AUTHOR'S NOTE - So, yeah, this...took a long, long time to update, I know. I apologize to everyone who's been waiting for this fanfic to update. The last two months have been really, really hectic for me, so I barely had any time to dedicate to writing this chapter. Still, I wanted to give more time and thought to this particular chapter, because, for me, this was by far, the HARDEST to write. This is actually the fifth rewrite, and for the first time, I think it might actually turn out okay. I mean, I finished this chapter with a ridiculous grin on my face, so it might be readable, right?
But, whatever, right? Let's just get this show on the road, I'm sure you don't want to read this silly author's note, right? CHAPTER 4 of Eternity, entitled Truth, is here! In the 3rd chapter, it says that it was supposed to be entitled "Redemption," but I think the new title fits better. Anyways, read on, and thanks for coming.
CHAPTER 4 – TRUTH
Lelouch took a long, deep breath, as he stood before C.C's room's door. He tried to calm down, he wanted to calm down, but his heart was racing, his hands were shaking, his breathing was rapid and it felt like his knees were about to give. He clenched his fists tightly, hoping the pain would bring him to his senses.
Lelouch raised one hand to knock, but dropped it back to his side. It was no use.
He wanted to talk to her. He wanted to explain everything to her. He wanted to apologize.
"Damn it," Lelouch cursed, and slumped down on the floor, his back against the door.
After Lelouch revealed the end of the Zero Requiem to C.C, she pushed him away. Stumbling on his rear, he tried to reach for her, but she had already ran away, leaving him alone in the candlelit room he worked hard to prepare.
He couldn't say that he didn't anticipate this. He thought that he would be better prepared in case something like this happened...But, seeing her face...
He had never seen her wear a sad expression before...tears streaking down her cheeks, her eyes...God, her eyes...
It drained him. Made him feel weak, insignificant, stupid.
The eyes of a woman betrayed.
Lelouch cursed himself again, muttering under his breath. That was the last thing she wanted, and the last thing he would ever want to do to her. She had lived her entire life being betrayed again and again, suffering greatly with each betrayal. It tore him apart, thinking what she might have felt before he told her the truth.
That toast of hers...To a witch and demon, bound together by a strange fate...may their partnership last from now until the end of time.
She was a woman who has had enough of trusting people, only to be let down and betrayed at some point. She had lived her long, long life telling herself that she didn't need anyone else, that all she needed was herself, but in reality, it was only to mask her own loneliness. She would try to reach out whenever someone appeared to be trustworthy, but with each betrayal, she would only retreat deeper into her shell.
Trusting people less and less...feeling lonelier more and more.
Imagine living a life like that for nearly half a millennium.... Lelouch could not even begin to fathom what her life had been like. And now, after so long, when C.C finally entrusted herself to Lelouch...when she finally came out of that shell...
One way or another, he had to make amends.
There was no plan now. There were only Lelouch and his feelings.
He gripped his chest and breathed deeply. He hoped it would be enough.
"C.C. I know you're inside." Lelouch said aloud, hoping that his voice would be heard through the door.
He continued, "Please, can I talk to you?"
There was no reply.
"All right, then I'll do all the talking," he said.
Again, silence was the answer he received. He hoped that she was listening.
"The thing is...I don't know really know what to say. I thought I should apologize, but I know that's not what you wanted to hear. Everything that I might say to you might seem like another lie.
"But I won't lie...not to you. I told you, remember? You kept me honest, and I want to continue that."
Lelouch paused when he saw a shadow emerge from the end of the hallway. He waited for it to pass, and heaved a small sigh of relief when he saw that it was just a guard passing by.
Anyone would certainly find it odd to see the almighty Emperor of Britannia slumped against a door, looking rather defeated and humbled. He didn't want to have to explain himself, he didn't want to have to concentrate on anything else.
The only one he wanted to talk to right now was behind this locked door.
"So that's what I'll tell you. The truth. Everything I'll tell you from this point on is nothing but the truth. No lies, no half-truths, no sugar-coating. You deserve that much."
He listened through the door, waiting to hear some kind of signal that would indicate that she was listening or if she was even awake. After a few moments of waiting, no such sign came to Lelouch.
Still, he continued, hoping that his words would come through somehow.
"When I play Chess, I don't just consider the next few moves my opponent might make. For each and every piece, there is a different strategy involved and you have to integrate their strengths and weaknesses to form one greater plan. The same holds true for your opponent.
"That's why, when I play, I think ahead, not just a few steps...but all the way up to the end of the game. I should see how it will end, whether I win or lose."
He took a deep breath, paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. It was getting cold, and he shivered a bit, prompting him to rub his hands together.
"So...when I planned the Zero Requiem, from the day we left Kaminejima Island, almost three months ago...I knew, or rather, I had planned for my death since day one."
He stopped again to listen through the door. There was still no sound from inside, not even the sound of sheets rustling together. Lelouch had no idea what she was doing inside, or if she was listening to him at all, and it saddened him.
Still, he felt that he had to continue.
"In a sense, I succeeded in uniting this world. All of the previous issues, political, cultural, ethical, all those that divided each and every people of the world, I took all those walls down. But the world needed a reason why it should unite...and nothing could bring people closer together than a common enemy. I became that enemy, and not only that, I made sure that I would become the darkest, cruelest, most tyrannical being the world had ever seen. I made myself a symbol of the human potential turned to evil...
"I was the Demon King, as they would say under their breaths," Lelouch said, with a sad smile.
"In that sense, the people were united in their hatred, their spite, their anger towards me. They would try to fight back, but they would be foolish to do so, knowing their efforts to be futile. After all, not only did I possess the greatest military force in the world, but I had the single, most effective weapon, the best peacemaker: the FLEIJA. With a push of a button, entire cities could be wiped out within seconds...yes, I was truly at the top of the world, and I crushed all those who opposed me underfoot.
"The world would cry out for a savior, someone to deliver them from this madness...and who better to do so than the very symbol of rebellion itself, Zero? Yes, Zero would kill me, Zero would free this world from the clutches of the Demon King, from its neverending cycle of violence and bloodshed...and finally, with my death, the world will finally have its wish granted: A tomorrow."
Far into the night, the palace became colder and colder as every minute passed. Lelouch breathed on his hands, and rubbed them together. He placed his ear against the surface of the door and tried to listen to anything from inside. Still nothing. He was beginning to lose hope.
"So...the reason why I did all this tonight, the reason behind this plan..."
He took a long, deep breath. This was it. He felt his rapid heartbeat underneath his chest.
No lies, no sugarcoating, just the complete truth.
"I wanted to fulfill my end of the contract with you...to grant your one wish."
In a way, this was a means for Lelouch to not only reveal his true feelings to C.C, but to also come to terms with himself, to wrap up loose ends. Now that he thought about it, this was actually the second to the last step of the Zero Requiem. He had to finish everything he had to do before it was too late.
"And no, I don't think your wish is to die."
Lelouch smiled, memories of his time with C.C flowing in his mind. He had known her for only approximately two years, and he regarded those memories as invaluable to him. He said, "I hope I'm not overstepping my boundaries here, but, hear me out just a little longer.
"If I remember correctly, one Code bearer grants the power of the Geass upon a person, letting that person manifest incredible power. Mine was the power to invoke orders that cannot be disobeyed. My father's power was the ability to manipulate memories. My mother's was the power to transfer the user's consciousness to another body. Mao's was the power of telepathy. Rolo's..."
He paused, remembering his "little brother."
"Rolo's power was the ability to manipulate a person's perception of time. It all manifests differently, but in the end, for the Code bearer, a true Immortal, it only serves one purpose: Once the Geass reaches it full potential, he or she can end the Code bearer's life, but in return, that person becomes an Immortal, too, while losing his Geass."
Lelouch was no longer paying attention to his surroundings, nor did he bother trying to learn if C.C was listening or not. His thoughts flowed freely from his mouth, and he felt that the words that he imparted felt like weights being lifted from his shoulders.
"C.C....you could have passed on your Code to me any time after the Geass sigils appeared in both my eyes. I don't know how that's done, exactly, whether if it's by touch or by mere thought, but as far as I know...no, I believe that you've made no attempt to pass the Code to me. Also, you could've given it to Mao that last time: His Geass had also reached its full potential, and yet you did not."
He turned around to face the door, and placed his warm, open hand on the door's cold surface. He said, "I've seen the life you've lived and...it's...it's horrible. You've suffered greatly, bore so much pain, experienced so many tragedies. It's more than enough to experience these misfortunes in one lifetime, but you've lived far longer than that, suffered so much more because of that.
"You may have wished for death's embrace, to let it take you away from all these accumulated experiences, and still you won't pass on your Code. You may have your reasons, but that doesn't change the fact that you won't allow anyone else to suffer the same fate as you have, because once everything has gone and passed, all an immortal will have is herself...all she will ever have is loneliness."
For once the words got caught in his throat. He hesitated for a moment, wondered if the next few words were appropriate and would be enough to convey his message. He clenched his fist, and hoped for the best.
"You didn't want to die, because dying would mean letting someone else suffer in your place."
He turned around again and rested his back on the door. He hadn't heard anything from inside the room since he started, nothing to note any responses from C.C or to hint that she was at least listening. She might even be sleeping already, or might have left the room somehow.
Still, he wasn't over yet. He still had some things to say.
"But you still had one wish, the end of my contract to fulfill. You never did exactly say what it was, but I hope I had the right idea. That idea brought all these...plans for tonight to fruition.
"C.C...do you understand?"
"Do you understand why I did all this?"
"I thought...I thought that by doing this...I could show how much I ...how much I..."
Despite all the heartfelt words he had spoken today, he could still not bring himself to say these important ones. He didn't know if it was his pride that stopped him, or the fact that she might not be listening to him at all. He didn't know if it was because he wanted to say these words in her face or not. He cursed his weak will. After all this time, after everything the two of them had been through, he still could not come to terms with his own feelings.
But he had to say something.
He took another deep breath and said, "I thought this was the best way for me to fulfill my end of the contract."
Almost immediately he slapped himself. It sounded stupid, insincere, shallow. He racked his brain for another response, but came up empty. In addition, hearing nothing from C.C's side of the door only further disheartened him.
Finally giving up, deciding that he might as well try again tomorrow, he stood up, and started to walk away in couldn't decide whether or not C.C was angry at him, for this elaborate lie, or was just not there at all. He might have been talking to absolutely no one for the past hour or so. What added salt to the wound was that he knew that there was no way he could repeat what he said.
But before he could even exit the hallway, he heard the automatic sliding of a door behind him. He turned around, his heart suddenly racing in anticipation.
The door to C.C's room was finally open. But, she wasn't there by the threshold. He couldn't decide if he should feel like he finally opened the magic entrance to a cave of treasure, or like a mouse about to trigger a trap.
With his heart in his throat, he took another deep breath, and stepped inside her room.
The lights were switched off, but even then Lelouch could see the contents of the room, thanks to the moonlight shining through the windows. As always, it was as messy as ever, with clothes randomly scattered about. Open, but empty boxes of pizza were stacked in the corner. Some of these still smell fresh; he had no idea how she was able to have pizza delivered here...but then again, this IS C.C he was thinking about.
Her desk had various Cheese-kun collectibles, from miniature figurines and stickers to car accessories. He remembered seeing some of these on their getaway truck back in their time in China.
He couldn't help but wonder how many of these C.C had already collected over the past two years. Most of the time, though, he had to pay for her expenses with his money, so, unintentionally, he also became privy to each new introduction to C.C's collection. It all started with a sticker card that she had to fill up in order to obtain a toy, then, sooner or later, they were selling a whole toy line of Cheese-kuns. Of course, Lelouch wouldn't bother buying the stupid things for her, but C.C already memorized his credit card number by heart.
But right now, he didn't mind at all. He realized that C.C wasn't exactly the most sentimental person out there, and she barely kept any possessions. Perhaps, Lelouch thought, now that she found a home, she could try keeping some things for herself.
The thought only made Lelouch feel even worse, since sooner or later, the one C.C shared her "home" with was going away, never to return. She would have to be uprooted again...he shook his head, as if trying to physically remove the thought out of his head. He tried to concentrate on the collection again.
He noticed that the centerpiece of the whole collection, the huge Cheese-kun doll, the one that started it all, was nowhere to be seen among the toys. Of course, it could only mean one thing.
"You're not just going to stand there, right? Sit down, already."
She sat at the head of the bed, her arms around the Cheese-kun doll. She was hidden from the moonlight, but even in the darkness, Lelouch could see the distinct gleam of her emerald-colored hair. She watched him with lazy amber eyes as he sat down at the opposite end of the bed before setting her gaze back down on her doll.
Neither spoke for a while. Sitting on the end of the bed, Lelouch had his eyes cast down, hands closed around each other. He didn't know what to do in the situation, or what to say. It wasn't because he didn't know what to say, in fact, he had so much he wanted to speak of. He just didn't know what to talk about first. While he pondered, Lelouch could sense C.C's stillness. He could tell that C.C just sat there at the head of the bed, saying nothing, doing nothing. He wondered if she was waiting for him to say something, or even she was thinking what would be appropriate to say at a time like this.
After a moment that seemed like hours, C.C broke the silence. She said, "I heard, you know. Everything."
Lelouch was slightly startled, but as the words reached him, he replied, "Oh. You could've said something."
She replied, "I wanted to, but I didn't want to interrupt you."
Another moment of uncomfortable silence passed. Lelouch seemed hesitant to speak, and it occurred to him that that it was the same for C.C. He looked at her at the corner of his eyes and he could tell, by the way she tried to remain calm and still, that even she was trying to gather her thoughts, thinking of the proper things to say.
Lelouch couldn't blame her, really, after the bombshell he just dropped on her. He was surprised that she even let him inside her room. After all, he had kept her hidden from the truth about the end of the Zero Requiem, something that she had every right to know about. He could think of many excuses as to why he would hide it from her, but it all boiled down to one fact: He was afraid of how she might take it. That's why he hid it from her, but in the end, it raised her hopes about their fate together.
To a witch and demon, bound together by a strange fate...may their partnership last from now until the end of time.
Until the end of time, she said. It was unrealistic, but it was apparent about what she truly wanted: She wanted someone to be with her, to take away her loneliness.
He hated himself. She had hoped that he would be with her, that finally, after all this time, someone would end her seemingly eternal solitude...but in the end, he couldn't even grant her this one wish.
He was confident that the Zero Requiem would save the world...but couldn't he do something to save C.C?
"You've...you've made up your mind, haven't you?"
The silence had been disrupted. Lelouch looked at C.C, and she still retained the same position, but she had raised her head and was looking at him. Her amber-colored eyes appeared piercing, and under her gaze, Lelouch, ashamed, couldn't even bear to look back.
After a while, Lelouch nodded in reply.
"I...I see," she responded. She lowered her eyes again.
After a short while, C.C said, "I have to apologize." She surprised Lelouch, making him raise his head and look at her with questioning eyes. Why would SHE have to apologize, Lelouch thought. He was the one at fault here, he was the one who was hurting her.
She continued, "You've seen a rather...immature side of myself. I reacted foolishly, belittled your courage to choose this end. I know that you must have gone through some tough times."
"No...I'm the one who should apologize," he said, "I shouldn't have kept this from you."
"You had your reasons - "
He quickly interjected. "It isn't good enough. I meant it when I said that, with you, I could be true to myself, that I can lay down my mask, drop any facades I put up...I'm sorry."
"Then...I'll hold you to your word, then, Lelouch," C.C said, looking at him straight in the eyes. Lelouch couldn't look away, nor did he want to. He could predict what came next: C.C was going to test his "truthfulness" to her. He didn't mind; he wanted to prove that he meant every word that he said.
"The Zero Requiem. You told me that by dying, you would set the world free from the endless cycle of violence it is chained to, that finally, it would be able to obtain its 'tomorrow,' is that right?"
"Who is going to kill you?" Her voice was grim, impassive.
"Suzaku. He would do so wearing the mantle of Zero."
She nodded. "I... I see. I understand the impact of the 'symbol' of rebellion, Zero, taking down the target of the entire world's hatred, supposedly an invincible, untouchable demon. He would be hailed as a hero, the one who finally killed the Demon King and the one to put an end to his tyranny."
Lelouch nodded again.
"What about the prisoners?"
He replied, "I've made arrangements. They should be cleared of all charges, because, after all, they are the 'heroes,' the courageous rebels, who fought against me. The people would not stand to have them be executed."
"What about Schneizel? Won't he become a threat, take on a position of power again once you die?"
"I've put a Geass on him. He will serve Zero and only Zero...and that role will soon be played by Suzaku. He is, essentially, harmless now."
"N-Nunnally... Nunnally will be safe," he replied, rather weakly.
His lips curled into a sad, pained smile. "To be honest, I'd...I'd rather much prefer for my sister to return to life as a normal student again in Ashford, away from the influence of politics. But I can already see that she will be pulled into that world once again, if only to fix the wrongs that I've done."
"You're not going to tell her, are you?" C.C asked. Her voice was beginning to soften.
Lelouch shook his head. "No one except a very few select people must know. The plan would only succeed if and only if the world was liberated from the clutches from a cruel madman, not someone with...'ulterior motives.' No one must know that this...everything, is all part of the Zero Requiem."
Silence again. Lelouch felt drained, despite his willingness to divulge the details of his plan. It was as if a massive weight had been placed on his shoulders. He breathed slowly and deeply, trying to calm himself down. However, he couldn't stop the fear that was slowly creeping into him, like a snake slithering in his body, seemingly squeezing the very air from his body.
The fear of death.
"That's...that's sad," C.C said.
"W-What is?" He couldn't suppress the trembling in his voice.
"Don't you realize what you're about to do? Have you any idea what the consequences will be?" Lelouch could tell that there was a growing tone of agitation in her voice.
Finally reaching her breaking point, her patience at its end, she threw aside her Cheese-kun doll. Then, in an act that greatly surprised Lelouch, she approached him and grabbed his shoulders, turning him to face her. Her face so close to his that their breaths almost mingle, her eyes piercing his, with a voice that was infused with so much emotion, she spoke.
"You're going to kill yourself for the sake of saving the world, but even after you die, people will know nothing of what you truly intended. You're going to go down in history as the most reviled human being that ever walked on this Earth, and the sole example of what happens to evil if taken too far. Your name will be cursed, people would spit upon your grave, even if they let you have one!"
He already knew. He knew that this would be the result of his actions. He would be hated, yes, but the people would band together with this thought: nothing united people together more than a common enemy. With his assassination at the hands of Zero, people would know that not even the almighty Emperor could escape the unforgiving sword of justice.
"Don't you understand, Lelouch? You're going to die with no one to grieve for you! You're going to die a brutal, but lonely death! People will not want to bury you, they'd want to tear your corpse to shreds! Are you really okay with that?"
He knew. He was prepared for this ever since the day he created the Zero Requiem. But...
"Are you!?" C.C yelled.
"You and I are both aware of the consequences, but this plan will only work if I die a tyrant," he replied.
"That's not what I'm asking!"
"Answer me, Lelouch!"
Even Lelouch had his limits, and as C.C prodded him for a true answer to her question, anger began to rise from within him, and with it the words that he repressed, the words he wanted to say all along. In a fit of rage, he stood up and looked down on her, looking down on her with anguished eyes.
"Of course I don't like it! As much as I want to think that this is all for the best, the end result is still the same: I'm going to die! I thought I was prepared for this, I thought that I knew I had it coming, I thought I deserved it...but when it's knocking on your door, when it's only days away, I...
He couldn't continue. Whatever anger had fueled his mouth a while ago had all dissipated into nothing, and all that remained was a cold, crushing vise that seemingly squeezed the breath out of his lungs. The fear of his impending doom bore down on his body, and Lelouch found himself barely able to stand.
His legs quivered, his hands were cold and clammy. He did his best to keep himself steady, but even that seemed to rapidly drain him.
"I know...I'm not okay with it, but this is...this is just something I have to do," Lelouch replied, sitting back down.
"I told you before, right?" Lelouch said to her, his voice gradually calming down as he sat down beside C.C, "'The only ones who can kill are those who are prepared to be killed.' It's something I expected from a long, long time ago. It's just that...it feels different when you know when exactly it's finally going to happen."
"So...no decoys? No last-minute swap? No body doubles? Nothing?"
Smiling, Lelouch shook his head. She heaved a long, heavy sigh in reply.
"I have a request, though, if I may," Lelouch said.
Facing her, Lelouch took her hands in his. He was expecting some kind of reaction from C.C, like slapping his hands away or even just withdrawing her hands, but he was surprised when C.C did nothing of the sort. He noted that her hands were trembling, though, and he gently squeezed them as if in reassurance.
"Yes, a request. Will you hear me out?"
Lelouch cleared his throat, and said, "Please, don't forget about me."
"L-Lelouch?" She was visibly surprised by this.
"It's as you just said. I'm going to be remembered by the entire world as this...this power-hungry villain that enslaved the world, that much is true. No one will recognize the fact that this was all part of my plan, to grant the world the 'tomorrow' it rightfully deserves. But..."
He took a long, deep breath to calm himself, to stop his shaking. He continued, "You're right...I don't like it, but it's something that has to be done. This is the only way; I have to go down in history as the Devil King...but, if there's at least one person...no."
He gazed into C.C's eyes and said, "If you remember me for who I am, for what I've done...if you, my one true partner, remember me, not as Lelouch vi Britannia, but as Lelouch Lamperouge, I think...I think I can rest that much easier."
She was speechless, but C.C could tell that Lelouch was serious about this request. She knew what this entailed, though, she was fully aware of it. She would have to live with the knowledge that the most scorned man in the world was someone who gave his life for it, and that she'd have to keep this secret with her to the grave...
But she wasn't going to die, in fact, she couldn't die. She'd have to live with this secret for the rest of her immortal life...but that was not the problem.
She sighed. "You've always exceeded my expectations, each and every time. You do things I'd never thought you'd do, you won't do things I thought you will do. You're...well, I've never really met a man like you before."
"So I was told," he said, remembering their little moment together at the hanger, before it was interrupted by the Guren.
"This time, though...you actually met my expectations...even though I was hoping you won't."
Slowly, she raised her right hand, and to Lelouch's huge surprise, she was still wearing the ring he gave her. Even with the minimal light in the room, it shined brightly.
After a moment to collect herself, she said, "Lelouch, I've lived a long, long time. I've literally watched history unfold, sometimes, even took part in it. I've seen the consequences of the actions of prominent figures of history. I've seen the faces of so many people, heroes and villains alike, and have seen through their facades, deciphered their lies. Chalk it up to experience, but I believe I'm a good judge of character.
"I'll be honest with you, Lelouch," she said, "Two months ago, when you started talking about the Zero Requiem...I already had a feeling that it was going to end with you dying. It's just as you said, 'The only ones who can kill are those who are prepared to be killed.' As much as I wanted to not think about it...as much as I wanted it to end in another way...I couldn't deny this ugly premonition.
"But then...tonight happened...and I started to hope I was wrong."
"What do you mean?"
"I thought...I thought that maybe you were able to see something I didn't. I thought that you were able to think of something that I couldn't think of. I thought...you found a way for you to avoid dying and still fulfill your plans."
This was it, and all of a sudden, Lelouch was swarmed with so many feelings, he couldn't describe it. He felt anger towards himself, for letting her suffer like this. He felt disappointed that even though he thought he did, he might have neglected C.C's feelings after all. He felt sad for C.C, who looked like she was going to break with a single touch.
"I...hoped that you'd stay with me, no matter what."
As much as he wanted to comfort her, as much as he wanted to say the right words to soothe her pain, as hard as he racked his brain, searched his heart for the proper words, no words escaped from Lelouch's mouth. He couldn't even look at her anymore; the shame was too great, the disappointment from her too stinging.
She wished for her eternal loneliness to disappear, and thought that tonight, it was finally going to end. Through Lelouch's actions she began to hope, only to realize later on that it was all for naught, that it was foolish to even believe in it.
"Why did you do it?" She asked, her voice shaking so much, "Why put me through this? You must have known what I truly wished for, you must have had some kind of idea! Why raise my hopes, why let me...only to..."
She couldn't finish, as she tried to choke back her tears.
"I'm sorry," was all Lelouch could say at this point.
"Don't apologize, dammit...just...just answer the question."
He took a moment to reflect. There was no room for selfish pride here now. He believed that now, there should only be honesty, there should only be the truth. But, he was prepared now, he didn't feel the hesitation, he did not feel unsettled. With C.C at his side and ready to listen to him, he was prepared to reveal everything to her.
"I told you earlier, right? At the door? I said that I wanted to fulfill my end of the contract with you...but, that's not entirely true."
Again, he reached for her hand, and was pleased to see that C.C did not resist. He held it tenderly, and later C.C returned the gesture.
He said, "I wanted to tell you how...how I felt. I thought I should tell you before it was too late."
He took C.C's other hand, the one with the ring, held it up in the light. Even in the darkness, it gleamed brilliantly, like a solitary star. He continued, "I wanted this night to be special, not just for you, but for me, as well, because...well, after all, this could very well be the last night we'll ever spend together. It was never my intention to hurt your feelings, but I apologize just the same."
Lelouch lowered her hand, but C.C could tell that Lelouch's fingers were slightly shaking. She noticed that he was getting nervous. Still, he mustered his courage, and said, "It's just that...well, I thought it would be nice to have the proper stage....you know, a fitting setting, to tell you..."
He looked away. C.C could tell that he was getting rather embarrassed. Even with his long, black hair that framed his slender face, she noticed that his cheeks were flushed.
Even she could not help but feel that her own heartbeat was gradually becoming faster, her own cheeks becoming hot. She had a hundred ideas of what Lelouch might say now, but only one seemed to fit the situation, and the very thought of it sent her heart racing. She couldn't help but smile.
Without looking at her, but with a gentle squeeze of her hands, he said, "To tell you that I've...I've fallen for you."
She was speechless, despite herself. She was right, although it wasn't the exact same words she anticipated, but, as the words sank in, she couldn't give a proper reply right away.
Still, she couldn't help but feel so many things. She felt her breath stop, she felt light-headed, she felt her cheeks burn, all of a sudden she swerved her head away to look away, it felt like staring at him was an embarrassing task, but all in all, for the first time in a long time...
She willed herself to look at Lelouch, and was surprised to see that Lelouch had finally mustered the courage to look back at her. She saw his eyes.
His eyes, his face, which had become so accustomed to putting up a convincing facade for his lies, was laid bare. Now, his face was not Zero's, nor Emperor Lelouch vi Britannia's. Right now, his face was that of Lelouch Lamperouge's, his true self, the face he only wore in front of her, the face he could afford to use when he had enough of lies, when he wanted to speak the truth.
Years upon years of experience, and yet she had not felt like this in a long time.
She was happy.
"...Say something, will you?" Lelouch said, turning away again, blushing profusely.
"....That's...so corny," were the words that escaped C.C's lips.
"...Sorry," he replied.
"Why are you apologizing? I'm...I'm..."
She turned away, but Lelouch caught a glimpse of it before her emerald hair had the chance to hide her features.
Lelouch asked, "Are you crying?"
"Hell no! I'm not crying!" She adamantly replied, despite rubbing her face against her sleeves.
"Right," Lelouch said, dryly.
"It's true...I'm not..." and she found that she couldn't speak. Her throat hurt for some reason, and despite the many times she tried to dry her eyes, her tears still kept flowing.
Lelouch just smiled, decided that this was no time for words, and embraced her tightly.
He felt her body stiffen upon his embrace, and even felt a little resistance, but only moments later, her own arms clutched his chest, and she began to cry. Lelouch let her do so and quietly waited for her while gently stroking her hair, hoping his hands would be enough to soothe her.
She seemed so small, all of a sudden. The proud, selfish C.C who was prone to sarcasm and snappy remarks was crying loudly in his arms. This was a side to her that he was never privy to, being accustomed to the haughty witch he called her partner, but despite all that he was glad. He thought that this must be the release of half-a-millennium's worth of tears and pain, something she had never been able to do, unless it was with someone she trusted fully.
Her life, however, had made it difficult for her to trust anyone. The world she had been living in feared her, rejected her, even sought to selfishly use her, despite her own problems. She had probably kept all that pain, all that suffering inside her for so, so long, and had no one to share it or to talk about it with, until she reached the point that she decided that it was pointless.
She would never find anyone she could trust, she would never find anyone who would be with her. She thought she would never find anyone who would love her.
That was all she truly wanted, but she had given up hope.
Lelouch knew. The witch who gave him his amazing power, the immortal who thought she desired death, his partner who had been with him, supported him every step of the way, the woman who only wanted to be loved and love in return...everything about her, he had fully accepted.
He truly loved her, of his own free will, in accordance to his own feelings.
It took time, but she finally calmed down. The two of them had moved to the head of C.C's bed. With his back against the headboard, Lelouch still embraced C.C, a little less tightly now, while C.C was relaxed and laid her head on his chest, her hands gently touching, sometimes squeezing Lelouch's arms.
"You should hate me," she said, the first in a while.
"That's stupid," Lelouch replied, almost automatically.
"I told you before, you shouldn't blame yourself. Everything was my responsibility. All you did was show me the door, I was the one who opened it," he replied.
Then, he buried his face in her hair. He sighed heavily.
"If anything, it should be the other way around," Lelouch said.
"Why?" She asked.
"Because of my plans...I'd end up leaving you again," Lelouch replied, his embrace on C.C becoming tighter.
"It's something you have to do. I understand that now, and I respect that. I'd be spitting at your determination, and to be honest..." C.C paused.
"That one-track mind of yours...doing everything you can for one goal, striving to do everything you can to achieve it...that's you being you...I guess I like that about you."
Lelouch smiled. "You guess?"
"Don't make me take it back," she said, jokingly, pinching his arm.
"Ouch," Lelouch dryly said, and added, "Besides, this is...well, my redemption."
"My payment for the Geass, if you will. For all the lives I've taken...it's only fitting that Lelouch Vi Britannia...well..."
He took a deep breath. "I'm...I'm still afraid."
"I know," C.C said. She could feel his arms shake slightly. She moved slightly closer to him and squeezed his hand in reassurance.
"I'm not afraid of pain," Lelouch said, "I'm not afraid of what could happen afterwards; I've already prepared for the consequences of this one final act but...what I'm really afraid of is that..."
"I'll never forget you," C.C said, cutting him off.
"I'll never, ever forget you, no matter how long I live," C.C said.
"I don't care what the world thinks...I know that Lelouch Lamperouge is a hero. History might obscure the truth, no one might even remember this in a few more years, but I'll never forget that there was one man who gave everything he had to destroy the old, corrupt world and then rebuilt it into a brand new one, ready to face tomorrow and whatever it may bring."
"Then...I think I can breathe a little easier, now. Thank you," Lelouch replied, smiling.
She lowered her head, as she gripped his arms tightly. "I just wish..."
"I know...me, too."
They didn't need to say it, but they knew they both wished for the same thing: Time.
"What are you going to do, after this?" Lelouch asked.
"What do you mean?"
"After everything. After the Zero Requiem. What will you do?"
C.C paused for a moment, and then said, "I...I haven't given it much thought, yet. But, I'm sure about one thing: I'll go back there."
"'There?'" Lelouch tilted his head to the side.
"To where it all began for me. Where the gears of my life began to spin and turn...I think it's only time that I go back and...say good-bye. After that, who knows?"
"I see," Lelouch replied. He knew what she meant. As he patted her head as if in approval, he thought that she had to do this, if she had to be ready to face the world again with open arms.
"I'm kind of excited," C.C said.
"To see the world you're going to make...it'll be a lonely journey, but I'll be fine," C.C said, and then raised her hand. The ring glimmered beautifully.
She said, "You'll be there with me."
"It'll be...I'm sorry, I don't mean to depress you," she hastily apologized. But, even she could not deny that in only a few days, she would be alone again. Without Lelouch, without the one who loved her by her side, she would have no reason to stay here.
Lelouch then slowly released her from his embrace, and gently pushed her away from him.
"Lelouch?" She asked, turning towards him.
"I've got an idea. Why not make another contract? Something a bit more binding this time."
Lelouch moved towards the side of the bed. "A more long-lasting one. Think of it as....something to bring with you on your journey. Normally, it should be a little more formal, but given the time left..."
C.C was puzzled. "What are you talking ab - "
She couldn't finish her words, she found herself breathless as Lelouch stood in front of her, with a confident smile on his lips. He took her hands inside his...
And got down on one knee.
And then asked the question, the one question C.C never thought she would ever hear said to her in her lifetime, something she thought was impossible, since she believed the bearers of the Code and the Geass were destined to be condemned to isolation. It was a fantasy she thought was foolish to think about, it was something she regarded as mere human indulgences.
For something she thought was trivial and foolish, that one question brought tears to her eyes once again, brought her to her knees as well, and made her hug Lelouch so tightly that the man almost stumbled. She was laughing, she was crying, she didn't know what to do...but she was happy, far happier than she had ever been before.
"Well? What do you say?" Lelouch asked.
"...of course, you idiot!" C.C answered happily.
Indeed, with the little time they had left, Lelouch and C.C had no time to have an official ceremony. But the meaning, the emotions, and their intentions were true in every sense.
They didn't care that they didn't have a priest to officiate the wedding. They didn't mind that there was absolutely no one in the chapel to celebrate this day with them. They didn't forget that in only a few days, one of them was going to die.
But, that did not diminish their will to see this through. In fact, it might have only strengthened them. They had so little time together now, so they sought to make the most of every second they had, before it was too late.
For Lelouch and C.C., they were now husband and wife.
After the "ceremony," Lelouch and C.C simply embraced the other and danced a slow dance inside the chapel. There were no songs to accompany them, but the sound of their own heartbeats resounding together was music enough.
"Lelouch Lamperouge?" She asked, looking up. He looked back, and their eyes met.
"...I love you," she said, with ease.
Lelouch smiled and embraced her tightly. Putting his lips near her ears, she said, "I love you too..."
And then whispered her true name, with all the care he could put into words, with all the concern he could draw from his heart, with all the love he had for her. He rarely said it before, knowing how sensitive and important it was to her, but he felt that he could say it freely now.
"Well? How was it?" Lelouch asked.
"It was bad...utterly bad. Your pronunciation was awful as well," C.C replied, grinning.
"I feel like I've heard this conversation before," Lelouch said, with a smile.
"But, your last name added to mine...it feels...well, right," she added.
"So I passed?" Lelouch asked.
"You're quite the selfish woman," Lelouch said.
"Of course. That's because...I'm your wife," C.C replied, then buried her face in his chest once again, resuming the dance.
For Lelouch, it was a feeling that gave him strength and the courage to see to his last moments with his back straight, his head raised high. He felt that he had nothing holding him back now, and despite the fact that he was only going to be with his wife for only a few more days, he had the feeling that he did that all he could and he had said the things he needed to say. He was confident that this world he was going to create upon his death would take care of her in his stead.
For C.C., even though she was still in her husband's arms, she already felt a little lonely. It was because the feeling of his touch, the sound of his voice was only going to stay with her for only a few more days, and then, he would be lost forever. Her memories with him, though, would never fade, no matter how many years she was going to live beyond today. She would never forget that there was one man who loved her for who she was, and that he loved her of his own will. She would never forget that she also fell in love, and the memory of her happiness during that time would stay with her for as long as possible.
She knew that she wouldn't be as happy as she could have been if Lelouch would survive and that gradually, Lelouch would soon become a memory amongst the many memories she accumulated and would accumulate. But for his sake, she was going to try to live a good life, as happily as possible.
She promised to herself to try to live in the world her husband would sacrifice his life for to create.
NEXT CHAPTER – Life and Death
Author's Note - If you've made it all the way here, then you noticed that this was much, much longer, than the third. Anyways, thanks again for reading, and sorry for the long wait. Anyways, about the next chapter, I'm sorry again, but I might not be able to give you guys a definite timeframe this time. I said last time that it might only take weeks, and then I took two months. XD Things have been really crazy with my life lately, so without divulging too much, let's just say the my life is a jolly, unpredictable mess right now. XD Next chapter will be much shorter, though, and then there's the epilogue to finish things.
Anyways, thanks again for reading, and hope to see you guys in the next chapter, hopefully sometime soon.