Within the very center of Ashford Academy's community garden, a bridesmaid in an ugly, salmon-colored, beaded organza dress shook her head sadly at the Britannian taking wedding photos.

Kallen Kōzuki imagined that when the photographer received the message about dressing formally for a Japanese style wedding — that 'resourceful' Internet source about how to correctly fold a men's kimono forgot to mention that tucking the left while overlapping it with the right side meant dressing as a corpse.

So understandably, most of the Black Knights gave the deluded (without-being-fully-aware-of-it) man extremely dirty looks throughout most of the ceremony.

The 'corpse' man in the dove-gray kimono with tacky bamboo cane designs waved the staggering bride Viletta (flushing already a dark pink colour on top of the pink makeup on her mocha cheeks from the three or four healthy shots of sake before the reception) and the groom Oogi holding out his arm to steady her (smiling embarrassed but admiringly into her golden eyes) onto the grassy terrace. Scattering after them, the rest of the guests hunted down the eating tables.

A taller and more elaborately costumed figure remained hovering in the gardens, twisting the fresh stem of a richly blossomed rose between his black, latex fingers.

"Lord Zero?"

One of the men from the groom's side in a dark suit, hanging open to expose his pale-blue, fitting shirt and loosened tie, had locked his heads behind his head lazily and squinted his eyes at the solemn figure. "Anything wrong?" The other person still lingering between the gates with the man, the teenage redhead in the bridesmaid dress, smacked his arm, soundly.

"Leave him alone, Tamaki."

As Tamaki grunted at her — unhurriedly blending into the celebrating friends sipping on cheap champagne and roaring with laughter as the low woody belches of cellos, the shrieks of badly tuned violins drifting like drunken bees around the grounds — the girl dabbed her eyes with a plain handkerchief before moving forward to the figure.

Before she got too close to him, Zero addressed his question to her, the metallic rumbles of his voice modifier bringing back a sense of (—the early morning sun glinting sharply off of Lelouch's sword before vanishing into his ribsshining bright red ribbons of blood spewing over the matching vehicle-carpet and cleansing his immaculate Emperor robes with the real meaning of freedom)

…something wrong.

"Tell me, Kallen... why can roses be white?"

She stared critically at the bent rose clenched between his ring and middle finger; it was obviously a reddish color.

"Well, from what I know, they represent purity of heart and of soul—"

"—as well as humility, reverence, secrecy, and silence." The black caped savior interrupted. He held out its pedals to her with a familiar, graceful arch of his arm.

Beneath his glinting chess-piece mask (—caressed and stained with a delicate, blood handprint), Kallen would have guessed at that very moment in time that the eyes (—instead of a commanding and stunning violet color, a choking green forest) trapped within saw her not at all. Not really.

They merely observed the outside world as emptily as they would allow him.

"A single rose is simplistic. Its meaning is versatile to its bringer."

Kallen could not decide whether or not to reach with her taffeta, opera-length gloves, to stroke the pedals without the sensation of feeling them clumsily kissing fingertips.

"Is this rose red to you?" he asked her.

"It looks more burgundy or a purple color if you want to get specific."

After a pause, something to distill their separate thoughts, Zero mumbled, slowly drawing the item in towards him as the pitiless fingers in his left hand crushed the sepals of the rose, "…an unconscious beauty." The disconnected statement had been logical to him. Though lost on her.

She pushed a strand of her red hair behind her earlobe, fixing on a hard expression. "Why do you ask me these kinds of questions?"

"I killed Lelouch."

Her large, blue eyes widened as the tall costumed man said this decisively, brokenly. Suddenly, Kallen jerked forward, seizing his gloved hand and forcibly tangling her slender fingers into his, perceiving that beneath the latex his own human palm pulsated against hers wetting with fresh blood as the fat thorns of the rose clung to her flesh. His muscled arm touching her own arm began shaking violently.

"It's what he wanted… wasn't it… Suzaku…?"

It felt much more than a press for truth.

It had been a plea for her sanity, as well.

"…I don't want this Geass…"

As the thorns, he clung to her.



She could imagine it as clear as crystal — alone, he would return that dark evening from the wedding, to the dusty apartment outside the Shinjuku ghetto where he hid from the public. He would follow the same methods of removing the visage every night hereafter — ripping the cape from his shoulders with the audible sounds of the stitches rupturing, and dragging his fingernails down his body punishingly while removing the top of the costume.

Their new savior would shed his reptilian black skin for paled, scarred human weakness, and leave the famous mask. It would hit home against a full length mirror hooked to the back of an oak closet door to shatter the image of a dead, brunet man screaming into his hands.

And he would ignore the new warm tears on his face, tying his cotton yukata, covering the right on top of the left.




CG belongs to Sunrise and CLAMP. No profit for me. Inspired by the 'official' pictures of Viletta and Oogi's wedding. Kallen and 'Suzaku' deal with the aftermath. The purple (wait...why is it green now...THEY POISONED IT!) button says love me.