Okay, first of all, I'm going to warn you straight off: This fic, as described by the summary as being set post-R2, is absolutely RIDDLED with spoilers for pretty much all of Code Geass, including the finale. Especially the finale. And pretty much from the get-go, as well.
So, thankyou very much for clicking on my story, but if you don't want the ending of the series spoiled, don't read it. Seriously. Someone spoiled the finale for me. It ruined my life. O.o
Ahaha, well, not really – but I wasn't very happy. So, yeah. Just a heads-up. I've given the warning, so it's fair game from here on out. If you read on and get spoiled, it's not my fault. So there. ;)
Whoo, so, OMG, multi-chaptered Code Geass fic! I haven't ever (deliberately) written one before, so I am excited! I say "deliberately" because Survive has three chapters but that was more a case of it simply… accumulating. It's more like three interconnected oneshots as opposed to being a story…
But this is a real, proper, totally-intended multi-chapter Code Geass fic! Huzzah! And it's SuzakuxLelouch! Oh yeah!
Oh, and if the title of this fic reminds you of a little something called Ghost in the Shell…
…Well, more about that afterwards.
'Organisms are not machines, but they can to a certain extent become machines – congeal into machines.'
- Arthur Koestler; The Ghost in the Machine
The Ghost in the Machine
I – Knight, Devil, Witch
"Well, you don't care about my opinion, do you?" she murmured, a trace of a smile on her face as she looked at him. "If you did, I would give it to you, but you haven't changed…"
"Is that supposed to be a joke?"
Her pretty smile twisted.
"Rather a sick one if it is, right?" Her head tilted slightly, her hair swaying at the small of her back. "Actually, I would say that it's more like me mocking you… if that was the case, anyway."
"And is it?"
She looked at the ceiling.
"No," she decided eventually. "Because even if it's true… I wasn't talking about how you look. I meant your personality. You've never taken advice from me."
"That's because you're selfish."
She looked back at him, her gold eyes gleaming.
"Of course." She laughed – perhaps at him, or perhaps at herself. "Which makes it all the more amusing that you won't take the one thing I offer you."
"You were offering me your opinion, not your advice."
"And you don't want it."
"Of course not."
"How about a fact, then?"
He didn't answer her – sitting before the mirror in sudden silence, looking not at his reflection, but rather down at the folded pink paper crane cradled gently in his slender hands.
She said nothing else either, acting as the backdrop to the reversed picture of them both in the mirror at the dresser.
He, who suddenly hadn't aged; and she, who suddenly had.
"Was your "fact" that it's idiotic?" he asked at length, playing with the crane's wings.
"No. That it's unnecessary." Her voice softened. "You've done enough. You've done everything you could. To go back now, simply for that—"
"I think it's necessary. Unless it's done, it's not finished." He looked over his shoulder at her. "But it won't be like last time. I don't need to drag anybody else in with me – not even you. I can do this by myself."
"I shouldn't have told you about it."
"Maybe you shouldn't have given me Geass, either." He smiled sharply. "But I'm glad you did."
She gave an absent nod.
"Shall I come with you?"
"No." He stood up and turned towards her, leaning against the dresser. "I don't need you."
She smiled in real amusement.
"As charming as always," she said dryly.
"This has nothing to do with you anymore, anyway."
"…I suppose not. I am free of it now."
"And I was caged in your place."
"Hm." She acknowledged the statement with a nod, her gaze settling absently at his abdomen. "But if not, then you would not be here now to make up your silly mind about things like this."
"Couldn't the same be said for you, witch?"
"Certainly." The smirk faded as quickly as it had graced her face. "…But you are being silly."
"Perhaps. But I won't be satisfied with it any other way."
"I know that. That's why I said that you haven't changed. Maybe it's conceit, or you being in love with changing everything that you can, or simply pride."
"Pride?" He gave a cool little laugh. "This coming from you, when you won't answer to your true name? Instead I must still call you C.C., even when the Code from which that name comes now belongs to me?"
Her head tilted again and the odd smile returned.
"Of course – because I haven't changed either. I'm still the selfish witch you call C.C., right?"
He gave a smile of his own and looked down at the crane once more.
"And is that also why you're going back?" she asked, following his gaze to it.
"No," he replied, his voice growing cold. "I already said that I won't drag anybody else in with me again, and I… especially not him. I've done enough." He gave little sigh, and spoke more to himself; "I've ruined him enough…"
C.C. crossed to him, stopping right before him; he looked up at her, a little warily.
"I am not like V.V.," she said. "I don't get jealous when people I've made contracts with love someone else. After all, you promised to grant my wish – you promised me nothing else."
"This has nothing to do with that," he replied stiffly, looking away. "It wouldn't matter either way, anyway. I'm dead to the world – and, most of all, to him. He's the one who killed me, after all." He gave a little shake of his head. "No, I couldn't do that to him. Suzaku… and Nunnally, too… They have their new world, and it exists without me in it. It's better if it stays that way."
He looked at C.C. again.
"Isn't it?" he asked her.
She took the hand that wasn't holding the crane and wrapped her own fingers around it. She said nothing.
"That is something you would have to ask Suzaku Kururugi."
"Then you'll never know." She smiled at him. "Go and do whatever you want, little boy. If you don't come back, I'll come and find you."
He smiled lazily at her.
"Is that a threat?"
"Since when do you care if I come back or not?"
"Are we not still accomplices? You yourself once called us a witch and a devil."
"Yes." She kissed him on the forehead. "Because I'm C.C., and you're Lelouch."
He awoke, as he had before, with his name on his lips.
The silence of the night, having long since settled over each of the rooms like a blanket – at once both comforting and terrifying – was punctuated by his gasps, drawn in a breathless staccato rhythm, as though he had spent too long beneath the surface of ice-laden water.
It wasn't a cold night, but he found himself shivering; maybe from some subtle horror that he could not understand, even now, and never had.
The dream had been formless – empty, even. He often had vivid dreams of him, reliving the times when their worlds had been one; playing in the dusty shadows of trees as children, or lying in the sun on the grass of Ashford Academy, or those last days, when he had dimly and uninterestedly considered counting every eye-like jewel on his robes, if only he would care to stand still long enough.
Sometimes he watched him die again, and awoke in a worse state than even this.
But tonight he couldn't remember anything about it. Maybe it hadn't been a dream about him after all. Perhaps it was simply the emptiness of it which had connected him, upon waking, to his name, because he wasn't a part of this closed world anymore.
The world was a better place, more so than it had ever been, but Suzaku Kururugi felt as trapped as he always had. Perhaps he could not resent it, for he had always desired punishment for his sins, and this was surely it—
But still, perhaps he somehow resented Lelouch, if only for leaving him behind – and reminding him of it by being alive to him whilst he slept.
(Although maybe they'd always only been able to be together outside of reality.)
He pushed back the sheets and rose. As it had been every night for the past three years, the bed was empty but for him, so there was no reason for him to stay here. He slept because it was necessary – because the man behind the mask was human and thus functioned as such. But he was never really tired anymore, never really hungry; happy, sad or angry.
He existed only because he had no other option.
And perhaps for Nunnally, too, because he was really all she had left now; but the truth was, he'd never felt like more of a machine.
Even if he had long since ceased to be a part of one.
On reaching the balcony overlooking the garden, silent and silver, he found himself no longer alone; Nunnally was already out here, sitting quietly in her chair with her hands folded in her lap and her long hair braided over her shoulder, the way she often wore it to sleep now.
"Can't you sleep either?" he asked softly, approaching her from behind.
She turned her large lilac eyes towards him, blinking in surprise; at present, he couldn't help but be unsettled. Of course she looked like him – she was his sister. She was eighteen now, as he had been – and age had moulded her more than ever into his likeness. His eyes, granted, had been a darker shade of purple, but there was no mistaking the similarity. He could see Lelouch in her, and would have been able to, he reasoned, even if he hadn't been looking.
"I was just thinking about tomorrow," she replied with a smile.
Nunnally nodded, and Suzaku couldn't help but smile.
"If you can call it that," he added. "I'd simply call it 'Lloyd showing off how clever he is'."
"It's a very big technological breakthrough, though, isn't?" Nunnally asked by way of reply, her tone both curious and amused. "I saw it on the news – Milly was talking about it in a special segment. Nina and Professor Chawla helped with the development of it, too."
"Hm." Suzaku leaned over the wooden balcony, folding his arms on the surface of it. "I can't say I'm surprised that Lloyd came out with something like that, at any rate. I know he was working on independent research, even back when I was only testing the prototype of the Lancelot."
"Oh?" Nunnally gave a little giggle. "Are you jealous, Suzaku? Do you wish that you were demonstrating the prototypes tomorrow, too?"
"Oh, I'm sure I'd have been first on Lloyd's list, if only he knew I was still available for his dangerous experiments with human life," Suzaku replied dryly. "But I'm certain that Gino and Anya will do him proud. He'll be especially delighted if one of them dies."
Nunnally blinked and Suzaku shook his head.
"I'm only joking," he murmured, smiling at her again. "He's not that awful…"
"Did you like working with him, Suzaku?"
"With Lloyd, you mean?"
"It had its perks," he replied. "And he's not a bad person – he's just… detached. It must just be the way he thinks. I don't think it's cruelty, but to him… humans are just another component to experiment on."
"…Are you not happy about what he's done?"
Suzaku was silent for a long while.
"I don't suppose it's got anything to do with me anymore, whether I am or not," he replied.
"But you can still care about it," Nunnally replied firmly.
"I guess so."
"In which case… what do you think?"
"I think… that it's dangerous." He looked at her. "But… it's all been pretty dangerous, hasn't it? Getting here at all."
"Hm?" Nunnally tilted her head. "Is that what it's like? Technology?"
"I… No, perhaps that's what Lloyd would say. That humanity, all of it, the way it works… is like a machine. Maybe that's what inspires him."
"Well, if that's true, then the machine is working well, isn't it?"
Nunnally reached for Suzaku's hand, touching her fingertips gently against his skin, as though feeling for his answer. She had learned to rely on this less over the past three years, instead re-learning to judge the world by what had been so long taken from her, but it was understandable that she'd fall back into that old habit now and then. Maybe she was more comfortable to find the answers that really mattered to her this way – a lie was, after all, merely an appearance.
And devils could hide behind the appearances of princes.
(And maybe she preferred to talk to Suzaku through touch, even now; because she had first met him, and first loved him, when she had been blind, and when she had finally opened her eyes, her first ever sight of him, seeing Suzaku Kururugi for what he looked like, had been merely to show him the face of her adversary.
The first time she had seen him, both he and Lelouch, the brother she hadn't seen for nine years, had been her enemies.)
"It's what they would have wanted," Suzaku replied, taking her hand and squeezing it. "Euphy, and…"
He felt Nunnally stiffen almost imperceptively when he hesitated; though he could not say why she did so, or why indeed it was so hard for him to suddenly say his name, when he had spoken it in the silence of his room, where it had more space to echo and torment him, barely fifteen minutes before.
"It's perfect," he tried again; as Nunnally's gaze settled on him again, almost pleading with him. "Everything he did… always turned out perfect."
"But that's not true, is it?" Nunnally replied quietly, looking away from him; but still letting her small hand rest in his. "Not… not everything…"
"He would have called it that. But then… he did so like for things to go exactly his way, didn't he?"
"I know that, but I…" She gave a little sigh. "It would have been perfect, wouldn't it, if only he and Euphy had lived to see it…"
"But maybe… the machine works just as well without them."
"But do we, Suzaku?"
He couldn't read her eyes as she looked at him again; much the way he hadn't been able to read Lelouch's on the night they had stood before each other, with Lelouch explaining his plan for the Zero Requiem. His mouth had been smiling, but Suzaku hadn't been able to follow it to his eyes.
But there had been nothing else there, either. They had been completely empty – like the wasteland of his dream.
"Suzaku?" Nunnally asked again, tightening her fingers around his.
"Perhaps not correctly," he answered at length, his voice hollow. "Maybe we'll never work correctly again, Nunnally. But we're alive, and that's what he wanted from us. That's why he left us behind."
Though there were tears in her eyes, Nunnally laughed softly.
"How terrible of him," she said fondly.
"He was terrible – but that was what he wanted, as well."
"That's what makes me sad, Suzaku," Nunnally whispered, her laughter gone again. "I know… it was what he wanted, but you and I… are the only ones who know that he wasn't the monster he pretended to be."
"He pretended to be a lot of things."
"But he died in the final of those façades – his most hated." Nunnally wiped at her wet eyes on her cuff. "We're the only ones who still love him. We're the only ones who can."
"Maybe it's better that way."
"I miss him, Suzaku. But it's been three years. Do you think that's silly of me?"
"No, but if it is, then we're both guilty of the same idiocy."
"Yes." Nunnally smiled up at him again. "I'm… so glad that you love him too, Suzaku."
Suzaku gave a nod of reply and, after another long moment, loosened his grip on her hand; she took her own back, folding it with her other in her lap again.
"Goodnight, Nunnally," Suzaku said, starting away.
He looked back at her, but she gave a little shake of her head.
"Nothing, it doesn't matter… I can just do it tomorrow…"
"No, tell me. I can do whatever it is that you want, Nunnally."
"Oh, I just… I think he might need another candle. I put the new down there about four days ago now. It must have burned out by now, but… it's okay, I can do it tomorrow."
"No." Suzaku shook his head. "I'll go down and do it for you now."
"For us, Suzaku." She twisted her fingers together absently. "I have one in my room."
They were like each other in that respect. He didn't want to leave him without a flame burning either, even if it was just until morning.
He took Nunnally back to her room and waited at the door for her to return with the small, round white candle, perfectly new, and with her brother's name etched neatly into the wax. It was their own little remembrance ritual – a day didn't pass when there wasn't a candle exactly like this one burning. They did the same for Euphemia, and he didn't know when it was going to stop – if ever.
It had become a kind of obsession on both parts.
"I put a new one down there for Euphy yesterday," Nunnally said, lighting the candle as Suzaku held it in his palms. "These ones seem to last quite a few days, but even so… Brother's must have gone out by now. He would never be so disorganized…"
"No," Suzaku agreed, watching the flame catch the wick and leap to life, casting its warm light upwards onto his face; it was true. Lelouch had been fussy and meticulous like that. No wonder Milly and Rivalz had teased him…
He left Nunnally with a nod and a pale smile, cupping the candle carefully in his hands, the flame dancing to the rhythm of his footsteps. The chamber was underground, and by the time he got down there, the flame had grown, no longer struggling against the new wick.
It lit his way as he crossed the floor to the pool, which lay perfectly still, like a black mirror – in the centre of which, floating like a solitary ship on a calm sea, was a pink candle, its dancing gleam a kindred spirit to the one he held on his palms. Near to it, having, as Nunnally had predicted, gone out, was the remainder of the other candle with Lelouch's name cut into it by his sister's loving hand.
Suzaku knelt at the edge of the artificial pool and let the candle go onto its glass-like surface, giving it a little nudge with his fingertips to push it away towards Euphemia's candle and the other one which bore the dead prince's name.
He sat back, placing his hands on the ground and folding his legs, as he watched it drift quietly away. It was dark in here but for their soft light, which nonetheless lit the chamber well, almost unnaturally-so.
He wondered how many candles they had lit for them. Perhaps it was to be like that old Japanese legend about origami paper cranes – fold a thousand of them and your wish will come true. He'd told Nunnally that once, seeing her make one – she'd replied that Sayoko had once told her the same thing, on being her teacher.
Was that what they were doing? Was this less for Lelouch and Euphemia, and more for Nunnally and himself? Was this their consolation, knowing that there was a tangible symbol of their remembrance, burning as their sorrow did? Maybe it was nothing but the fulfilment of a silly wish neither of them really believed would come true.
Lelouch had said that. That Geass was like wishes. Suzaku hadn't really understood what he'd meant. He'd been able to agree with him, because he knew what he meant on principle – ideologically and metaphorically, he'd understood Lelouch's words.
But he couldn't understand Geass itself – perhaps because he knew how it felt to have a wish, but not how it felt to have it fulfilled.
He thought of C.C., who'd been so like him in that respect. He'd not spoken of her to Nunnally, because there seemed to be no point in bringing her up, trying to explain her existence and purpose, neither of which C.C. herself had really had a reason for.
But he knew that he and Nunnally weren't the only ones who had known Lelouch simply for who and what he was. He could never know if C.C. had ever cared about Lelouch in the end, but he did not think ill of her for that. C.C. had been tired of love and tired of life.
But she'd known that Lelouch hadn't been all that he pretended to be, either.
He wondered where C.C. was now. He hadn't seen her since… that day. It was logical. He had called himself Lelouch's sword, and thus declared C.C. his shield – and, that day, Lelouch hadn't needed a shield.
So she'd left, and Suzaku hadn't seen or heard of her since. She hadn't even been present at Lelouch's funeral. He hadn't, of course, expected her to come in a black veil and weep over his coffin, but he'd looked for her on the outskirts of it, almost hoping to see that sad, dull glint of her gold eyes, but she hadn't come.
But he'd had Nunnally to deal with, anyway. She'd been inconsolable for days afterwards. He'd been in the sickening, oppressive grasp of grief himself, but he'd held himself together – for her, because she had needed him.
He'd cried alone, at night, when there was no demand for him to be strong for someone else.
Lelouch hadn't been the only casualty, of course. He couldn't begin to count how many had died – but some of them, he reasoned, so young. Euphemia, of course – and Lelouch himself had been only eighteen. But there had been that boy from the Order, Rolo, as well – sixteen, if he'd even been that.
And Shirley Fenette. There was something about her death that had always disturbed him – perhaps because he'd been with her the day that she had died. He and Lelouch. She'd tried to repair their friendship, for the sake of acknowledging friendship as the precious thing she'd always believed it was.
She'd been right. It had truly hit him, harder than anything, when he lost Lelouch – his first, best, and perhaps only real friend.
He'd been more than that, as well, but at this point, Suzaku didn't think the difference between sexual and platonic love meant anything. It didn't change the fact that Suzaku had loved him, or that he still did, or that Lelouch was dead.
So maybe those candles, or wishes, weren't just for Euphemia and Lelouch. Maybe they were for everyone, living or dead. For Nunnally and C.C. and perhaps even Suzaku himself; and for Shirley and Rolo as well as Euphy and Lelouch.
But perhaps still mostly for you, Lelouch; because I loved you most of all.
Tragic, tragic stuff. Seriously.
Or, at least, it would be, were Lelouch not in fact merely off gallivanting with C.C. somewhere.
Alright, let's start with the theory – the "theory" being the fan-theory that Lelouch didn't actually die at the end of R2. Now, honestly, whether he actually did or not by official standards (and he very well may have done) makes no difference to this fanfic, because it's exactly that: A fanfic. So we'll call The Ghost in the Machine merely speculative. You know, for a bit of fun. But the theory is that Lelouch has a Code. There is a divide in opinion as to whether he has C.C.'s Code or Charles' Code (originally V.V.'s). The theory continues that Suzaku "killing" him activated the Code and therefore, in the final scene, C.C. was actually talking to him personally as opposed to the more metaphysical sense in which Kallen addressed him in the scene before.
I mean, there's no evidence for it, and I don't think it makes the ending any more or less cool if he did or didn't die, but it's a neat theory nonetheless. So I sprang on it for this fic. Totally.
Next. The Ghost in the Machine. You may have heard this actual title before, or simply be more familiar with the "variation" of it, Shirow Masamune's Ghost in the Shell (FYI, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex? Awesome show. Seriously. End plug.). Okay, basically, The Ghost in the Machine is the title of a book by Arthur Koestler, published in 1967 – it's essentially the concept of the human mind or consciousness (ghost) being a separate entity to the body (machine). Ghost in the Shell pretty much employs the same ideology, more or less – although, given its nature, goes more into the whole humans/cyborgs thing. I mean, if you've seen either the movies or Stand Alone Complex, you'll know what I'm talking about. They can upload their "ghosts" onto the internet and stuff… O.o Which is irrelevant to this fic – but just in case you immediately thought of Ghost in the Shell when you saw this story's title, Koestler's book is originally where it comes from.
Okay, I did my research. I found the only copy of The Ghost in the Machine in my university library. I checked it out. I'm not going to say I read it all, because I didn't, but I read quite a bit of it. There was not much in there which lent itself to what I am trying to do with this fic. So I am not going to be using any of the concepts explored in the book itself.
Hurrah, you all say; because there's nothing worse than a story crammed full of botched philosophy that the author only thinks they understand. What I want to do is reliant only on the title of 'The Ghost in the Machine' itself; so we'll use that as our (literal) metaphorical springboard and go from there.
This story: Machinery = major theme. Most Code Geass fics ignore the Knightmares, I've noticed (I'm completely guilty of it myself – though not as much as the official Code Geass manga, in which Knightmares do not exist. No, I have NO IDEA how that works either, given that, last I checked, Code Geass was a mecha). BUT it's really important to this fic. We'll see how well this goes (Read: How well I can write it. In real life, me and technology do not get on – if I got in a Knightmare, it would probably blow up…).
So, yeah… that's that. One more thing to bore you with (aren't you glad I saved all this for the end?):
The structure of this fic is very choppy. It's full of flashbacks, all of which have some kind of point, but may not be chronological, exactly…
Again, merely a fair warning, in case, over the course of The Ghost in the Machine, you begin to think I have some form of ADD…
Okay, so, thankyou for reading! I hope you liked the first chapter… more than you liked the excessive AN that ambushed you right after it.