Hi guys! Sorry about the long long wait. My thanks to Grendelity and Yinake for the edits! (Oh, and I'm sure Charis was in there sometime too :)You can thank all these wonderful people for making Primary Gain 9 possible.

And without further ado...

The casino was strange during the day. In the evenings it was full of noise and laughter, joy and sorrow, sex and money, but when all that was gone it became something else, perhaps a little less elegant but mostly quiet, like an empty church. Suzaku's accompanying knights would have eased the tension, but there were no knights, only Clovis half asleep on a poker table and the bartender washing glasses.

"It's only me," Suzaku murmured as Clovis startled awake, his blue eyes still glazed with drink.

"Only you," Clovis groaned, giving Suzaku a disbelieving look. "You are the most annoying being on the face of the earth, Seven…only you. Ha."

"Yes, your highness." Suzaku had to smile just a little. Clovis was in his own way charismatic. "Have you considered what we spoke about last night?"

"Of course I've considered it, you great fool." He took a drink and grimaced before slouching back in his seat. "Just tell me. Was it His Majesty or His Majesty's Secretary who gave you the order?"

Suzaku pretended to contemplate his answer before smiling earnestly. "It was His Majesty's plan, of course, but it was VV who gave the order to Schneizel who gave the order to Maldini who-"

"Gave the order to you to give to me." Clovis made a face. "Yes, Seven. I get the idea. Did any of those many sources give you any idea why I was the one picked for this ridiculous charade?"

For once Suzaku didn't have to lie or smile.

"I suggested that you would be the best man for the job." Suzaku got in a little closer and leaned into the edge of the table. "Clearly, you're bored out of your mind and I thought that you might enjoy a little intrigue."

For the first time Clovis made true eye contact and his hatred was a startling thing.

"If you think you're doing me some kind of favor-"

"I think I chose the best man for the job, my prince." Suzaku immediately knelt down to show the back of his neck, his obedience. "I did not grow up as a Britannian but I am loyal to my master. This was not a decision made lightly, Prince Clovis."

The bartender cleaned his glasses, Clovis sipped from his own, and Suzaku's knees were beginning to ache when Clovis finally sighed airily.

"Fine. I'll do it." Suzaku looked up just in time to see him smile, lazy but with a smirk that looked like something new. Clovis laughed then, and, as if talking to himself, he muttered, "I'll go over to the FBI."

He would have liked to be back sooner, but it was already eight in the morning by the time Suzaku returned to the sleepy little street that had become his home. After a few stops and a few more Hail Marys, Suzaku crept up to the bedroom, his heart pounding hard as he grinned and held his apology close to his chest. The door opened with a small creak, but the lump under the covers of the bed didn't so much as twitch. Lelouch was still sound asleep when Suzaku toed off his boots and crawled to his side to get closer.

Suzaku's whole body was thrumming in excitement as he stared down at Lelouch's sleeping face.

"Lelouch," Suzaku whispered, using his free hand to brush the curve of the man's cheek. "Lelouch, wake up."

Violet eyes opened into sleepy slits, blinking languidly.

Suzaku grinned. "I brought you a present."

"Hmmm?" Lelouch was adorable when he was still mostly asleep, calm and pliant. "What?"

"Because I'm so late," Suzaku explained, scooting a little closer and trying not to wince when said present made another show of displeasure through a firm bite. "Ow."

"Ow?" Lelouch rubbed his face and rolled to his side, leaning on one arm. "Suzaku, what is that?"

Suzaku's excitement finally broke through his need to prolong the surprise.

"A kitten!" Suzaku's grin was wide. "I found him in a box when I stopped at a red light. He was the last one!"

"A kitten." Lelouch's voice took on a flat, even tenor. "That you found on the side of the road…is it alive, at least?"

"Of course-!" Suzaku grabbed the squirmy thing with both hands and presented him in all his glory. The little thing finally went still as it dangled in front of Lelouch's face and the two of them stared at each other with expressions so similar that Suzaku wanted to laugh.

"I even gave him a quick bath outside." Suzaku dropped it onto Lelouch's chest. They continued to stare questioningly and Suzaku could only think they were both adorable with their wild, mussed hair. "Don't mind him if he tries to bite…he didn't seem to like the motorcycle ride much."

"So, let me get this straight." Lelouch reached out and stroked a finger over the flat of the kitten's head. "You grabbed a cold, hungry, abandoned kitten out of a box, and took it on the freeway…stuffed down your coat?"

Suzaku nodded and the kitten moved tentatively into Lelouch's touch. It seemed to be soothed by his voice, and probably his warmth, since it was still a little damp.

"And then you proceeded to douse it in cold water for its trouble." As the cat burrowed into his chest, Lelouch finally looked at Suzaku. "All while thinking of me."

Lelouch's tenor dipped dramatically, and Suzaku failed to contain his next wince at the verbal bite.


Lelouch gave a long sigh and slumped back onto his pillow, staring at the ceiling with wide eyes as he murmured in a wondering tone, "I can't decide whether to kiss you or have you arrested."

"…His name is Arthur?" Suzaku took a chance and scooted a little closer. "Isn't he soft?"

"Yes, Suzaku." Lelouch sighed deeply and scratched the kitten on the head. "He's very soft. Now come here."

Suzaku leaned forward, trying not to grimace as he imagined what Lelouch might-

Lelouch kissed him softly on the lips, working a small smile into the caress as he ran the tips of his fingers down Suzaku's chest.

"He's very cute," Lelouch whispered. "You're off the hook for keeping the bed warm at the very least."

"Oh, great." Suzaku smiled. "Mission acco- Ow!"

Suzaku listened to Lelouch laugh all the way to the shower.

Suzaku walked by a mug of cold tea sitting on the reception desk and understood that he was about to have a very bad day. Maldini was already in the office, looking slightly pained as he stood off to the side, holding a clipboard to his chest while Schneizel gave his attention to the man cowering next to the doorway.

"Seven." Schneizel had his gun in hand, the white gloves of his fingers stained red at the tips and knuckles. "Welcome."

Suzaku knew better than to reply, instead shying away to where Kanon gave him an expression of longsuffering as the man at Schneizel's feet was kicked in the ribs again.

"I'm sorry for the interruption," Schneizel said, switching the safety off of his gun. "Seven oftentimes likes to gallivant instead of meeting his scheduled appointment times. Don't you, Seven?"

"Uh, yeah." Suzaku looked down at the man with a little pity, wondering what the hell he could have done that Schneizel would beat him in the office. "I don't mind a good, um, gallivant…every once in a while."

"What else do you like to do, Seven?" Schneizel's lips twitched into an unkind smirk as he gave another good, bone-wrenching kick. The man stayed down, but rolled over to groan a little, coughing up blood until Schneizel diverted his attention with the tip of his boot. His eyes were huge, his mouth tinged with red, and Suzaku could only be grateful that he wasn't the one desperately trying to crawl towards the door right now.

Suzaku cleared his throat, scratched the back of his neck and settled on, "Y'know. Stuff."

"Suzaku doesn't look like much, but he certainly has a way with words, doesn't he? Stuff, indeed. Perhaps that could be the subject of Diethard's next article," Schneizel suggested coolly, never once diverting his stare. "I like it much better than the previous incarnation, don't you?"

Schneizel's gun hand twitched and the man stuttered, "Y-yes. Of course. Stuff."

"That's what I thought." Schneizel put his gun away and stepped back with a smile that made even Kanon shiver a little. "Just remember, Mr. Reid, that if we meet again our conversation will be much shorter. I am a busy man, after all. Kanon."

Kanon smiled, but a little more gingerly as he waited for the reporter to rise to his feet. The man was shaky and hunched over, but at least he was alive, and Suzaku didn't have to stretch his imagination to know that he was happy enough about that little fact to do absolutely everything Schneizel had implied. The two of them disappeared behind a softly shut door and Suzaku found himself standing silent as Schneizel checked his call log, his e-mail, and had a conversation with Kanon over the intercom that seemed to be about getting a new cup of tea but was probably code for 'meet me in the bathroom with your pants down'.

It had been a quick lesson to learn that Schneizel saying he could 'come in' didn't mean that Suzaku really ought to.

"My apologies for using you as a tool in front of the help," Schneizel finally murmured, pulling a packet from the top of his pile. "What is your next step, Knight?"

"I need an excuse for turning on Lelouch," Suzaku sighed, wishing he could start the day again. "After giving me so many opportunities already, it's going to take a miracle-"

"I want to fuck you," Schneizel said, jotting a note down in pencil.

Suzaku knew it was yet another game but he blushed anyways with a scandalized, "Pardon?"

"Tell them that I want to fuck you." Schneizel sighed, sounding annoyed. "I'm sure Todoh will be suitably horrified and you'll stutter through the whole confession like a fool, which I'm sure will somehow prove to be convincing."

Remembering his own vehement pleas that Todoh not engage with Schneizel, Suzaku figured that it would be a little, well, effortless to soothe their inevitable suspicion. Suzaku wouldn't even have to fake being terrified of Schneizel attempting to-


One hand bracing his chin and a slick, soft smile on his lips, Schneizel practically purred as he said, "The best lies always have the hint of the truth, after all."

Suzaku's mouth went dry as he took a sharp step back, his blush going pale with horror as Schneizel simply stared, with his cold eyes and an expression Suzaku had only ever once seen in a recording.

A few more seconds of the barrage and Suzaku would have been through the door, never to come back, but an even more familiar expression crossed Schneizel's face as he drawled, "But I find myself adverse to…what is called? Ah yes. 'Sloppy seconds' isn't a very attractive moniker, is it, Knight of Zero?"

"My apologies, Your Highness." Suzaku's embarrassment came back full force, shored up by helpless rage. "But I find it my duty to inform you that you're a goddamned son of a-"

"Tea!" Kanon looked a little haggard, and for the barest of moments, Suzaku felt guilty for all the times Kanon had saved them both from bullet wounds. Schneizel's hand was already moving towards his automatic and Suzaku's hands were fisted, his body ready to pounce when Kanon smiled benevolently and pressed a mug of hot chocolate in Suzaku's reluctant fist. Suzaku had said he would follow Schneizel, he hadn't said he would put up with the man's constant needling, his constant badgering.

It wasn't Suzaku's fault that the man had lost Lelouch, and it would be so easy for Suzaku to point out that Schneizel had it coming-

But that would be just mean. And if Suzaku was anything, he wasn't mean to men with open wounds on their hearts. Suzaku wanted to say 'tormenting me won't make you feel any better,' but Schneizel wasn't an ordinary man and the platitude would certainly ring false when Schneizel obviously took great comfort in Suzaku's misery.

Suzaku sulked and watched Kanon pour Schneizel tea from an elaborate set of porcelain cups and tea pot. Kanon went about his task with a guileless smile and Schneizel was watching him intently the whole while, looking as if he wanted to split him down the middle and inspect all the bloody parts inside like a priest on the altar. Kanon looked at him like that too, as if Schneizel was some sort of salvation to him. That attitude was probably the only thing that gave Kanon so much leeway. Suzaku had the feeling that if anyone else had walked into the room Schneizel would simply have claimed friendly fire and kept going for his weapon.

When Kanon was finally gone, Suzaku leaned against the wall, sipping carefully, while Schneizel ignored his own steaming cup.

"If I make a deal for Lelouch's immunity-"

"They will expect that, but it could become an obstacle if you still intend on bringing in that woman." Schneizel finally put his pen down to stare at the tea as if he could divine something from the inside. He murmured, "Call Kanon immediately if plan A actually goes through with it."

Suzaku felt a little sick when he thought of Kallen's smile and said, "Okay. And when she has been secured, what then?"

"They'll have a new pawn." Schneizel had an indulgent air as he sipped his tea. "But a pawn is no match for a queen."

Suzaku sighed and reminded himself that guessing Schneizel's intentions usually ended up with false answers and a headache that made Lelouch frown in concern.

"A knight will not be needed," Schneizel added with a sneer. "Go off and chase windmills, Knight of Nothing. I'm done with you until then."

Suzaku, no matter what he might want to do, could only bow shortly, hate the man with every fiber of his being, and go off to do as he was told.

By the end of the day, Suzaku felt like he had been chasing his own tail; dog-tired and weary as he staggered across the front room and collapsed on the couch like a fainting maiden, relieved beyond telling when all Lelouch did was give him a curious glance before he switched off the cable.

"A long day," Lelouch murmured. His fingers caressed Suzaku's cheek, warm and soft, and Suzaku couldn't help but smile even when Lelouch asked, "Would you like to go to bed early?"

Lelouch looked a little tired, but happy, and Suzaku could only whisper, "Anything for you, Lelouch."

Lelouch's smile was indulgent, but he ran his fingers through Suzaku's hair and then kissed him softly before returning a weary expression that seemed to slip cynicism straight into Suzaku's heart. It seemed to say, 'someday you will know better' and Suzaku found himself despairing, if only for a moment.

But then Lelouch kissed him, passionately, and everything was okay again.


At least for a little while. A sharp sting brought Suzaku back to his senses and Lelouch smiled as a cute puff of gray fur and blue eyes made itself known with a very much not cute bite.

"He's been fine all day." Lelouch smiled. "It seems that someone holds a grudge."

"What? For the bath?" Suzaku yanked his hand away. Arthur crouched back to where he had been curled up over Lelouch's shoulder and glared.

"Don't you look at me like that." Suzaku could glower, too. "I'll bite you back!"

"Now, now. None of that." Lelouch reached for his hand and brought it up to his lips. The kiss was so light that Suzaku could barely feel it. "See, all better."

"I think it might need another."

"Is that your medical opinion?" Lelouch asked, but then pulled Suzaku's hand close and kissed the bite again despite the tone in his voice. "You deserve it, you know…for leaving me here alone."

"Oh." Suzaku stomach dropped as he remembered what he had been doing. "I'm sorry, I-"

Lelouch's expression changed, too. First a flash of panic, then of sorrow, and then resignation…

"Suzaku, I was just joking." Lelouch gestured with the hand that wasn't holding Suzaku's until Suzaku's attention was directed to the front room. "A trip to the pet store was hardly a feat. Though it would have been nice for you to be there."

Lelouch kissed his hand again, suddenly playful with bright eyes. He seemed satisfied when Suzaku finally took in the cat toys, litter box, and various accoutrements. The entire room had been transformed into a little kitty haven.

"Arthur is so cute that he makes women want to give me their phone numbers. A little back-up would have made the ensuing conversations much less awkward."

Suzaku tilted his head and grinned.

"You're not gay, you just think I'm ugly," Lelouch mimed in falsetto, scrunching his face in mockery. "You're a terrible liar!"

Suzaku burst out laughing so hard that he scared the cat.

"Or…" And Lelouch looked like he wanted to laugh too, his voice thick. "Oh. Right. I guess I should have known with that shirt."

Lelouch looked down, playing with the collar of his lavender long-sleeved shirt. The lines were crisp and proper, looking as if he could slip on a tie and walk out to work…or unbutton it and go somewhere else entirely.

Suzaku licked his lips, watching Lelouch scowl down at his front.

"I don't see anything wrong with what I'm wearing." Lelouch tightened his hold on Suzaku's hand. "It's fashionable, not-"

"You're lovely."

And Suzaku kissed Lelouch breathless until they were horizontal on the couch and completely intertwined…all the while ignoring the sharp sting on his ankle courtesy of the damn cat.

Making out with someone was fantastic. Kissing had always been one of Suzaku's favorite things to do, but making out with Lelouch was even better. Lelouch kissed like a madman. First he was soft, so soft and sweet, then all of a sudden hard, ravenous, as he tugged on Suzaku's hair and bit his lip. Lelouch kissed absently sometimes, letting Suzaku know that he was thinking great thoughts, before finally settling into something languorous and slow, his hands cupping Suzaku's face.

And then, clearly exhausted, Lelouch simply held Suzaku and sighed against his lips, which, Suzaku was sure, still counted as a kiss.

After a long while of lying there, content and warm, the two finally made their way up to bed after stowing away the cat into a kennel. The room was lit by a single reading lamp in the corner and the bed was already turned down. Sayako had made the surroundings almost hotel-like, but Lelouch's very presence turned the room into a welcome place, not sterile in the least. Lelouch closed the door behind them with a small smile.

"You want to shower first?" Suzaku sighed deeply in relief. The day was finally over. "I think I'll shower tomorrow, actually…as long as you don't mind…?"

Lelouch shook his head, calling over his shoulder as he made a beeline for the bathroom, "I like how you smell. You don't stink."

When the door closed, Suzaku stood there for a long time, smiling stupidly before stripping to his boxers.

The sheets were cool and very soft, claiming some ridiculous thread-count that felt wonderful against his bare skin, and the mattress was equally comfortable. They had decided against the high-tech beds and gone for a mattress instead because Lelouch had tried it once in the store and started to doze shortly after. It was silly, but burying his face into the pillow Suzaku could only think that he liked the way Lelouch smelled, too: a hint of lavender soap, and his natural scent that was very male but attractive in a way no smell had ever been before. Sometimes Lelouch wore cologne and that was nice too, but…Suzaku turned his face into Lelouch's pillow and inhaled.

The shower turned off and shortly after, Lelouch emerged in his usual pajamas. It was a pin-striped affair, light cotton that covered him from his ankles to his wrists. His hair was a little mussed and he yawned, a blush on his cheeks from the residual heat of the water. Lelouch liked his showers hot. Suzaku blushed a little too, rolling back over to his own side where the pillow smelled plain and uninteresting while Lelouch slipped into bed.

The mattress dipped. Lelouch sighed and turned his head, pulling the comforter over his shoulders as Suzaku held his breath.

Yeah, making out was fantastic. But it was Suzaku's favorite part of the day to watch Lelouch settle, one hand limp by his head and the other resting on his abdomen. There was something unquestionably intimate about sleeping next to him like this, when he was both silent and defenseless. He shifted closer to Lelouch's warmth.

"I'm sorry I wasn't with you…" Suzaku murmured as he rested one hand atop Lelouch's. "We should do something fun sometime."

"You're right," Lelouch said, sleepy and slow as he reached up to guide Suzaku's face a little closer.

Then he whispered, "Let's do something fun right now."

Suzaku checked his cell phone, the time, and woke Lelouch with a lie.

"I need to go to the Hoover building again." He leaned over to gaze into Lelouch's sleepy gaze.

Lelouch yawned once, widely, blinked a few times and asked, "Todoh?"

"Kallen." Suzaku kissed him once on the cheek and then slid out of bed. "There's some emergency."

"Isn't she downstairs with Gino?"

"She left a little after we…um."

"Were done groping each other?" Lelouch's voice held a smile as he burrowed back under the covers. "You know what they say, Suzaku; if you're not capable of saying it then you probably shouldn't be doing it."

Suzaku smiled as he started re-dressing into his uniform, but he couldn't quite bring himself to laugh. He was afraid it would sound too fake.

"I'm old enough to be doing whatever I want." He sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his boots. "Especially if that something makes you very, very noisy…I never would have guessed you were so ticklish."

"…Whatever." Lelouch was blushing. Suzaku could see it on the dresser mirror as he finished the lacings and tugged on his gloves.

"I'll see you soon." Suzaku kissed him again on the lips and then left.

He couldn't bear to lie any more, not to that sleepy soft-eyed man, and so he would do his best to let others lie for him.

Lancelot started eagerly in the early morning light and Suzaku raced off, wondering if he would ever be able to right his wrongs.

It only took two hours to convince them of his honesty. At the beginning they'd been entirely dismissive, just playing along with his game, but once he'd brought up Schneizel and started flushing and stuttering…it didn't take Dr. Millay Ashford to tell them that he was being honest. They didn't even give him a polygraph.

Still, the deal wasn't settled until Suzaku had his say. He sat down with them and outlined his demands, staring into Todoh's piercing eyes as he did so; his and Lelouch's safety from prosecution in exchange for Suzaku's information.

"And what about you and everything you've done?"

"Wherever Lelouch goes, I'll go." Suzaku told his first truth of the day. "He's still my prince."

Todoh shook his head slightly, as if in disbelief, and leaned forward.

"What the hell did he do to you?" Todoh wrote something down on his pad and gestured for the men on the other wall to turn the speakers and camera off. "Was it during your sessions when he turned you? When was it that you decided it was okay to be a criminal, Suzaku?"

And he seemed to need to know. It was as if Suzaku's answer was the key to the whole Britannian debacle, and maybe, in a way, it was. Maybe Suzaku was the perfect example of how good men could suddenly snap and become murderers. But it was still a mystery, even to Suzaku, even after so much time spent examining himself and his motivations. Love wasn't an excuse, just a byproduct, and hate only made him cling more tightly to his conviction.

"If this all goes well, then no one will have to be a criminal anymore. Does it really matter?"

"And your prince." Todoh sneered at the word. "What will you say to him after you break his dreams of being Emperor?"

Suzaku had thought and thought, long through the days and nights, and he still didn't have a proper answer. Instead he continued on with the plan as Schneizel had instructed him to do.

With his hand over his sternum, right where he had tucked away the flash drive and the information that started all of this with the very first betrayal that upended their lives, Suzaku closed his eyes to the future and stayed safely ensconced in the rage of the past.

"I have a gift for you on top of all this. A second source to verify information about the past deeds of certain individuals." Suzaku smiled. "I can turn a member of royalty for you, a prince."

Todoh's eyes widened. "Not Lamper-"

"Clovis." Suzaku nearly laughed at his expression. "I can give you Clovis Britannia and everything he knows."

Todoh looked dumbfounded at the sudden windfall.

"But," Suzaku broke the silence with a frown. "I want something in return before I deliver him."

Todoh picked up his pen again and tapped it against the pad until Suzaku thought he was about to lose his nerve and ruin it all by laughing. It suddenly just seemed so funny that they were together like this; Suzaku all dressed in white and using lives like bargaining chips. He hadn't thought the man was capable of it, but if Schneizel was right…if he was right then Todoh was just as capable as Suzaku to forget everything else in favor of what he wanted to achieve.

"I want you to give me Kallen," Suzaku said, ruthlessly tamping down his own regret. "And I want to make her think it's her own idea."

And it turned out that Schneizel was right.

"He's in the attic." Sayako smiled politely when Suzaku finally made it back home. "I'm sure he won't mind if you join him."

Suzaku nodded and trudged his way up the stairs, trailing small piles of clothes behind him. It was a horrible, slob-like thing to do but he'd done worse before the sun had even risen. Some scattered laundry wasn't going to kill anyone. By the time he made it to the small set of stairs hanging from the ceiling, Suzaku was down to his shorts and tank top, feeling much better about the world in general.

He climbed up with a yawn. The scent of dust was very strong, but it was warm and bathed in light. It looked like it could have been a bedroom once but all that occupied the space were a few boxes, a chest in the corner, and Lelouch who was staring at him like he'd seen a ghost.

"Suzaku!" Lelouch's face was pale, his voice sharp with fear. "What is it?"

"I'm back." Suzaku felt like he was approaching a startled deer as he made his way into the attic proper. Lelouch shied away when he came closer, holding a large book up to his chest as if in defense.

"I'm sorry if I scared you." Suzaku reached out very slowly and touched one white-knuckled hand. "I'll make more noise next time."

It was strange, though. The momentary panic of being startled should have evaporated in some way, but Lelouch was still trembling slightly, his mouth parted in silent puffs.

"It's fine." Lelouch's voice was breathy but he accepted the touch. He even melted a little, his hold going slack enough that the book in his arms opened, releasing a fragrant air of flowers.

"…And that's why you look like you've seen a ghost."

Lelouch swallowed, tracing his fingers along the edge of papery petals, eliciting a small rustle and a smaller, shaky smile.

"I'm not really sure I haven't."

Suzaku scooted closer and Lelouch looked up, his eyes very bright.

"I spoke with my father today."

"Oh?" Suzaku touched his wrist and leaned close enough to see the page Lelouch was looking at. It was a picture surrounded by pressed red roses and it made Suzaku's breath catch in sympathy. In the photo stood a beautiful woman with long, flowing black hair holding a baby in her arms in a loving cradle. Marianne stared down at her son as Charles stared at her. It was a beautiful and strange picture. Charles' expression was nearly one of obsession as he stared at his wife and overlooked his son.

"I was just born." Lelouch turned his hand to hold Suzaku's and flipped the page.

The next picture was that of a young prince standing nearly at attention, his eyes focused forward with a smile that looked joyful, but a little practiced, as if it didn't quite fit him right. Another picture and then another…they became a series of links in a chain that seemed to lead to the ideal of a perfect family, together and loving, but Suzaku knew the deeper truth; that the love was conditional and merely a weapon for broad hands to wield.

"And how did that go?" Suzaku squeezed Lelouch's hand and hoped for the best. "With your father, I mean."

"He refuses to dissolve the blood feud." Lelouch blinked slowly, his head dipping. "I've always heard the stories…that he was a bloodthirsty man, but I hadn't realized…did you ever make that appointment with Schneizel? I'm afraid I got distracted by something."

Suzaku cringed inwardly. He had been hoping he didn't have to do this…

"He said…well, he's ready to dissolve the feud, but for a price." Suzaku watched Lelouch closely but he didn't even bat an eye. There was an impression, though, that the man's mind had become very still. "A favor. One that he decides is appropriate."

"…He thinks that I'm afraid of him." Lelouch's head dipped lower, until Suzaku could no longer see his eyes. "That I foolishly got into more than I could handle. And now I owe him. After everything I owe him."

Suzaku was about to say something supportive, something kind, but Lelouch's whisper stilled every word.

"I never even told myself that secret." Lelouch swallowed and his hand trembled in Suzaku's. "But he's always known me better than I ever knew myself and I've always been afraid of him in one way or the other."

Suzaku opened his mouth again and Lelouch closed it again by laughing shakily.

"I wonder what else he knows."

He loves you, Suzaku wanted to confess, because Lelouch had more power over Schneizel than he had ever known but didn't know how to use it just because he couldn't imagine that the man who had been following at his heels so relentlessly might actually have feelings. Suzaku wanted Lelouch to understand but he kept his mouth shut because it was necessary to do so.

It was at that moment that Suzaku realized how much he missed what they had had before. Ignorance had been their little haven of bliss when they had just been Agent Kururugi and Doctor Lamperouge. In that office they had both been safe. Now, Lelouch looked up and his expression was desolate…but it quickly melted into bemusement as he lifted a finger up to Suzaku's cheek.

"Why are you crying?" His voice was very gentle, soothing, a voice from a different time.

"I don't know." It was a relief to tell the truth for once. "I'm just sad."

"Well," Lelouch chucked him under the chin and smiled sweetly. "That makes two of us."

They leaned against each other for a long time, quiet and comfortable while Suzaku cried in his guilt and sorrow, cold silent tears, and Lelouch kissed him lazily for a long time until Suzaku could kiss him back.

Kallen called Suzaku only three hours after Suzaku called Kanon to tell him that yes, everything had gone according to plan.

"Suzaku." Kallen was keeping a stiff upper lip, but only just barely as she walked to meet him in the parking lot. Her eyes were lined in red and suddenly soft when Suzaku took away all pretense and pulled her into a hug.

"You're my last resort." She started crying, her small body jerking in sobs. "It's my mother. Suzaku, my mother-"

Suzaku knew the story already. It had only taken a day to orchestrate once Schneizel had set the board so carefully. All Suzaku had to do was whisper into a certain Narcotics Detective's ear and one strung-out junkie was plucked from the plethora for special treatment; an entire kilo of heroin and the woman could only say was, "It isn't mine."

Who would ever believe her? Not even the woman's own daughter if Kallen's harried tale was the example.

And all Todoh had to do was look the other way.

"She needs help, not jail!" Kallen sobbed, hiccupping. "And the Federation won't even get her a decent lawyer…and I don't have the money or the connections, god."

She looked over to her car where a single mop of blonde hair was pressed up against the window. Gino was probably fast asleep.

"And I'm in no position to ask for a favor from my boss."

"Just tell me what I can do," Suzaku whispered, holding her close. "And I'll do it, Kallen. I swear."

Kallen stayed like that for a long time, as if gathering her strength before swallowing once and demanding, "I need you to talk to Lelouch. I know he can fix this."

And then she said, "I'll do anything it takes," and Suzaku very nearly sighed in relief.

"What you're going to have to do is trust me, Kallen. Completely, and without asking questions. Can you do that?"

Kallen pulled away and looked him in the eyes, her iron will and determination showing through as she nodded once in military order and waited for instruction. It was a good start.

Suzaku pitied them all for a moment and gave her one last chance to back out.

"If everything works out, you'll be Britannian by the end of the day." Suzaku smiled wryly. "Just like me."

"If Lelouch will save my mother, I'd rather be a Britannian anyways." Her eyes strayed back to the car. "And that idiot needs looking after."

It was exactly what Suzaku didn't want to hear but needed desperately. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a well-learned number before handing the phone over.

"Call Todoh and tell him I'm ready to come back." Suzaku ignored her wide-eyed stare, and continued with, "Tell him that I'm ready to betray Britannia and that you're ready to help."

"She's what?" Lelouch hissed. "Tell me I didn't just hear you say-"

"We can use this," Suzaku beseeched, on his knees in a bow. "She can be a powerful tool, my Prince. All you have to do is-"

"Make her my knight." Lelouch looked like he desperately wanted to hit Suzaku again. "Do you have any idea what that means?"

Suzaku cringed.

"And how do I know for sure that she's being honest about leaving the FBI?" Lelouch's voice was still low, as if he was afraid of everyone being able to hear him from the front room. "This could be Todoh's ploy! He could have set the whole thing up. Did you ever think of that? Did you even think, Suzaku?"

Suzaku remembered the night before and hated that they were reduced to this façade of domination and submissiveness when he could see the hurt in Lelouch's eyes. He wanted to fix it, desperately so, but Suzaku knew what had to happen even if it hurt them all. He was keeping Lelouch safe.

"A personal knight is a lifetime employment, Suzaku." Lelouch finally hit into the heart of the issue, his eyes full of rage and hurt. "Even if I am emperor she will be held before you. They will expect me to take her as a wife. Kallen!"

It wouldn't matter what Kallen was in the end. She might be nothing, not even an FBI agent.

"Kallen loves Gino." Suzaku reached forward to hold Lelouch's hand. It was very cold. "And she knows that I love you. When you are emperor," Suzaku lied and lied and lied, "you can make your own rules. Please trust me to know what I'm doing and trust that Kallen will give up Gino just as soon as I would ever give up you. My Prince-"

Lelouch ripped his hand away but his voice was very quiet when he finally decided.

"I will get Kallen's mother out of jail…and I'm not doing it for you, Suzaku. I'm doing it for her." Lelouch's eyes narrowed. "I would have done it without forcing her to become my knight, a traitor, and a double-crossing spy."

"Yes, my Prince." Suzaku finally stared down at the ground. He couldn't stand the coolness of the prince in Lelouch's eyes.

Lelouch snapped, moving towards his desk. "And be thankful I've grown used to sleeping with you or you'd be out on the sofa in a second."

"Yes, my Prince." Suzaku finally smiled as a reliable, snotty tone entered Lelouch's voice. "I'm very thankful. I'm willing to show you how thankful-"

"Don't push it, Suzaku."

"Of course." Suzaku looked up again to see a very faint upturn of Lelouch's lips. "I'll see you later."

"Yes," And that was a full-blown glare of evil intentions. "You will."

"I might as well have gone to the CIA," Suzaku groused under his breath. "I mean, really."

Sitting outside on a park bench, looking at a newspaper he wasn't actually reading, Suzaku was wired for sound, itchy, and getting really sick of Clovis' babbling. The man was half drunk by noon and Suzaku was playing babysitter for both sides and hating the necessity. After a long while of endless chatter, Clovis finally turned off his cell phone and quieted. He looked out at the park around them, the children and the wildlife, and then he turned to Suzaku with a small, almost hesitant frown.

"My Lord?" Suzaku felt suddenly unnerved. He'd never seen Clovis wear such a strange expression, not once, and that certainly didn't bode well for the future. The other man finally looked away, turning his narrowed eyes down to the grass with a clenched jaw and fisted hands.

"I am lonely," Clovis finally said, his voice sedate. "You were right about that much, Seven. I suppose it's obvious, especially now that you've pointed it out to everyone."

Suzaku's stomach fell as a well-worn paranoia settled into his mind. When he looked back, Clovis' eyes were cold.

"I've always been a good son," Clovis said. "A good brother. You know, I try. It wasn't always like this."

"I…I'm not sure-" Suzaku let his newspaper fall. "Clovis…"

"It's Prince Clovis."

"Prince Clovis," Suzaku repeated dutifully. "I'm sorry, my Lord."

"Yes, you should be," Clovis sneered. "You and Schneizel. You will be sorry."

Suzaku froze, the microphone taped to his chest suddenly heavy. Clovis smirked.

"You have a terrible poker face, you know." Clovis rolled his eyes, drumming his fingers on the park bench as he went back to scanning the park. "And if I'm not fooled, then Lelouch isn't either. He knows that something is going on between you two, I'm sure…that boy. Well, he's not actually a boy anymore, is he?"

Suzaku was doing his best not to panic, but the way that Clovis was talking…if he said the wrong thing and the FBI heard-

"Is he, Seven?" Clovis was smiling, looking proud. "I asked you a question."

"No, he's not a boy," Suzaku whispered. He reached under his uniform and pulled the plug on the wire. He couldn't risk the others hearing anymore and Clovis knew it, laughing as Suzaku was forced to show the world that he had something to hide.

"You should have seen him when he was younger," Clovis said, his lips curved. "Always trying to get away from us. It was funny to see him fight Schneizel… but what was funnier, I mean, really hilarious, was that Schneizel thought no one else would notice his little game. Both of them did. The big family secret…absolutely sure that no one else was smart enough to realize-"

Clovis laughed, truly delighted, and Suzaku felt suddenly nauseated as he realized what the man was implying.

"Should I tell him that we've known all along?" Clovis was grinning, playful. "How should I say it, Seven?"

"P-prince Clovis," Suzaku had absolutely no idea what to say. "I…"

Clovis didn't even seem to hear him.

"'Hey Lelouch…remember the Christmas dinner the year you graduated'? When you started crying in the middle of the third course? I always thought that was strange…Did it have anything to do with Schneizel taking you into the office for a talk?" He mimed, sending Suzaku an earnest expression that seemed real. "Or maybe 'Did anyone ever tell you the story about that black-haired girl Schneizel beat to death while you were away at school? Tallish, pale, skinny, big eyes…couldn't have been more than thirteen. I think her name...what was her name? Oh that's right…Lilah. Sweet thing. You mean no one told you?'"

"Please don't." Suzaku dug his fingers into his knee but the pain didn't distract. "Clovis…he can't take it."

"But he's Lelouch! So clever!" Clovis pantomimed disbelief. "Of course he can!"

That was finally too much. At the thought of what such a revelation would do to Lelouch, Suzaku leaned over and grabbed Clovis by the collar, jerking him close to stare the man in the eye. The look of cool satisfaction on his face was very familiar and for a brief moment Suzaku hated them all, the whole damn family.

"Say a word to him and you'll regret it, Prince Clovis." The words came quickly and oh so easily, as if they had been waiting on his tongue the whole time. "All I have to do is whisper to Schneizel and you'll be ruined. He'll destroy you without even blinking."

"You think I don't know that?" Clovis didn't fight him, his blonde hair sweeping over his eyes. "He's my brother. I know exactly what he's capable of…but do you? Do you honestly think you can play his game and win, Suzaku Kururugi?"

Suzaku dropped him back onto the bench and stood, running a hand through his own hair in frustration as he stared out at the black SUV that had pulled up to the curb.

He could remember when it would have been him at the wheel, speaking into his cell phone as he pulled his gun and hoped to god that his informant wasn't about to get murdered. Clovis grinned up at him, slouched on the park bench like a king.

"You better plug that in before you get shot, Agent Kururugi." Clovis nodded towards his waist, nonchalant. "Tell the fine agents that everything's alright."

"Stand down," Suzaku said into the microphone as soon as everything was righted. "Everything's fine."

The agent in the car gave him a hard look before pulling away again and joining traffic.

"Good boy." Clovis stretched and sighed. "You are in over your head, you know. …it's a little endearing, actually. Funny."

"You obviously have some sort of point to make." Suzaku tried not to worry about the microphone. "What do you want, Clovis?"

"I want out."

Suzaku's breath caught in the back of his throat. "Excuse me?"

"I want to retire on a little island where no one knows my name." Clovis looked up at the sky and then to Suzaku. "And I don't care how that happens. You make sure that the FBI keeps their promises, that Schneizel doesn't know what's really going on, and I'll make sure that Lelouch stays in the dark. It's that simple. I'm not going back."

There was really no choice. Suzaku stared back and said tersely, "Fine."

"Good, now let's start." Clovis closed his eyes. "Ask me your questions and show me where to sign."

Suzaku sighed deeply and then sat back down. He picked up his newspaper and opened it to the correct page, slipping Clovis a pen. Inside there was a document printed on newsprint, written in columns. Suzaku began to read out loud.

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation hereby grants one Clovis Britannia immunity from all charges in exchange for-"

But in his head all Suzaku could think was, Fuck.

There was a horrible feeling of déjà vu as Suzaku entered the Hilton lobby. He walked up to the desk, flashed his ID and was given a small brass key.

"Enjoy your evening, Sir." The receptionist smiled and Suzaku just barely managed to smile back. He was feeling a little sick.

This was punishment, he knew, and it was certainly effective. His nerves were raw as the elevator climbed to the top floor and he was pathetically grateful to have come in his civilian clothes, leaving the flash drive behind. Still, his chest burned where that reminder ought to be and it was a heavy weight to bear the continued existence of that knowledge.

First Suzaku knocked on the door of the penthouse suite. There was no answer and so he finally just used his key, opening the door with a feeling of dread as he walked into the plush exterior. Standing in the lobby wasn't helping the situation so Suzaku went in search for the fragrant aroma that was wafting through the hallways. It led him to a small dining room with a table that contained one setting and a few take-out boxes from Suzaku's favorite Chinese restaurant. Suzaku laughed shakily, giving a sigh of relief as he dug into the half-empty boxes with fervor.

"I left a plate out for you." Lelouch appeared in the doorway and Suzaku nearly choked at the sight he presented, wearing a pair of cotton drawstring pants and nothing else. He was just out of the shower and distracted by running a towel through his hair as Suzaku gaped. He looked…male. Very male.

And he looked beautiful, too.

"And it's a very nice plate?" Suzaku swallowed and wondered if it was too late to serve himself or too early to try and take a taste. He had left food but that in no way meant that Suzaku was off the hook with Lelouch, he knew that much. Lelouch rolled his eyes and ran a hand through his hair in a casual gesture that left it messy and made Lelouch look about eighteen years old. The towel was discarded on a chair and suddenly Lelouch was very close, close enough that Suzaku could still feel the heat from the shower on his skin, so close that he could smell the faint aroma of soap.

Lelouch's skin was still a little damp when Suzaku rested a hand on his hip and the man smiled at the touch.

"Eat your dinner." Lelouch took a carton and began to serve it out, ignoring Suzaku entirely when he began to run his thumb along the waistband of his pants. It was like he was somewhere else, his eyes distant and soft as he doled out each serving in precise amounts; extra of Suzaku's favorite and a little of the healthy stuff that Suzaku hated. "Rice?"

It was such an innocuous question that Suzaku merely stared at him for a moment, dumbfounded that someone could be so casually stunning while completing such a task as spooning out rice onto a plate. It was the perfect moment to play along and Suzaku wanted that a little, wanted to watch Lelouch be arresting and gorgeous, but he wanted the truth too, and the truth wasn't quite as pretty as the picture Lelouch was painting for them both.

Lelouch leaned over to grab the rice and Suzaku rested his hand on his other hip, letting his forehead dip to the soft plane of the man's stomach. He kissed Lelouch once, felt him shiver, and asked, "Why did you bring me here to this room? Is it because you're mad at me?"

Lelouch froze.

"I'm sorry. I really am, Lelouch." Something inside Suzaku's soul withered and he felt his eyes begin to tear. Too many lies were stacking up against him and it just hurt. "I screwed up again…But I really do think that having Kallen-"

Lelouch cradled the curve of Suzaku's head and whispered, "Hush."

Suzaku went quiet and tried to blink the sting away before Lelouch could see.

Lelouch just held him like that for a long time, stroking the back of Suzaku's neck and twining his fingers through Suzaku's hair. It was peaceful and horrible, because as Suzaku slipped into ease, tears began to slip from his eyes in equal measure. It was a slow progression, and cold, but at least no one had to see, even if Lelouch could surely feel the trails down his abdomen.

"You're going to eat your dinner and then go and take a nice, long shower." Lelouch touched his shoulders in a slow massage. "And then we're going to spend the night together without having to worry about listening walls."

When Suzaku was silent, Lelouch added, "I'm done being mad at you. There's obviously no point in it now when you do such a splendid job berating yourself."

Suzaku wrapped his arms around Lelouch's waist.

Lelouch whispered so, so quietly.

"I'm still here if you need someone to listen. That will never change no matter what happens, do you understand?"

Suzaku nodded, felt his heart break, and only barely managed not to sob.

"I was going to suggest just going to sleep…" Lelouch panted, his fingertips digging into Suzaku's biceps. "Are you sure…?"

Kissing him silent was a lovely venture that turned searing, spine-tingling, and then left them both moaning when Suzaku slipped his tongue against Lelouch's with fantastic hunger. He'd come out of the shower feeling enormously better about the world and had been presented with the sight of Lelouch standing next to the doorway looking expectant and startled in his usual sleep attire. Something in Suzaku had unfurled at the sight of him so worried, so obviously caring, that Suzaku understood he needed Lelouch Lamperouge and no one else…and there he was with his searching stare and a hesitant smile that made the expression new all over again.

"How long?" Suzaku moved down to Lelouch's neck, searching for the places that made Lelouch curl into his body. "How long until it came to this?"

Because at that moment Suzaku had understood that their connection had been inevitable. That he couldn't not have fallen in love with that soft, searching smile. And he knew…he knew Lelouch would have given him that smile, cautious and venturing, perhaps despite himself, but still so real that Suzaku understood the true depth of love.

"Ah!" Lelouch jerked when Suzaku found a sensitive spot and bit down. His hips thrust up and Suzaku ground back down into him again, working furiously at the buttons of his shirt.

"Our sessions would have stopped eventually." Suzaku grinned and did it again, enjoying the ruthlessness of Lelouch's hips. "How long until I was kissing you against your desk, Lelouch?"

"Oh my god." Lelouch's words were breathless on his next gasp, his eyes wide and clouded with memory and pleasure. "I don't know- I…couldn't…I don't-"

"But I would." Suzaku growled into his ear and finally wrapped his hands around Lelouch's bare waist. "I would kiss you and not take no for an answer, Lelouch Lamperouge. How long could you have held out?"

Lelouch bit hard on his lower lip, an expression of agony settling in as Suzaku's hand began to tease more closely towards the drawstring of his pants. Suzaku didn't understand it, but he loved it, he loved the way Lelouch's body twisted and shuddered under his hands and made him feel empowered. It was as if nothing could touch them while they were cocooned in each other and the world. Real life just didn't exist as long when Lelouch was panting hard and trying not to moan. Suzaku drew his fingernails down Lelouch's abdomen and the man finally yelled out, thrusting against the heel of Suzaku's palm.

"I don't…I don't…" Lelouch's eyes closed tight as Suzaku began to massage him through the thin fabric. "Suzaku."

"Weeks? Months?" Suzaku smiled slowly and leaned down to draw his tongue against his lower lip. When he dipped inside it was to kiss and kiss. Lelouch's fingertips dug into the bare flesh of Suzaku's back as he pulled them down, flush together.

"Days." Lelouch finally gasped, coming up for air with wide, dazed eyes, as if he was seeing a vision of that future. "It's so easy to love you."

And Suzaku couldn't have said it better himself.

But he tried, stripping them both bare until he could look at Lelouch properly. All he'd ever seen was Lelouch walking around in his clothes during the day and his pajamas at night and the man was nearly always covered to the wrists. So Suzaku took his time and traced the long, slender limbs of Lelouch's body with his fingers and sometimes with his tongue, taking quick tastes of the curve of his shoulder or the crook of his arm. Suzaku could hear Lelouch pant and felt his skin flush by the time Suzaku reached his navel, nipping and licking the curve of his hip while he took a good long look at the man's cock.

Lelouch was very hard, come beginning to pearl at the tip, and when Suzaku moved closer, Lelouch let out a high, whining noise at the back of his throat.

The sound was desperate and very undignified, everything that Lelouch had never been, and it prompted Suzaku to finally look up into Lelouch's face.

Lelouch looked like he was in the worst pain of his life, his expression twisted as he dug his fingers hard into the covers.

"What do you want?" Suzaku didn't care that he was being a tease, not when it made Lelouch look like he was about to break apart. "What do you want me to do?"

Lelouch groaned, letting his head collapse back onto the bed. "Suzaku, just do something."

Suzaku nodded his obedience and grabbed Lelouch by the hips. He was very light and easy to maneuver until they were like they had once been in bed. Suzaku had woken to Lelouch sitting on his hips and Suzaku intended to finally let the scenario degenerate into inevitability as he licked his palm and took hold of Lelouch's cock. Lelouch bit his bottom lip, closed his eyes, and thrust into the grip again and again, his ass grinding into Suzaku's cock until Suzaku could barely concentrate on breathing.

And then Lelouch's nimble fingers dipped into his mouth in an obscene parody and Suzaku began trying to concentrate on something else, sucking Lelouch's fingers into his mouth and tentatively applying the motions that he had always liked most. He'd never really understood why some girls enjoyed giving head but Suzaku watched Lelouch's desperate expression, entranced, and understood the power of holding Lelouch inside his mouth. They were only fingers but all at once Suzaku wasn't afraid to try and lean over to-

Lelouch shoved him back down on the bed with a smirk as he murmured, "As much as I would love that," Lelouch said, shifting and leaning forward on his knees, "there's something I want even more."

"Anything," Suzaku ground out desperately, lost in a sea of possibilities. "Anything, Lelouch."

"That's a good answer." Lelouch shifted again, bent his body to the side, reaching for something on the bed side table, then returned into the previous position holding some skin lotion in his hands.

Suzaku felt a cream-slick hand on his cock and was jerked a few more time, but he only really understood a second before Lelouch began to lower himself. The heat was incredible, the intensity indefinable, but the best part- Suzaku ignored the best part (Lelouch, always Lelouch) - and tried not to come as Lelouch began to move.

"Wait! Doesn't that-" Hurt, he wanted to say, but Lelouch shook his head and gave Suzaku the permission to grab him by the hips and thrust up again and again and-

Lelouch came first, his come hitting Suzaku's chest and neck. His whole body clenched in pleasure, his fingernails digging into Suzaku's wrists as he cried out in curses and praise, riding the sensation until Suzaku was coming inside of him, inside of Lelouch, and with an intensity that made him yell and jerk in desperation.

It was a messy and undignified affair but Suzaku was awed, clutching Lelouch like salvation once the man managed to separate and slump forward into the mutual mess of sweat and come.

"I'm definitely gay for you," Suzaku muttered, staring up at the ceiling as Lelouch moved closer together. A cuddler…who would have guessed?

"…Suzaku…." Lelouch sighed into his neck, kissing him on the cheek as he threaded wet fingers into Suzaku's hair. "You say the sweetest things. Now go to sleep."

Suzaku sighed deeply, felt the weight of lies slide back into his body as euphoria faded and did as he was told before he ran the risk of confessing everything to his lover smiling beside him.

"We have all day," Lelouch whispered, pulling Suzaku into the shower. It was already hot, steaming up the mirrors and all the glass, but nothing was more searing than Lelouch's lips against his neck as they were both doused in water. Lelouch's fingers trailed all over his body, touching, caressing, and Suzaku was surprised when his next move was for the bar of soap.

Suzaku's moment to whisper an appropriate joke passed with the seriousness in Lelouch's eyes as he lathered up a washcloth. The man looked very different, his hair slick against his face, his body shamelessly exposed and his eyelashes clumped with water. The first gentle caress was to Suzaku's neck, the washcloth not nearly as soft as Lelouch's hands as it swept across and then down, Lelouch's eyes following the wandering path. With every touch Suzaku felt himself grow harder, and he could watch in amazement as Lelouch was affected too, but Suzaku stayed very still as Lelouch traversed his body.

Lelouch looked at him almost like he was worshipping him. Compliance came easily even when their fronts pressed up close while Lelouch was washing his back, but Suzaku couldn't help a kiss when Lelouch's cheek came close to his lips. Lelouch dipped his head and kissed the tender skin of his neck in return before continuing his task, the washcloth dipping downward, rubbing, until Suzaku was panting hard and trying not to ruin the silence with a moan. It felt almost like an accident when Lelouch's fingers slipped in, slick with soap, teasing so slowly that Suzaku felt he might be daydreaming the whole thing; from Lelouch's second finger slipping in to the hand on his cock as Lelouch whispered kisses against his neck.

"Oh." Suzaku's voice was nearly drowned out by the water sluicing between them both, but Lelouch hushed him gently and then kissed him again.

"Learn," he whispered, before licking a line of water off of Suzaku's jaw. Lelouch's hand stopped, just holding. Suzaku was about to whisper back when Lelouch's fingers made another torturously slow foray and then curled.

Lelouch hushed him again but moved his hand again, which, Suzaku thought, was counterproductive if silence was his intent. Suzaku clenched his jaw, making the same soft panting noises that Lelouch had made only the night before. It was only when Suzaku moved into the thrust of Lelouch's hand that Lelouch withdrew, reaching up with his other hand to caress the slope of Suzaku's face. And then they kissed with intent, hungry instead of familiar but still loving as Suzaku chased the same feelings he had been chasing all along; love, companionship, trust…a combination that had merely been imaginable before, but never fully realized until the day that Lelouch wrapped his arms around Suzaku for the first time.

They embraced each other again through languid kisses and sighs, their bodies free from everything but the water that made Lelouch's skin beautifully smooth, silky, and absolutely pliant in Suzaku's' grip.

It was astonishing how much of himself Lelouch gave up when he was in Suzaku's arms. There was no reserve left, only a yearning that was intimidating and exhilarating all at once. Suzaku wanted more and more but he didn't want to mess it up, to alter the peace that came from Lelouch's pliant mouth and the fingers massaging his scalp. It wasn't until he could feel Lelouch start to tremble that Suzaku finally took the initiative, and he reached down to pull Lelouch flush, loving the sound that the man made when Suzaku grabbed his ass. Suzaku was a fast learner and he played to example, picking up the discarded soap and lathering his hands.

When the first finger slipped in, Lelouch sighed against his mouth, kissing and kissing in butterfly touches, as if trying to reassure Suzaku that everything was still okay. He was always doing his best to look after him, Suzaku understood, even in this, and so Suzaku trusted Lelouch, trusted him to say no and pushed in deeper.

"Another." Lelouch licked his ear before catching it with his teeth. Suzaku complied and Lelouch's teeth bit down a little harder, but he didn't complain. Instead, he groaned, thrusting their cocks together. Suzaku's fingers twitched and Lelouch was suddenly loud, his voice echoing on the tile as he cried out.

"There?" Suzaku tried again and Lelouch rubbed up against him again, his voice broken and lovely as he gave affirmation. There was no mistaking the enjoyment in his voice, and so Suzaku continued, kissing Lelouch's neck as he thrust in a little harder, a little deeper, obeying when Lelouch gasped, "More. More, Suzaku. More…please-"

Suzaku's body echoed the plea, his cock torturously hard as Lelouch continued to writhe against his body.

"In. In in in…" Lelouch's voice was thick, nearly incomprehensible, and his teeth were sharp, his nails digging into Suzaku's side.

"Yes. Okay, okay…just-" Suzaku groaned and pulled his fingers out, looking for the soap. "Just let me get-"

"Fuck that." Lelouch pulled back and his eyes were blown, wild and strangely inward before he kissed Suzaku hard and then dropped to his knees. His mouth was wet, so hot, and his tongue…it was the best Suzaku could do to not just come right then and there with Lelouch's lips around his cock. Suzaku moaned as Lelouch gripped his thighs hard, and he found Lelouch's hair wrapped around his fingers before he could even really understand what he was doing, and even when he knew he was tugging too hard, Lelouch only moaned again, the suction and the movement of his tongue just so damn-

"Lelouch, Lelouch…" Suzaku warned, his voice desperate and cracked. "Oh god…"

When Lelouch pulled off, his lips were red and wet, his eyes dangerously dark. Suzaku had to bite down on his own wrist when the man grabbed him at the base and drew the flat of his tongue up the underside of Suzaku's cock. The act was lewd and hot and Suzaku had never been more turned on then when Lelouch sat back on the tile and spread his legs, the look on his face itself an order.

Suzaku was down with him without any rational thought, following the instruction of his lifted leg. The water beat down on Suzaku's back as Lelouch pulled him in and demanded, "Do it. Do it, fuck me. Don't make me wai-"

Suzaku didn't. He had Lelouch flat on his back against the tile in a moment, his mind blank to everything but Lelouch's body and the order that kept running through his head as he took himself in hand and then pushed in, groaning at the tight heat and Lelouch's answering moan. Lelouch braced his hands up against the glass wall as Suzaku thrust, gasping and working his ass against Suzaku's cock.

And Suzaku just…he just loved it. Nothing had ever been more exhilarating than Lelouch in abandon, clutching at him and urging him on with moans that were entirely unrestrained. Suzaku just loved it. He loved the orders and the pleas, he loved Lelouch's sloppy, starving kisses and he loved the grunts and moans that came with every thrust. Suzaku had complete control over this willing, beautiful, headstrong man…and nothing had ever been more addictive.

The end was drawing near, he could feel it in the growing jolts of pleasure, but he didn't want it to end, and so Suzaku fought and fought, fucking Lelouch with the intent of making him fall apart first, but Lelouch was stubborn, too, with his eyes closed tight and his teeth biting down on his lower lip.

In a fit of desperation, Suzaku pulled out, grabbing Lelouch by the hips and turning him over before Lelouch could do anything but look at him in surprise. And then he was in again with a deeper angled thrust that made Lelouch yell and claw at the glass, his fingers sliding through the water as Suzaku pulled on his hips and drove in to the sound of Lelouch begging in fevered, broken syllables. Harder, faster, don't stop…and Suzaku wasn't sure he could stop or would ever stop when Lelouch's body tensed completely, freezing up before going wild under Suzaku's relentless driving and the slap of skin on skin.

When Suzaku finally came it was with an intensity that made the rest of the world dissolve into nothing but Lelouch's body, Lelouch's skin and finally Lelouch pulling him close after a single exhausted slump.

Lelouch whispered his love into Suzaku's ear while Suzaku tried to come back to himself but it was hard to descend from such a height so quickly. The water had gone tepid by the time Suzaku was able to say, "Don't you ever leave me…I love you, too."

They spent most of the day just lying in bed, watching TV and smiling stupidly at each other when the other wasn't looking. The more time they spent here, the less Suzaku thought about what else had happened in this room. Lelouch was lazing around in his underwear wearing an expression that was close to beatific as he twisted himself in the sheets and stared. Suzaku wasn't doing much better, unable to stay away for more than a few moments, kissing and kissing whenever he had the chance.

At one point Lelouch looked at him and intoned, "My feelings for you are completely and entirely irrational."

Suzaku was mostly amused, but also confused. "Thank you?"

"You're welcome," Lelouch said, just as seriously. "Now come over here. I'm going to suck you off."

Suzaku could safely say that he had never had such a fantastic day in his life… which was probably why what was happening seemed so painful. Three hours after waking up curled into each other, Suzaku watched Lelouch load his gun and wished that they could go back in time and stay there where they could be quiet and safe.

"I'll do it." Suzaku kept his voice soft, feeling sick. "You don't have to do it, Lelouch."

The others had gathered only a few feet away. Jeremiah was standing at the ready, instructing a few other Knights in a voice devoid of emotion. Gino was there too, looking very grim as he spoke to another young knight with long pink hair and a bored expression that made Suzaku sick. They all knew what was about to happen…how could they look so calm, so poised? Suzaku felt like he was about to fall apart into a million pieces as he watched the man who had peppered kisses on his face prepare to kill his brother.

Lelouch said nothing. He just popped in the clip and stood, not meeting anyone's eyes.

"Only royalty can kill royalty, Suzaku." Gino touched his shoulder gently, in a manner that was supposed to be reassuring but wasn't. "It's the law."

"It's not the law," Suzaku hissed as he rounded on him, just so angry. "The law is the fucking law. This is murder."

Gino's expression was suddenly devoid of any comfort, very hard, and very focused. They stared at each other for a long time before Suzaku finally gave up, scrubbing his face as he tried to pull himself together.

He could feel all the eyes in the room on him. Everyone else was staring at him too. Everyone but Lelouch.

Everyone was wondering if Suzaku was the next person they would have to kill.

"We're all going to pretend we didn't hear that," Gino ordered, his voice hard. "Right, Seven?"

Suzaku exhaled, inhaled, and pressed the palms of his hands into his eyes.

"Yes." Suzaku pulled himself into military order, and tried to be unfeeling. "Yes. Of course you're right. I'm just…please excuse me. I wasn't thinking."

He looked to Lelouch who was standing, arms crossed and impassive with an expression that said he was waiting for Suzaku's little show to end. The man who had been with him only hours before had vanished with just one phone call. All that was left was the prince, and the prince only had one agenda.

"It's just…it's your brother."

"Exactly." Lelouch's voice was cold. "Who better to receive the honor of ending his life? A knight? I think not."

Suzaku stared at him, aghast. He looked into Lelouch, really looked, but there was nothing there but calm assurance as he surveyed the rest of the room; no fear, no worry, no guilt and most of all, no hesitation.

Everyone was smiling at him. Everyone but Kallen. She was still in the corner, crouched down and looking at the ground with a gun in hand. Maybe praying, maybe-

"Are we ready then?" She was as clear-eyed as the rest of them as she rose and then stood next to Lelouch's side. He nodded to her.

"Kallen will come with me. Gino and Suzaku…you need to incapacitate any FBI sentries that might be there already. Do your best not to kill them, but if they see your face, take them out. Anya, and all of you," he pointed to the knights, "Make sure that Clovis' knights stand down and collect anyone who might be inside."

"Does anyone else have any objections?" Lelouch glanced to Suzaku, making eye contact for the first time. "Maybe Suzaku has something else to add?"

"No, my Prince." Suzaku blushed, clenching his jaw. "My apologies."

"Just do your job." Lelouch walked on with Kallen behind him, leaving the house.

Suzaku could only follow.

It took Suzaku and Gino very little time to take care of the FBI units. It was a residential area that was populated mostly by Britannians, none of which would ever harbor an agent, so it was easy to pick out the places they might hide. One residence had a team inside running surveillance. Gino picked them off easily with Suzaku's help. There were two black sedans with two pairs of partners inside. Suzaku took care of them while Gino watched, staring at him hard when the work was done.

Suzaku was out of bullets and, by his count, Gino still had one.

And what was one bullet between friends? Suzaku swallowed and did his best not to look like he was afraid, but he was. They were both killers and there was murder in Gino's eyes. The street was empty and dark and Gino still had his silencer on.

"What more do you want from me?" Suzaku stared right back. "I just helped you kill our friends. It was just a slip of the tongue."

"I want you to tell me why I should trust you, Suzaku." Gino raised his weapon. "Clovis changing allegiances now? It's too much of a coincidence. And I looked into Kallen's mother. No one could trace the source of that heroin. I don't trust this."

"Kallen still being in the FBI was going to turn into a problem eventually." Suzaku showed his bare hands. "I called in a favor."

"From who?"

Suzaku clenched his jaw. "Gino-"

"From who, Suzaku."

"His Majesty." Suzaku was thinking fast. "How do you think VV found out about Clovis? I'm still in contact with the FBI."

"That," Gino snapped, "Is not something that's going to keep you alive. Kneel down. Hands on your head."

"Like hell."


"It's a double-cross. Call Schneizel. He'll confirm." Suzaku clenched his hands and readied himself. "And if you think I'm ever going to roll over for you then you've got another thing coming, Gino."

"With Schneizel." Gino gave him a longsuffering look and dropped his arm. "Why the hell would you do that?"

Suzaku was at a loss. "Just like that?"

Gino raised his gun again and scowled, "What, you like this better? You are one crazy bastard, you know that?"

"Stop…stop pointing the gun at me." Suzaku rolled his eyes. "If you believe me, then there's no point."

"Oh, I believe you." Gino started taking the silencer off. "I fully believe that you are stupid enough to get in bed with Schneizel…and you know what? I don't want to know. I don't want to know and I don't want you to tell me. My chances of living increases exponentially with what I don't know."

Suzaku pinched the bridge of his nose, hoping to stem off a headache that was becoming markedly persistent.

"What are you going to tell Lelouch?"

"Lelouch?" Gino pantomimed surprise. "Who is Lelouch?"

Suzaku shook his head and felt entirely safe turning his back on Gino. The man was too honest for his own good, Suzaku could see it in his eyes…but it made sense. If Gino didn't know any information then he certainly wouldn't have to lie about it either.

"Come on, let's go."

Gino laughed and shook his head.

"Anywhere but here."

When they got to the house everything was quiet and still. There were knights outside smoking but most of them had gone home. They nodded at Gino and Suzaku and they nodded back. It felt natural.

Lelouch looked natural too. Looming over Clovis who was sitting on a kitchen chair, staring at the ground, his gun pressed to the nape of the man's neck.

"You two took long enough." Lelouch glared at them both. "I told you to hurry, Gino."

Gino grinned and ruffled his hand through Suzaku's hair. "Sorry, my Prince!"

"Whatever." Lelouch tapped the muzzle on Clovis' neck and the man flinched hard, making a high noise in the back of his throat.

"So, Brother. We're going to have a talk."

"You're going to kill me." Clovis intoned. "What's the use in talking?"

Suzaku could see his eyes, bright slits in the curtain of his hair, his mouth slack as he panted and trembled. Clovis knew that he was dying, was sure of it, even, and Suzaku grit his teeth as he desperately hoped that the man wouldn't give him away in a last act of revenge.

"My orders are to gather information and then kill you." Lelouch cocked his head to the side. "How quickly you die is up to you, brother."

"Torture?" Clovis' voice was thin. He turned and tried to look at Lelouch. It exposed his face and the fact that he was crying, silent and cold. "You would do that to me, Lelouch?"

"Just as you would do to me if you were told to by the Emperor." Lelouch pushed his face forward again and then wiped his wet fingers off on Clovis' shoulder.

"Can't you look at me?" Clovis' shoulders began to shake. "You should at least be able to look at me."

Lelouch shook his head a little, his lip curling. "It makes me sick to look at you."

"…Sick." Clovis's laugh trembled. "It makes you sick to look at me."

Lelouch's expression blanked out into a smooth, terrifying mask as he whispered, "And what is that supposed to mean?"

A slip of the eyes, the gradual drop of his mouth a deep sigh; Suzaku saw the exact moment that Clovis decided what he was going to do and braced himself.

"You got out." Clovis swallowed, closing his eyes. "Can you blame me, Lelouch, for wanting the same? For wanting freedom from this life?"

Lelouch's lips thinned, and his eyes narrowed as he whispered, "I paid the price for wanting out, Clovis, and you didn't. Don't think that we're alike."

"…Paid the price." His voice was barely a whisper and his laugh was even less. "And was it worth it, Lelouch?"

No, Suzaku read in Lelouch's expression as the gun tip began to tremble. No it wasn't.

"Who else knew about your deal with the FBI?" Lelouch's voice was at least steady, but he was shaken as he let out a breathy exhale. When Clovis opened his eyes again they were dull, unfocused.

"No one," Clovis said, and Suzaku nearly melted in relief. "Who would even care if I left any-"

Lelouch pulled the trigger.

The thick, wet slap of blood was- it was just- and the smell. It took all Suzaku had not to retch right there as Clovis' body lurched forward and then fell hard on the floor with a sickening crunch, a bundle of slack weight, his wrists tied behind his back. The sight of his mouth wide open, blue eyes staring into Suzaku's –

He and Schneizel, Suzaku realized. They had killed Clovis, and Suzaku had played along without a thought of what it meant to not just ruin a man's life but to take it from him as well.

Suzaku made a noise in the back of his throat, overcome with horror and the realization that he had paid a price, too. And looking up at Lelouch's blank eyes, his outstretched arm, he thought, And was it worth it?

"Call VV." Lelouch was looking down at his own gun with a lost expression. Then he looked up and Suzaku nearly recoiled as he met Lelouch's stare. Everything… everything was gone.

"Call VV. Tell him that it's done." Lelouch finally dropped his arm, but he continued to hold onto his gun as he knelt down on one knee and brushed Clovis' hair away from his face.

Suzaku had to look away. It was Gino who caught his gaze, looking at Suzaku intently as he said, "Yes, my Lord."