaks.
(All that I know is I'm breathing..)
(All that I know is I'm breathing..)
That feeling in her chest; that moment; when she stood quietly on the float as the sun went down. Looking at him lying so still and so small and fragile against the sunlight. So kind--still smiling--how she felt--watching him--seeing him.
(She smiled shakily as she grabbed his red-smeared hands. She pressed them to her heart and then pressed hers to his. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes and sat there.
For about ten minutes, she said nothing.
"It was..it was flawless." She whispered softly; smiling still. Something inside of her breaks.
"...But I didn't want you to bow by yourself. " And she doesn't know this feeling but it's in there.
"...Bye, Lelouch. Bye." She chokes.
She figures Lelouch would die on a night where the sunrise is more beautiful than ever.
He's beautiful as the sun goes out.
Kallen feels like she has failed.)
"Oh God--I.." Kallen chokes; her voice a strangled sound; constricted in her throat as she is suddenly gasping and gulping in air; Nunnally's hands nonexistent and the ground is a fable.
(All I can do is keep breathing...)
"Oh God--I...loved him..--" Kallen whispers; staring at her hands with half-crazed eyes and trembling palms that are filling with little puddles of water. There's water gushing out of her eyes and her entire body is shaking.
Her insides are ripping through her lungs and air--air--she needs air--
(All we can do is keep breathing..)
"Oh God...I...I loved him...I loved him...Oh.." She is screaming and whimpering; clawing at her hair and curling her nails against her sides and gasping and gasping and gasping.
"..I can't breath...I can't breath..!!" Kallen gasps; eyes stricken as she covers her face with half-spread fingers
(All I can do is keep breathing--!!)
"Breath, " A voice whispers; and Kallen wonders if it's him or Nunnally.
"...I can't..I loved him--I loved him..I can't breath--I didn't tell him--I didn't tell him--" Her lungs are about to explode as she heaves; and the voice whispers breath, over and over and over--
(All we can do is keep breathing. )
And takes in huge gulps of air. Heaving gulps.
Nunnally is smiling with tears streaming down her face.
Kallen cries between breaths.
She cries helplessly.
"...Oh god I loved him...I loved him so fucking much..so much...all this time--I..I never told him...he'll never know.."
Nunnally squeezes her hand again; crying with her.
"...You can tell him--" She whispers firmly; her voice soft and full of strength.
"We'll tell him together."
And they do.
(Two girls stand in front of the portrait of the hated Emperor Lelouch and whisper they love him through sobs and laughter. And Kallen breaks, and Kallen bleeds, and Kallen loves.
And they both breathe. )
Kallen reaches for the chain; her fingers trembling. She feels the feathered key in her hand and she presses it to her heart; where it throbs violently.
"...You miss me, " He tells her.
Kallen turns, fat tears rolling down her cheeks as she smiles.
"Yes Lelouch, " She croaks; and the pain in her heart is so terribly sweet. She breathes him in one breath at a time. And she lets it settle in. She lets it wash over her.
"I miss you."
Ghost Lelouch is beautiful and quiet and smiling. Just as he always was, but he had so many masks on back then.
"Get out there Kallen; this is for you too. " He says softly; and she shudders as his hand cups her cheek.
The charm against her throat is warm.
He's turning and walking out her door.
"L-Lelouch?" She whispers; her hand half-reaching.
He smiles at her.
"...I love you.." She whispers; and her voice cracks.
"I've always loved you." Kallen says softly; and she trembles a bit; lips shaking as she bites back a strangled sob.
"And...I will never stop missing you."
She chokes; and her heart is breaking
but it's breaking in such a beautiful way.
He smiles that knowing smile. That beautiful smile.
"..I know Kallen. I know. And that's why I want you to live on."
She has a feeling he's never really leaving her.
One day Kallen sits her mother on her bed and takes out the picture. She holds it to her face for a few minutes and smiles; eyes wet and her voice thick with love.
"...This is my classmate--his name is--.."
And Kallen can feel him smiling.
One more chance. Just one more.
I'll try living your share of life too.
For the both of us.
...Listen to "Keep Breathing" by Ingrid Michaelson.
And yes, most aren't KallenLelouch shippers here, I'm aware, but I felt like Kallen had a bit of trouble coping early on. I mean, hello, it was obvious she was in denial. That and she would have stayed, if she had known.
...I'm going to work on my Lulu tribute after I stop bawling my eyes out now. :D