Disclaimer: I do not own Code Geass and if you try to sue me, you'll end up losing more money than you'll make, the exact amount of money you spent to sue me.
A/N: I'm kind of bad with summaries since I don't want to give too much away. This takes place some time in R2, not exactly sure when. A lot of characters are alive and Zero's identity has still not been revealed yet, that's about all there is to it. The first part focussed quite a lot on Tamaki and turned out a lot longer than I thought even though I never planned on Tamaki playing an important role in this at all. Anyways, enjoy!
The Winning Hand
"Take off the robe…" Tamaki lightly whispered as he tried to steady his camera as he looked into the bathroom of C.C. and Zero. Peeking through a small hole in the door, Tamaki cursed as the steam formed, slightly obstructing his view.
Normally, he wouldn't be caught dead trying to sneak a peek here. Well, he would be caught dead… after C.C. was done with him. However, this time was different. This time, Tamaki had destiny on his side.
Destiny would certainly never let any misfortune fall upon the rising star of the Black Knights, Shinichiro Tamaki. Yes, destiny was definitely at his side. Once he had his proof, he'll use it to show the rest of the Black Knights that they should never talk smack about Shinichiro Tamaki.
Yes… he could just imagine it now. He would make Ougi his apprentice and teach Ougi about his techniques of pursuing art as he took Ougi's virgin eyes to his favorite peeping holes. Kallen would be his backup as Tamaki took down the Knight of Rounds one by one with his Super Knightmare, which he'll name the Aero-Shinichiro Express MK II. He doesn't need a MK I, Guren never had a MK I that he was aware of, so why would he need one?
The sound of running water snapped Tamaki out of his thoughts and he quickly looked through his special peeping hole to find that his target was still adjusting the water for proper warmth and still hasn't gotten into the shower stall.
Tamaki eyed his victim's arms as they began moving, most likely undoing the robe. With a swift whip of the arm, the robe began to slide off, revealing a smooth flawless neck.
"Beautiful…" Tamaki hungrily devoured the sight before him. Tamaki was a man that took pride in his eyesight. In fact, he would always boast that he could figure out a woman's three sizes just by taking a glance from one angle.
Of course, his skeptical friends would always demand that he prove his claims, so he would always go up to the nearest girl and ask for her to stay still while he feels her up… just to double check.
None of the girls ever complied with his request and just hurriedly ran away, ignoring him. The lower Black Knights need more discipline. They never respect their superiors. Of course, that's what C.C. told him when he tried that on her and he ended up on the ground after she kicked him.
Tamaki could totally take C.C. down in a fight, but he was a gentleman, and gentlemen do not raise their hands against girls, no matter what the situation. Unless she was in a Knightmare, then Tamaki could just say he didn't know there was a female inside and his gentlemen's pride would be undamaged.
Anyways, despite the pain he had to endure, Tamaki did gain something from the time when C.C. brought him to the ground after he requested to doublecheck her three sizes. When C.C. turned away, Tamaki got a good look at the behind of her derriere. Having seen from both the front and back, Tamaki proudly proclaimed C.C.'s hip measurements.
He forgot the number that came out of his mouth, because C.C. dragged him to her room. Thinking that C.C. was impressed by his talents, Tamaki let his guard down and was pain promptly re-entered his body as C.C. slammed his head to her door multiple times until he got a concussion. Needless to say, Tamaki no longer remembered C.C.'s hip measurements and none of his friends that were in the room when he discovered it would tell him, fearing a similar fate.
Anyways, where was Tamaki? Ah yes, Tamaki was hungrily watching as the towel slowly came sliding off. Tamaki held in his gasp as a bare shoulder was exposed.
It was an extraordinarily cold day, in fact, it was snowing. However, Tamaki was inflamed by justice. Tamaki believed that clothes were unnatural. Of course, whenever he told Ougi, Toudou, or Diethard, they would always tell him to keep his clothes on. If humans were meant to have clothes, they would be born with it, but nature never gave humans clothes. Yes, Tamaki was carrying out nature's wishes by doing this.
Tamaki watched the falling robe, now revealing his mark's smooth and unblemished back. Tamki's heart rate increased as he continued to watch. During all the times he's peeked before, he's never seen such a sight before him. Only in his dreams did he see such a perfect figure before him.
However, Tamaki knew a relationship with his target was impossible. After all, Zero was his best bud, and what would be the reaction of all his Black Knight buddies? Besides, doing such a thing was against his gentlemen's code.
"Wait, STOP!" Tamaki watched in despair as his prey got into the shower. "Turn around! I need a perfect picture of your-" Tamaki saw his plans shatter before him. With one swift movement, his target flung the rest of the falling robe out and pulled the shower curtains, completely cutting off Tamaki's view.
"NOOOOOOOO!" Luckily, the running water covered Tamaki's dismay from his mark. However, someone else heard it. Behind him, the door to Zero and C.C.'s room slid open and the other owner of the bathroom walked out.
Tamaki was unaware of the other presence until… "Tamaki, what are you doing here?" Tamaki spun around to find the other owner of the bathroom gazing at him curiously. He gulped as he realized he had been exposed. Perhaps he can use his charms to salvage this situation.
"C.C., this isn't what it looks like." Tamaki stared into the unfaltering gold eyes as Zero continued to shower behind him, blissfully unaware that there were two figures just outside the bathroom.
Schneizel sighed as the snow began to gather outside. Winter brought back bad memories, memories of when Clovis discovered the activity in which he could best both Schneizel and Lelouch in. Of course, Schneizel was not a bad player by any means, but Clovis seemed to have an extraordinary talent.
Lelouch, on the other hand, was completely hopeless and overwhelmed by the game. However, his pride prevented him from giving up and Lelouch kept going. By the time Clovis was through, Lelouch's ego was severely deflated and everyone could see that.
Now, Schneizel shivered at the thought of snow, knowing that if he had not known when to give up, he would have lost his pride back then against Clovis just as Lelouch had. Schneizel took a deep breath as he tried to forget about those days and focus on the task at hand.
Lelouch was Zero, he was sure of it. However, he needed more than just proof. He'll need to unmask Zero in public and show everyone, no matter how dense they were, that he was right. Proof can be forged, but no one could question it if they saw Zero unmasked before their own very eyes. Of course, Schneizel had no idea how he would accomplish such a task.
"The reports are ready, Prince Schneizel." Lloyd and Cecile walked into the room with the usual reports and the reports about Black Knight activities. Schneizel wondered if trying to track down all the movements of the Order of the Black Knights really would one day provide an opening like he had hoped.
Schneizel read through all of it as Lloyd and Cecile excused themselves. Schneizel sighed. There was nothing in the report that he could use at all. Maybe all of this has just been a waste of time. Perhaps it was just a better idea to just fire the FLEIJA everywhere and then walk into the Black Knight base like he owned the place just like he first planned.
Schneizel moved his elbow and a piece of paper fell to the ground. Schneizel picked it up and identified it as the first report of the Black Knight activities he received after he decided to monitor their movements. The very first thing on the report was what caught his eye. Strange… he didn't remember seeing that on the latest report.
He reread the latest report, reread the first report, and then put the two of them next to each other. Schneizel looked out the window at the snow and thought about Clovis and Lelouch. After that, the image of Zero flashed through his mind.
Schneizel's mouth twisted into a smile as all his thoughts began to add up. "Victory is within my grasp, Zero. Now, all the cards are in my hands."
Tamaki was doing cleaning. As he tried to make up a story for C.C. as to why he needed to take pictures of Zero in the shower, Zero walked out with a towel around his waist and a mask on.
Zero was able to piece together most of it from the sight before him and promptly handed out Tamaki's verdict. With one sentence, Tamaki was stripped of his pay, right to ride a Knightmare, and all his privileges for a whole month. Now, Tamaki is merely a fallen angel that got its wings clipped before they were fully developed to fly.
"Is it just me or is it colder in here than usual?" A rookie Black Knight asked.
Damn C.C., trying to keep Tamaki away from his best bud. She probably masterminded the whole situation and manipulated Zero into believing that Tamaki was some kind of perverse stalker. Well, he had prepared a gift for Zero, which he put inside his pockets.
Once Zero has seen his present, surely he'll forgive Tamaki and make him his ace pilot over Kallen right away. As for where Zero was right now, he was in a meeting with all the other important members of the Black Knights, excluding Tamaki due to his temporary demotion.
Tamaki was appalled by the lack of sympathy that he received from his comrades. They must have all been jealous, jealous at what Tamaki could have become. Yes, that was it. They all saw this as an opportunity to stop him in his tracks before he became too powerful for them all to handle. They were afraid that Zero would realize that all he needed was Tamaki by his side and then they'd all be fired.
Well, Tamaki will prove to them that no matter what they did, they could not stop Tamaki's rise. From the depths of a janitor, Tamaki will rise again from the dust phoenix and surpass everyone to become Zero's favorite, even C.C. and Kallen.
The meeting room's door opened and Zero stepped out, followed by C.C. then Kallen. The rest of the Black Knights came out and Zero cleared his throat as everyone began to stand to the sides of Zero, making sure that Zero was in the middle, just like when he always made a big speech.
"My fellow Black Knights!" Zero opened his cape and dramatically pointed to the sky. "Blah blah blah blah blah blah justice. Blah blah blah blah blah blah change. Blah blah blah comrades blah."
Tamaki wasn't really paying attention to anything Zero said. He was too busy trying to catch Zero's attention. "PSSSTTT. Zeroooo!" Tamaki whispered. Well, that was his intention, but anyone could have heard him.
"Blah blah blah victory blah. Blah blah Knightmares blah blah. Strike blah blah for blah blah. Blah blah freedom blah blah." Zero continued on, trying his best to ignore Tamaki.
"Blah blah blah blah…" Zero began to lose his train of thought as Tamaki's voice began to grow louder and echo in his mind.
"ZEROOOOO!" Zero abruptly stopped his speech when he felt a quickly made paper airplane collide with his helmet.
Letting out a huge sigh at having his speech interrupted, Zero turned to Tamaki. "What is it, Tamaki?"
"I wanted to give you a present." Tamaki took something out of his pocket and handed it to Zero. Zero took a look at it to find something very thin wrapped with a red ribbon.
"Tamaki, now's not the best time." Zero hoped the exasperated look on his face would have clued Tamaki in, but then he remembered he was wearing a mask.
"It looks thin, maybe it's a bunch of Pizza Hut coupons." C.C. looked at Tamaki's gift.
"Well, aren't you going to open it, Zero?" Tamaki proclaimed proudly. Knowing that refusing wasn't going to get him anywhere, Zero decided to open it only to find a sheet of paper folded in half.
"It's a sheet of paper." Zero stated bluntly.
"It's much more than that." Tamaki said knowingly. "It's a ticket…"
"Ticket?" Annoyed or not, Zero was curious about what Tamaki was up to. He opened the folded piece of paper and read the barely legible message inside. "You get a free hug from Tamaki."
"…a ticket to my heart. As the snow continues to fall outside the Ikaragua, under the embrace of two best buds, fiery friendship is once again reborn and it shall warm up the souls of all the onlookers and send them to a blissful summer." Many Black Knights looked at Tamaki dumbfounded as the words left Tamaki's mouth. Tamaki then got on one knee and spread his arms out. "Now, Zero, come leap into my arms and receive your present!"
"Tamaki, you interrupt my speech to-" Before Zero could continue, the Ikaragua came to a screeching halt and all the lights turned off. "What the-!?"
Shortly after that, Laksharta came into the room. "What's going on? I was going over maintenance for the Guren when the power was suddenly cut off."
"It seems that the Ikaragua suddenly ran out of power…" Zero looked around. "This can't be Schneizel's doing… can it?"
"What makes you think that?" Tamaki asked his beloved leader.
"Tamaki, did you listen to anything that Zero said during his speech?" C.C. asked the red-haired Black Knight, fully knowing the answer to that.
"Well… uhh… I…"
"Schneizel sent me an invitation to a party they're holding at Area 11, celebrating the founding of the Knight of Rounds. He said that I could bring three companions and that he wanted me to be present so that we can once again 'match wits'." Zero briefly summarized.
"Well, then that's obviously a trap." Tamaki deduced after a few seconds of extreme detective work. He puffed his chest proudly.
"The problem is that traps usually have bait, but there's no bait for us to attend… until now." Zero went over to all the possibilities, trying to figure out Schneizel's plans.
"What do you mean until now?" Tamaki's tried to think what Zero could have meant by that, but only ended up hurting his brain and remained as clueless as ever.
"There's a high chance that Schneizel was the cause of the sudden power outage, so that means that Schneizel has some power over the Ikaragua." Laksharta explained to Tamaki as the gears in Tamaki's brains turned and finally connected.
"Oh… right. Well… we better go and teach Schneizel who's boss." Tamaki coughed a bit but everyone dismissed his sudden strange behaviour.
"We need to discover what kind of power Schneizel has over the Ikaragua. It looks like we have no choice but to attend Schneizel's party…" Zero turned to Laksharta. "What's our coordinates?"
"We're 50 km south of Britannia with no other land nearby." Laksharta announced. "We'll be stranded here now that the Ikaragua can't move."
"Which Knightmares are capable of making the journey?"
"The Guren, Vincent, and Tamaki's… grunt unit are all fully charged and should be able to make the journey."
"ALRIGHT!" Tamaki celebrated. "Now you have no other choice than to take me along!"
"Actually, anyone's capable of piloting your machine." Laksharta stated.
"Alright, in that case, C.C., Kallen, Rolo, the three of you will be coming. I'll go on the Vincent with Rolo while C.C. can take Tamaki's Knightmare." Zero gathered his three accomplices and prepared to get on the Knightmares, but almost tripped when he felt something tugging at his leg.
"PLEASE, ZERO! You have to take me with you!" Tamaki latched onto Zero's leg. "I'll do anything! Anything you ask! Just give me one more chance to prove myself!"
"Tamaki, just do your new duties for one more month and then we'll talk about it!" Zero tried to move, but Tamaki's grip remained strong and true.
"Well, I don't know… he could prove to be useful." C.C. considered. "If this does turn out to be a trap and they try to shoot us, we won't have to debate about who to use as a meatshield."
"That's right, I'll do anything!" Tamaki got up and turned to C.C. "I always thought that you were a witch, but it seems that you can understand my suffering." Tamaki threw his weight at C.C. to embrace her, but C.C. stepped aside and Tamaki crashed into the ground and was knocked unconscious.
"I can carry him with his own Knightmare." C.C. offered.
"That invitation did specify that there should only be three companions."
"Oh, that's right! Ms. Nu said that she needed my help with something. She said it would be urgent for Britannians. I completely forgot about that." Rolo remembered. "Well, I can still drop you off before I meet her."
"Alright, now that everything's settled, let's go."
"That's the plan, are we all clear on that?" Schneizel told the Knight of Rounds that were gathered before him.
"That seems rather straightforward, are you sure that will work on Zero?" Suzaku asked the prince, thinking the weather must have gotten to him to think up such a ridiculous plot to take care of such a serious matter.
"Do you doubt my abilities, Lord Kururugi?"
"Cheer up, Suzaku. Even if things don't go according to plan, it still sounds like fun! Besides imagine what would happen if this plan succeeds." Gino voiced his thoughts about the whole plan.
"I actually don't feel quite… relaxed going along with this plan. It just isn't how I imagined Zero would be taken down." Suzaku replied.
"Well, are you too scared to go through with this after all, Kururugi?" Luciano, the Knight of Ten, mocked his green-eyed fellow Knight. "Listen here, Kururugi, not only will I strip Zero of his anonymity, I shall also strip you down and wish that you never joined the Knight of Rounds.
"Well, anyways, for all we know, Zero might not even show up." The brown haired Knight of Round reminded everyone.
"Don't worry. I've already taken care of that." Schneizel's phone began to ring. "Hello? Ah, I see, I'll be there right away." Schneizel hung up. "Well, it seems that Zero's arrived. Let's go and greet them."
"Welcome, Zero." Lelouch gave his most menacing glare to his older half-brother. He didn't have to worry about manners since he was wearing a mask. Lelouch looked around to find that the three Knight of Rounds he met in Ashford were all present including a bunch of other Knight of Rounds that he couldn't identify.
"Schneizel, did you invite me here just so we can have our chess rematch?" Lelouch asked.
"Listen here, Britannian Prince, my buddy Zero is going to beat you no matter what kind of game you play with him. Whether it's brains or brawns, there's nothing Zero can't do!" Tamaki edged closer to Schneizel with every word until their noses were almost touching.
Kallen pulled her red-haired companion away from the prince before any of the Rounds could take action themselves. "Tamaki, you promised that you would at least try to behave yourself." Kallen whispered.
"As much as I want to, watching us play chess probably wouldn't interest many of our guests. Instead, we prepared a game with many more players in it." Schneizel curtly led the Black Knights inside.
Meanwhile, Lelouch was thinking of a plan. If only he can get Schneizel alone, then he can use his Geass to question how Schneizel managed to shut off all power to the Ikaragua.
"You're probably wondering why I was aware that the Ikaragua would have a power outage." Yeah, that's what he'll make Schneizel say after he used his Ge- wait, what? "Well, the truth is, I've been keeping track of all the Black Knight funds and I discovered that this month's electricity bill was unpaid."
"Yeah… about that. Listen, Zero, I think it's about time I came clean." Tamaki sheepishly managed to interrupt Lelouch before he could talk. "You see, while I was going to pay the electricity bill like you told me to, I met some rookies that seemed to be depressed, so I used the bill to cheer them up and show them that even when demoted, you can have a good time with Tamaki." Tamaki looked back and smiled. "However, now that I was honest, that means I did the right thing, right?"
"Tamaki, you put Zero and the rest of the Black Knights in danger just to have fun!?" Kallen nearly screeched at the red-haired Black Knight. "The Ikaragua can't move, the refrigeration isn't working, and all our companions are going to die because you can't do your job properly!"
"I said I was sorry… Oh wait, no I didn't."
"Don't worry, I've taken care of that and already paid the bill for you. I'll activate the power as long as all of you agree to participate in the event that I've set up, especially you, Zero." A gleam appeared in Schneizel's eyes and Lelouch couldn't help but think that he's seen that gleam somewhere before. Either way, Lelouch had a bad feeling about where this was headed.
"What kind of event are we talking about?" Lelouch ventured to ask.
"Why, I've been waiting for you to ask that." Schneizel smiled and Lelouch suddenly remembered where he's seen those eyes, against Clovis, when he defeated him. The next three syllables that left Schneizel's mouth confirmed Lelouch's fears. "Strip Poker."
Lelouch cursed at Clovis for being talented in such a game.
"S-S-Strip Poker!?" Kallen blushed a bit, completely taken back that someone that seemed so refined would ever let those two words slip from their mouth. Then, she imagined Lelouch trying his best to keep his helmet on as Schneizel and the Rounds clawed away at his clothes. She promptly turned around and tried to remove the image from her mind.
"Now, shall we get started, Zero? I'll explain the rules once we get seated."
After being lead to a separate room that's empty except for a mahogany table and exactly six chairs, Schneizel began to talk. "There will be exactly six players every round. Each player has to stay at least for three rounds and Zero's break can only last for three rounds. The six players get a hand of five cards each and they have the choice of discard a card to draw a new card from the deck. This can only be done with cards from the starting hand, of course. The two people with the worst hands will have to strip off one article of clothing. Oh, to make things even, we'll have three Black Knights on per round. Any observers that are interested in seeing this game are welcome to watch."
"I can't believe he's saying all of this with a straight face." Lelouch murmured softly to himself as Schneizel continued to explain the rules.
Schneizel explained the different types of poker hands before he clapped his hands together. "Now, are there any questions before we get started?"
"I don't see a deck." C.C. commented.
"Don't worry, that will be coming shortly. Now, let's choose the first six players. I'll go on, of course." Schneizel took a seat. After that, Suzaku and Anya decided to go as well. As for the Black Knights, it was decided that C.C., Zero, and Kallen all go because they did not want to see Tamaki naked.
Lelouch realized that for him, not only was his pride at stake, but he can lose a lot more than his clothes. If his mask comes off, then his identity will be revealed for the whole world to see.
"Here's the deck, Prince Schneizel." A blond female entered the room. From her attire, she was obviously a Knight of Round despite the fact that none of the Black Knights could identify her.
As Monica Kruszewski, the Knight of Twelve, laid down the deck onto the table, she noticed a pair of eyes were intently focused on her. After she set the cards down, she looked at the spiky-haired Black Knight that was eyeing her. "Can I help you?"
Tamaki muttered a few numbers.
"Those are your three sizes, correct?" Tamaki grinned. It took Monica a moment to go over the numbers again and realize that he was right.
"How did you-"
"OWW!" Tamaki screamed in pain as Kallen's elbow made contact with his ribcage. Despite the fact that he was standing up, the hit was enough to temporarily knock his breath out.
"Tamaki! Can't you at least try to act civil for once?" Kallen scolded, embarrassed that she's associated with the red-haired man.
"I am acting civil! I'm just showing the lady my talent. Hey there, babe, how about you leave the Knights of Rounds and do the horizontal tango with- OWWW!" Pain coursed through Tamaki once again as C.C.'s foot contacted Tamaki's with a loud crunch.
"Sorry about that." The green-haired witch said without a hint of sympathy. "That was intentional."
"Well, I guess I'll go and see how the others are doing." Monica left the room, leaving only the six players and two observers, Tamaki and Gino.
"Tamaki… I think it's better if you go outside and enjoy the party." Zero suggested.
"And miss this? No way! When my buddy Zero is in a struggle to choose between risking his clothes or identity, I'll be there to provide you the emotional support you need to win!" Tamaki wrapped his arms around Zero's neck and pointed to the door. "You know, on a normal day, I would have chased that girl out that door, but since you're here, Zero, I'm staying right here!"
"Yeah right, you just want to see girls taking off their clothes." Kallen muttered.
"What was that?" Tamaki asked innocently.
"Nothing." Kallen almost growled at him. Schneizel shuffled the cards and put them in the center.
"Would you like to cut the deck, Zero?" Schneizel offered as Lelouch did that, just in case Schneizel tried to cheat. "Now, let's begin."
Four minutes into the game, Suzaku realized something extremely important.
He sucked at poker. He's had to strip off one article of clothing every round and he's been on for four rounds. Sure, he could just get off right now, but he already decided that he would not stop playing until Zero also did. That was the strength of his resolve.
Thankfully, he managed to convince everyone his Knight of Round badge, his badge as Euphemia's knight, his wallet and the keys to Lancelot all count as articles of clothing. However, he was running out of things to toss before he actually had to start taking off his clothes.
Well, there was one thing that provided Suzaku some degree of satisfaction. Zero seemed to be just as bad at this game as he was. So far, Zero had to toss away the keys to Shinkirou, some kind of controller, and his gloves, one for each round. Zero was wearing his two piece suit instead of his extremely impractical one-piece suit.
Suzaku sighed as he looked as his hand. He had a pair of fives, a pair of sixes and a seven. Maybe if he tossed away his seven and his fives, he can get more sixes. However, he liked the number seven…
"I'll drop a six." Suzaku picked up a card and dealt it face up on the table, as to prevent cheating in case someone tried to discard a new card. It was an eight. Suzaku realized that he could go for a straight with this.
"I'll drop a five." Suzaku got a new card, this time it was a ten. "Damn it!"
After everyone else finished, it was time to see the cards.
"Triple Queen." C.C. laid down her cards on the table.
"Two pairs." Kallen was the next.
"Heart Flush." Schneizel laid down all his cards.
"Double Three." Anya showed her hand, certain that she had the lowest of them all.
"High Card Ten." Zero could have taken off his cape, but he liked the way it swished in the wind, so he took off the outer part of his suit instead. Thanks to Lelouch's fashion sense, the outfit he's wearing right now has plenty of separate articles so he can take his time removing them one at a time.
"High Card Ten." Suzaku searched his pockets. "Does this pen count as an article of clothing?" Suzaku asked as he took out a pen from his pocket that he just found.
"Oh come on! The badges, wallet, and keys were bad enough as it is, but a freaking pen!? If everyone thought like you, I'll never get to see any-" Tamaki stopped himself when he noticed Kallen and C.C. waiting for him to finish. "Nevermind, disregard what I said."
Suzaku, after hearing Tamaki, realizes that there was some truth behind those words. If he kept on trying to find ways to take off as little clothing as possible, then other people will as well and if that continues, Zero will never take off his mask.
"Very well. I'll take off my gloves." Suzaku announced. "Both my gloves." He emphasized as he took them off.
"Suzaku, do you have the same intentions as fire-head?" Anya asked curiously as she pointed at Tamaki. "You want to see-"
"What? NO! This is just to make sure that Zero is stopped in the most efficient way." Suzaku replied right away, cutting Anya off. If Suzaku put on the pressure by not trying to evade stripping, then he'll be able to argue with Zero if he tried to evade it.
Lelouch, sensing the danger that he was in and realizing that he needed to think of something and quickly, decided to risk the chance of seeing Tamaki naked. "Tamaki, fill in for me."
"Yes, Zero!" Tamaki proudly chimed. "Watch me, Zero! I will rob your enemies of their clothes!"
"I'd really prefer it if you didn't." Lelouch got up from his seat and gave it to Tamaki. "I think I'll see the situation outside for a bit."
"Bring back some pizza for me if you find any, Zero." C.C. bid as Lelouch left the room.
Seeing that Zero left, Suzaku decided to take a break as well. However, instead of leaving the room, Suzaku decided to become an observer so that he could see how other people played and perhaps come out next time with his clothing completely intact.
"Well, I guess I'll fill in for Suzaku."
"Not so fast, Weinberg!" The door was flung open as a thunder-haired Knight of Round entered. "I'll be the one taking Kururugi's place!" As he said this, the others noticed two figures behind him. They were two girls scantily dressed in purple.
"You're the best, Lord Bradley!" The two girls cheered him on.
"Looks like you brought your cheerleaders with you. Fine, I'll let you go instead if only to see you stripped of your confidence." Gino replied as Luciano took Suzaku's seat. The Knight of Ten looked at Kallen.
"So, you're the pilot of the Guren. I've always wanted to go up against you and it seems my wish has been fulfilled. Now, I'm an expert at Poker, though this is my first time the strip variety. Now, put up your weapons so I can take away what's most important to you!" Luciano ordered as he pointed at Kallen.
"My clothes?" Kallen wondered what the vampire-like Knight was referring to.
"Her dignity?" C.C. added.
"No, her- nevermind. Let's just play." After all the cards have been dealt and everyone was either satisfied with their hands or could not do anything about it, it was time to reveal their hands.
"Four of a kind!" Tamaki showed his hand to reveal that he did indeed have four different sevens.
"Wha-!? Tamaki's actually good at this game!?" Kallen looked at Tamaki's hand in shock.
"Are you really that surprised that he's good at something as pointless as this?" C.C. didn't seem that concerned. "Full house." She announced.
"Straight Flush." Luciano showed his hand. Suzaku almost twitched a bit seeing Luciano could get such a powerful hand on his first turn. "I've got plenty more where that came from!"
"Two pairs, higher pair king." Schneizel's hand.
"Triple Ten." Anya showed hers.
"Two pairs, higher pair four." Kallen sighed, realizing that she had the lowest hand. Just as she was about admit defeat, the action of one of the Knight of Rounds halted her. Just as she was about to comment, Gino beat her to it.
"Luciano, what are you doing?" In front of Gino, the Knight of Ten was completely topless and flexing while posing.
"That's right, ladies, take a picture. It will last a lot longer that way!"
"Oh, Lord Bradley! You're the best!" The Valkyrie Squad seemed ready to leap at Luciano if it wasn't for the people in the way and the fact that they needed to restrain themselves in front of the Second Prince, Schneizel.
"What else?" Luciano stated matter-of-factly. "I've won so I'm stripping."
"The two with the lowest hands are the ones that are supposed to strip." Kallen was baffled at the Knight of Ten's actions. How can someone be so stupid as to think stripping was a prize? "Idiot."
"Wha-!?" Luciano could have sworn he heard a record screech. "Then… how am I supposed to show off my awesome body?"
"You're not… and no one wants to see it." Kallen replied flatly as she averted her eyes from the topless man.
"Don't worry, Lord Bradley! We want to see your body!" Liliana and Marika, members of the Grausam Valkyrie Squadron tried to encourage Luciano.
"Well… I'm not putting it back on. It's on the ground and all dirty now." Luciano declared. "Anyways, let's go to the next round."
"But the losers still haven't-"
"I said let's go on to the next round!" Luciano repeated, cutting off Tamaki's protests. After everyone got their final hands, Luciano went first. "Four of a kind, king."
"Full house." Kallen showed her hand, relieved knowing there's no way she'll have to take off any articles of her clothing.
"It seems that luck wasn't on my side this round. Pair five." Schneizel wasn't fazed despite knowing that he probably lost this round.
"Straight." C.C. showed her hand.
"Two pairs, higher pair seven." Anya was the next to show her hand. Lastly, Tamai showed his.
"Four of a kind, Jack."
"Well, I guess this means that I'll have to take something off." Schneizel took off his ridiculously large overcoat. Everyone then stared at Anya.
"…but I don't want to take anything off…" Anya stared at Gino. "Please help me, Gino."
"Come on, rules are rules, girl. Something has to come off!" Tamaki declared and felt another jab from Kallen. "OW! What was that for?"
"She's only a child, Tamaki. At least try to hide the fact that you're a pervert." Kallen hissed at her companion. "You're making the Order of Black Knights seem like some kind of pedophile strip club."
"Very well, you know that I can't refuse a girl that asks like that, doing so would just be ungentlemanly!" Gino replied to Anya's cry for help. "I, as a Knight of Round and as a gentleman, shall take your spot." With one flick, Gino tossed his upper clothing away until he was topless just like Luciano.
"Lord Weinberg! We never knew you were such a gentleman!" The Valkyrie Squad commented and when Gino replied by winking at them, Liliana nearly swooned.
"Hey, you two are supposed to be my supporters!" Luciano commented.
"So, what did I miss?" The door opened and Zero walked in, carrying a paper plate with ten slices of pizza. He put it in front of C.C. "Got you one of each flavor."
"Hey, Zero buddy! I've been winning to help you, don't worry, just leave everything to Tamaki and there will be no more contestants left and then we'll go back to the Ikaragua and tell tales of how Zero and his best pal managed to single-handedly defeat all the Knight of Rounds!" Tamaki greeted Zero but he was ignored.
"This is the third round, you'll have to join after this." C.C. told him as she received her cards. Lelouch looked at her hand and saw four of a kind queen with an ace. After everyone else has changed their hand, Schneizel looked to C.C.
"Will you change your hand?"
"Sure, give me four more cards." C.C. said as she tossed away her four queens. Everyone was surprised when they saw the cards C.C. discarded.
"C.C., what are you trying to do?" C.C. didn't answer Lelouch's question as she picked up her new cards. None of them formed any combination at all.
"Top card King." C.C. announced first and she almost seemed satisfied, though it was hard to tell.
"Full house." Luciano showed his hand.
"Spade flush." Tamaki was the next to present his hand.
"Triple King." Anya showed her hand.
"Pair of Sixes." Kallen sighed, having gotten such a bad hand.
"Two pairs." Schneizel looked at C.C. and Kallen. "I guess you two have the lowest hands."
Without any further prompting, C.C. took off her sleeves and her Black Knight attire, leaving only her boots, white undershirt and skirt in tact. Lelouch blinked as C.C. took the plate of pizza and began eating. Tamaki whistled.
"You only had to remove one article of clothing." Zero reminded the green-haired Black Knight.
"I guess you're trying to compete against those two Knight of Rounds to see who can strip off the most clothing in one round." Kallen remarked.
"Actually, I just didn't want to worry about those clothes getting dirty as I enjoyed my pizza." C.C. gazed at Kallen with a knowing smirk. "There's no point in competing since you'll win, Ms. My-pilot-suit-is-only-one-article-of-clothing-and-I'm-not-wearing-anything-else."
"Wha-!?" Kallen looked down and realized she was wearing the pilot suit from when she piloted the Guren here and also realized that she wasn't wearing any other articles of clothing. "But… this isn't fair! The keys to Guren… I … left it in the Guren."
Kallen had never in her wildest dreams imagined that a room full of people would have to see her naked just because of a stupid game. Her innocence was about to be ruined all because she was forced into this game!
"It's all your fault!" Kallen punched Tamaki and he screamed. "If you didn't screw around and paid the damn bills, then I wouldn't be in this situation!" Kallen continued to punch Tamaki until she felt hands on her cheeks.
She looked up to find wide eyes. Well, those were actually her own eyes since she was staring at her own reflection on Zero's mask. "Calm down." Zero's hand began to trace upwards and Kallen felt her hair being lifted up.
"I believe this will suffice as an article." Zero put Kallen's red headband onto the table.
"That's right! I've been wearing that for so long, I completely forgot about it!" Kallen glared at C.C. and stuck her tongue out. "Looks that that plan failed."
"Your headband was obviously an article of clothing. I just figured you wouldn't have remembered that, and I was right." Kallen's face flushed as the words casually left C.C.'s mouth. She couldn't believe a woman could be so infuriating.
"Kallen, I've brought your Black Knight uniform." Zero got a bag and gave it to his ace pilot. You can go get changed while I take your place.
"Wait, you can't just put on more articles of clothing in the middle of Strip Poker!" Luciano interjected.
"I agree." Tamaki echoed.
"Well, it's hardly fair that one lost would cause her so much. Very well, I'll allow it in this case." Schneizel decreed and Kallen happily exited the room. "I'll have to take care of other business. I'll send someone to fill in for me."
"I'm feeling kind of tired, I'll stop for now as well." Schneizel left the room and Anya got off her seat. Suzaku took Anya's spot now that Zero has rejoined and a Knight of Round that looked suspiciously like a pirate came in.
When Lelouch took Kallen's seat, he noticed that C.C. was gazing at him curiously. "What is it?"
"This may not be my business to ask… but why did you have Kallen's Black Knight uniform with you?" C.C. asked innocently.
"Anyways, now that we have enough players let's begin." Zero skilfully ignored the question and the game continued.
Things were not going just as planned for Lelouch. No matter what, Poker was more a game of luck than anything and Lelouch could not control luck. He had thought maybe that if he brought C.C. her pizza and helped Kallen out, then karma would increase his chances of success.
Well, now that he was down to his shorts and mask, he realized that karma was a cruel mistress. Many rounds have passed. C.C. and Lelouch were too focussed on their own hands to notice that a certain Knight of One had the Geass and used it to see the future in order to identify the top cards of the deck.
The only other person that seemed to be having just as much luck as Lelouch was Suzaku, but Suzaku seemed to have quite a bit of clothing on, so despite the fact that he had just as many losses as Lelouch, he still had more clothes on.
Nothing eventful has happened. Tamaki returned and he was either drunk or got beat up after flirting with a girl. Needless to say, Tamaki began to have worse luck and began losing after that. C.C. remained untouched since her last loss, now deeming her apparel "appropriate for pizza-eating". Right now, Gino, Schneizel, Suzaku, Tamaki, Kallen, and Lelouch were all playing.
This round will decide everything. If Lelouch can't win now, then he'll have to either take off his mask or his shorts. He looked at his hand: Three of Spades, Seven of Spades, Eight of Hearts, King of Spades, and Two of Spades.
Deciding on his path, he decided to try and get a flush. "I'll discard my Eight." He drew his next card. It was a Two of Hearts.
After frantically trying to change his cards for a better hand, these were the results: Two of Spades, Two of Hearts, Queen of Spades, Jack of Diamonds and Three of Hearts. The others began to reveal their hands, but Lelouch was too busy staring at his hand.
"Full House." That's one thing higher than his.
"Triple Four." One more… just three more to go… someone has to have top card, and someone else needs to also have that.
"Two pairs." Things were looking grim…
"Double Three." At this point, Lelouch looked up. It was Suzaku's hand. Damn Suzaku, being so close but still beating him. Well, he may as well admit defeat right now…
"Two Triples!" Wait, what? Lelouch stared at Tamaki. He then stared at Tamaki's hands. Either C.C. didn't tell him about some side-effect to using the Geass or Tamaki has six cards in his hand.
"Shinichiro Tamaki, we're only supposed to have a total of five cards every round." Schneizel reminded him.
"Aw, don' be so serious, it's all-" Before Tamaki could finish his sentence, his head crashed into the table and he began to snore.
"I think he drank a bit too much alcohol outside." Gino noted.
"Well, seeing as something seemed to have gone really round this round, we'll exempt it and start again." Schneizel declared. Lelouch inwardly leapt for joy. He had been saved by a miracle. Perhaps karma decided to give him another chance.
C.C. tossed Tamaki to the floor and took over his spot as they got their starting hands.
After changing his hand a bit, Lelouch came up with a dead hand: Ace of Hearts, King of Diamonds, Three of Spades, Five of Clover, and Seven of Clover.
"That incident with Tamaki got me thinking, we didn't really set up any cheating countermeasures. Schneizel noted. Maybe we should get the observers to enforce the rules. Of course, now that Tamaki's knocked out, there are only three Black Knights left."
"In that case, I'll be the enforcer." The door opened and a hazel haired boy wearing the Ashford uniform walked in. "Ms. Nu sends her apologies for not being able to make it here and she sent me in her place."
"Well, we're glad to have you here, Rolo." Schneizel recognized the boy and Rolo walked behind the Black Knight members so that he could get a good view of all their cards.
Rolo leaned over Lelouch and picked up his Five of Clover.
"What is it?" Suzaku asked Rolo.
"No, nothing. Sorry about that, I just thought that you had two of the exact same aces." Rolo handed Lelouch back his cards.
What's he talking about? He only had one- Lelouch looked at his hand again and was dumbstruck. Now, he had three Aces and a pair. Lelouch stared at Rolo, then at his cards, then at Rolo again, then at C.C. Behind his mask, he smiled.
Suzaku frowned. Something was wrong. It was not the fact that he's now only in his boxers. It's not the fact that Anya is taking a bunch of pictures of him in his boxers. It's also not the fact that Gino and Anya kept on poking his bare back 'to feel the texture' as they both put it.
Alright, so maybe many things were wrong. However, the thing that was most wrong was how Zero suddenly began to win. "Why?" Suzaku nearly growled the question as he stared at Zero. "Why did you suddenly start winning!?"
"It's because…" Zero put his hand on the deck. "I believe in the cards."
"What?" Suzaku was dumbfounded by that answer.
"If you believe in the cards, they'll answer back. I've put my faith in the cards, and in return, they've decided to grant me victory." Zero explained as Suzaku blinked.
If that's the case, then Suzaku will just have to believe in the cards a lot harder than Zero ever had. Suzaku's had enough of losing, no matter what, he will win!
"It seems to be getting late. I guess we'll have to end the game." Schneizel declared. This game wasn't a complete loss. At least through this game, he was able to get more of a glimpse at Zero's personality.
"Wait! Give me one more chance." Suzaku pleaded. "Just one more round, me and Zero alone."
"Why would I agree to such a bargain?" Zero looked at Suzaku. "If you happen to win, then I'll have to risk taking off my mask and if I win… well, then I get nothing."
"Very well, what do you want?" Suzaku asked. Lelouch had to stop and think for a moment. What did he want? He needed a way to stop the Knight of Seven from getting in his way. Slowly, the answer came to him.
"Lancelot." Zero declared. "If I win, you'll give me Lancelot."
After considering the offer, Suzaku decided. "Fine."
"Wait, Suzaku, giving away your Knightmare isn't-"
"It's alright, Gino, I won't lose. I'm sure of it." Suzaku stared at his blond friend and Gino couldn't do anything but let his companion go along with it. Suzaku shuffled the deck and offered Zero to cut it.
"That won't be necessary." Suzaku drew his cards first. He believed in the cards. He can hear them, they told him that he'll win. He looked at his cards: Nine of Clover, Ten of Spades, Jack of Spades, Queen of Spades, and King of Spades. A Straight, not only that, but his hand was just one card short of a Straight Flush.
Zero drew his cards. After discarding some cards, Zero seemed satisfied with his hand. "Lord Kururugi, I'm confident in my victory. Destiny is on my side, that's why I'll reveal my hand to you right now. Four Sevens and a Nine."
Zero put his hand down and sure enough, those were his cards. However, Suzaku was more interested in the nine. Like he feared, that Nine was a Nine of Spades. The only way he can beat that is if he drew an Ace of Spades next.
Taking a deep breath, Suzaku put down his Nine of Clover and drew. "Cards, answer my call."
Suzaku didn't know it, but he would have drawn an Ace of Spades. That is… he would have drawn it had it not been for the intervention of Rolo and C.C. Thanks to those two, the Ace of Spades is now at the bottom of the deck.
Suzaku looked at his card. "Ace of Hearts." He sighed disappointedly.
"It seems that you were unable to draw the card you need, Lord Kururugi. I'll take the Lancelot now. Let this be a lesson to anyone who tries to oppose the Order of Black Knights. Justice is on our side, we cannot lose!" Zero turned to Suzaku. "Now, let me hear you admit defeat. The three syllables I want to hear from your mouth are 'I can't win!'"
Suzaku kept his head down as he turned his hand around. Finally deciding to speak, three syllables left his mouth: "Royal Flush."
Lelouch stared at Suzaku's hand: Ten of Hearts, Jack of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, King of Hearts, and Ace of Hearts. He looked at the pile of cards that Suzaku discarded. Suzaku discarded the other four cards he started with as Lelouch was talking.
"I-I-Impossible!" Lelouch stood stunned, unable to believe that he could lose like this. "How did you-"
"If you believe in your cards, then they'll answer back." Suzaku replied. "After I drew that Ace of Spades, it spoke to me. It told me to keep on drawing and with each draw, I would be one step closer to victory. Now, everyone here knows that you have no other choice. Remove that mask and show us your face!"
The Black Knight leader just stood there stunned, his hand shaking. Whether he was frozen from shock or lack of clothing, he would never know.
"Fine." Lelouch turned to the source of the voice and then saw C.C.'s hand on his helmet. She began to lift it off to reveal Zero's face. All eyes were focussed intently as the witch began to unmask the famous rebel leader.
Before Zero's nose was visible, C.C. flung whipped her other hand to throw Zero's discarded cape around herself and Zero.
"What's going on?" Suzaku kicked over the table and quickly pulled away the cape, but the two figures that were once enveloped by the garment were gone, leaving only a mask in their place. "They've disappeared."
Everyone checked the door but it was still closed. Schneizel took command. "They can't have gone far. Everyone search the area!"
"I think that's our cue to leave." Kallen dragged the unconscious Tamaki by the leg as the two remaining Black Knights left.
The next thing Lelouch knew, he was lying face down on something warm while his back was completely numb from all feeling, probably due to the cold. He couldn't see anything. His face was completely smothered by something soft and warm. Struggling to breath, he managed to talk. "Where am I?" The prince wheezed.
Wait, from the way his face was completely smothered, he must not be wearing his mask! Has he been captured by the Britannians and is now undergoing torture? "Quiet." C.C.'s voice commanded. Straining to lift his head and find the immortal, Lelouch discovered his head was being tightly clamped down.
"Any sign of Zero?" A distant voice called out.
"No, the snow's covered all the tracks." Footsteps were heard and there were no more footsteps, Lelouch felt his head becoming free as the grip loosened.
"Where are we?" Lelouch managed to ask one more time.
"Buried in the snow." C.C. replied. "When the coast is clear, we'll just get out and walk back to Ashford and then contact the Ikaragua from there. Ashford shouldn't be too far from here."
After waiting for a few minutes to make sure no one else was around, Lelouch tried to move his limbs. "I can't move, I think I'm completely frozen."
"Fine, I'll just carry you." C.C. decided. "By the way, you can get off me now, and I'm sure having your face buried in my chest is making it hard for you to move."
"Where's Lelouch?" Rivalz asked his fellow classmates, noticing his friend's absence.
"He got a cold. It seemed pretty bad when I visited him." Shirley informed her blue-haired friend. "He told me he was outside in the snow without enough clothing on. He should be smarter than that."
"Well, a lot of people became sick because of it." Rivalz commented, trying to cover up for his friend. "By the way, Suzaku's missing as well. Is he sick as well or does he have to attend to Knightly duties."
"He was here in the morning, but then I saw Gino and Anya dragging him off somewhere and haven't seen the three of them since." Milly recollected. "He seemed pretty healthy and he was putting up quite a resistance, so I don't think it's either."
Rivalz just shrugged and continued on with his life. Though secretly, he was jealous of the Knight of Round because the only explanation his mind could come up with was that Gino and Anya dragged Suzaku off to go to a secret date. If Rivalz was in that situation, he would gladly comply without putting up a fight. Rivalz sighed as he was forced to continue with his life as a student.
"Now, Mr. Kururugi, your friends told me that you have a problem. They tell me that you can hear cards." A man with a notebook spoke as Suzaku lied down on a shrink chair with Gino and Anya pinning him down.
"What!? I can't waste my time like this! Zero could be out there any minute. I demand as the Knight of Seven that you release me immediately!" Suzaku commanded.
"Suzaku, we're only trying to do what's best for you. Anya and I believe that you need help." Gino tried to calm his friend.
"Hearing voices in your head is usually the first sign of insanity." Anya added.
"Now, I'd like you two to release Mr. Kururugi so that he can sit up." Gino and Anya complied as the therapist laid down some cards on the table. "Now, can you hear anything from the cards."
Suzaku decided to just go along with it. There's no way that the crazy therapist can keep him in if he just said no. He leaned closer to the cards and quickly jumped away with a jolt. "AH!"
"What's wrong?" Gino asked concernedly for his friend.
"T-t-the Joker! It just winked at me!" Suzaku stuttered. The therapist shook his head and then scribbled something onto his notebook.
"This may take a bit longer than I thought." He noted as he forced Suzaku to lie back down on the chair. "Now, this problem may stem from your family. Do you get enough love at home?"
"I have more important things to do like this! I have to stop Zero! Schneizel told me that Zero was planning something big today!" Suzaku turned to Gino and Anya. "Come on, help me out here!"
"Sorry, Suzaku. Your own health comes before Zero. We'll just leave everything to the others. No matter what, we want you to know that your friends are by your side, isn't that right, Anya?" The pink-haired Knight of Round nodded in response to Gino as she took pictures of Suzaku strapped down to the shrink chair.
As it turned out, all of the planned Black Knight activities was halted for weeks because Zero lost the keys to the Shinkirou.
Well, this took me quite a while to do. Actually, most of it was finished within three days, but then after I started, I kept on getting distracted for weeks. This is what happens when it's snowing outside my apartment and I get bored so I watch clips of Yu-Gi-Oh on youtube. I wrote this in quite a rush, so there are probably plenty of mistakes, so feel free to point them out!
I know I made many characters OOC for the sake of my own amusement, don't hate me for it. D=
Anyways, this turned out a lot lengthier than I had expected, so read and review!