A/N: This is significantly longer than the other chapters, and so it took me a longer time to update it. It's also very pivotal in the storyline, and you get to see... Well. ;D You'll see. Also. This is very, very long, rounding out at about eight thousand words. Make sure you have a warm cup of something to keep you interested in it as you go along. Originally, this wasn't going to be so long—shorter, but it would have ended in a cliffhanger. I thought you guys deserved a longer chapter due to a longer time period without updates, and one that finally resolved something. (Even if it's rough and unbeta'ed.) Believe me, though. The story is not over. In fact, it has about another five or six chapters to go, and maybe more, depending on how much I can fit into one.
ALSO. I don't think I've replied to all the reviews yet, to which I must apologize for. You'll be getting replies soon. (I am so excited about hitting fifty! 8D You guys wouldn't believe~ If any reviewers have suggestions on how to reward yourselves, I'll gladly take them. Just no writing projects. ;____; I have so many right now, it's not even funny. Not that it would be. But, um...)
There is swearing in this chapter. Not a lot of it, but enough to warrant a warning. You also get Lelouch's POV!
EDIT: Huge thanks to 'All That Is Left Unsaid' for helping me iron out most of the grammatical kinks in this chapter. c: Thank you so much! An added thanks to others who also pointed out more glaring mistakes (like the slash marks).
Disclaimer: I had a dream where I owned Code Geass. Sadly, I woke up and my dream hadn't carried over to reality.
Go ahead and buy yourself a drink;
because you know you're deserving of it—
if everything isn't all right, it's not done
There was a time— there was no time. It was a great empty maw, this lack of space and time and color and life, prepared to swallow Kallen as she sat there, helpless. She saw herself reflected in thousands of mirrors. It made her feel so useless, so weak. How would she ever protect anyone if she couldn't even save herself? She stood up. Somehow, she would escape this place. Somehow.
And she walked. Through the desert, whispering secrets and memories and nothings against her skin; the cathedral, soaked in blood and flowers. She clenched her teeth and walked forward. Time would wait. The world would not.
The day was breaking, and she walked towards the sunrise.
"So, how was it?"
Kallen smiled at Kaguya and pulled down her skirt. It went down to just below her knees. Her school uniform was worse, but people were actually looking at her. She knew it wasn't just her imagination. Several people had clapped her on the back and congratulated her. She didn't know why, except that she'd raced; it wasn't like she'd won anything or even gotten into the top spot, though that weird professor had thought she'd done well— for her first time. All that Kallen felt was relief that it was over and done with and she hadn't gotten too hurt. At the thought, she touched the bandage intersecting her forehead and ran her fingers along the edge of the cut.
"Good, I guess," she said, and accepted the glass of (what she hoped was) fruit juice the waiter passed her. "I'm kind of tired. Do you mind if I go sit down?"
"But the dancing is about to start," Kaguya whined, pouting. Kallen could hear the music starting in the background. A gentle, swaying melody that she'd heard somewhere before, something that would crescendo and rise into a rhythm of fast-plucked strings and tinkling chimes. She shook her head to disperse it.
"I'm going to go get a drink," Kallen said, and made her escape. Kaguya would know that she was deliberately avoiding having to dance. She was sure that if she tried it, she wouldn't end up tripping over her own or her partner's feet, but she didn't want to be seen with anyone. She could already see the long line of people forming into groups of two on the summer grass.
"You have a drink in your hand!" came the indignant call from behind her. Kallen would have grinned, but there was an ache in her bones and one building behind her eyes. She rolled her ankles and frowned. If she kept going like this, she might have arthritis by the time she was forty. Which was a funny thought— her, the head athlete at her elementary and middle schools bedridden with arthritis— but that of a headache wasn't. She fished around at the hem of her dress. If anyone looked, they'd just think she was nervously fiddling with it. Kallen was actually looking for her bottle of pills, in the hidden seam underneath the hem. She frowned. She'd look in her purse when she got to a safer place.
She slipped through the crowds, murmuring quiet apologies as she bumped into people, elbowed them, or did something along those lines. Usually they didn't even hear her. Drunk off themselves, probably. It would be just like the Britannians. Of course they didn't mean it. It was just their natural attitude, after all. They couldn't help what they'd been raised to be like.
Scowling, she came to a tree strung in lights that glowed like fireflies and sat on the grass beneath it. It was a beautiful night. She could even think the dancers were beautiful, once she was outside of their throng, elegantly dressed in vivid colors and twirling around gracefully, skirts and coattails swilling out around them. Like a flock of bright birds in the morning. She raised her glass to her smiling lips and gulped half of it down, thinking to you, whoever you are.
I'm being too wistful, she thought, and downed the rest of her drink. She probably should get back to Kaguya. While she wouldn't mean it maliciously, Kaguya might just decide to get up and leave without even thinking about her. It would suck to get stuck there. She could walk home if it came down to that. Her house wasn't too far away, at least not in her terms, and if any asshole tried to touch her, she'd show him that even blunt nails could do a hell of a lot of damage.
"Shouldn't you be dancing?"
Her head jerked up at Lelouch's voice, and he had the utter gall to laugh at her surprised expression. She scowled and crossed her arms.
"Shouldn't you be doing something more productive than stalking me?" she snapped back in irritation. One of her bangs swung into her face. She blew it back. He moved forward, as if to brush it out of her face, and she caught his wrist with her hand and his gaze with her glare. "What more do you want from me? I agreed to meet with you. What next, are you going to try and rape me?"
"It's not rape if the victim is willing," he said with a smirk. Kallen's scowl deepened.
"Who said I'd be willing?" she retorted, and his gaze dropped to her grip on his wrist. She only tightened it. "I don't think that counts. I could only be doing this so you'll have a bruise there—"
"—which I could explain in various lewd ways," Lelouch said, shrugging. "Honestly, I'm just doing it so you don't have to dance with anyone else."
"Shouldn't you be dancing with your fiancee?" she replied after a moment of thought. Who would want to dance with her? If anyone did ask, she could have just declined, politely or not depending on how they asked. "And don't you have to appease your fans?"
"Already did." His smirk had been downplayed to a smile— a friendly one. "I danced with all the females in my family, made smalltalk with Shirley, took my little sister on a walk, and directed five of your possible suitors in the wrong direction."
At her skeptical, narrowed expression, he sighed. "I just want one dance. I promise I'll never— that I won't bother you again tonight, and if you don't want to see me after tomorrow, I won't ever again."
His pleading violet eyes made no impression on her, but the thought of a lack of him made everything seem brighter. One dance would be worth it, wouldn't it? Even if her insides told her not to trust him and she always relied on her gut feeling—
"All right," she nodded and stood up. Kallen brushed grass away from her skirt. Lelouch took a step away and bowed, extending one pale hand to her. She placed her own in it and he put his lips against the fabric of her glove. A pleasant buzz trembled throughout her as Lelouch wrapped his arm around her waist, his form inches away from hers, their hands clasped to the left of them. At first, they were swaying so gently she hadn't realized they'd started. His eyes were heliotrope pools (endless and ageless and loveless, and she'd never been this poetic before, so why now?).
Everything blurred around them— ah shit, hallucinogenic drugs again?! she thought, trying hard to hold onto what remained of her mind. It was almost like he drugged her. She couldn't snatch her gaze away from his, and when he spun her, she was practically desperate to look at him again. His hand was warm against her own, his arm protective around her. There was nothing else. No family. No school. No worries, no pain, no need to feel those inconsequential things called emotions. She was Kallen Kouzuki, a student at some ritzy private school, and a part-time worker at her brother's garage. Then she just— wasn't.
When she came back to herself, he was dipping her, and she'd never felt safer. Her fingernails had dug into his shoulder blades. He had the same expression she momentairily saw mirrored in those eyes: hazy, high. Then they were flat and purple.
The song ended with polite applause as the couples switched with each other. Kallen jumped away, hugging herself, trying to stop her stomach from dropping. She was going to be sick again.
"I'm sorry," Lelouch said, as bewildered as she felt. "I have no idea what that was—"
"If you're lying, I will find you and castrate you." She couldn't look at him. What was this?! She didn't like it at all. "So, you promised. One dance, I go to this address tomorrow, and you'll never bother me again, right?"
The piece of paper was crumpled in her fist. Lelouch nodded, albeit reluctantly, his hands in his pockets and his head down. Kallen hesitated before she walked past him, back into the whirl of lights and color, and she could have almost sworn she heard him whisper 'I'm sorry'.
She woke up feeling like hell on legs the next morning. Kallen had changed into the rattiest, most comfortable pajamas she owned and hadn't even said good night to her mother, who was in bed reading; or Naoto, who was playing poker with their friend Ohgi. She was pretty sure that hadn't been just fruit juice, either, that she'd drunk.
Rubbing at her eyes and yawning, she cracked her eyelids and fumbled for her phone. It was a solid weight in her hand. Flipping it open, she texted Naoto as quickly as possible and asked for some pills, orange juice, and a doughnut. He texted back and told her to get her lazy rear out of bed and get it for herself. She scowled. At least she had all the time in the world, she decided. It was Sunday. Mhm, perfect for staying in bed and resting, and maybe taking a long walk in the afternoon. She smiled. That would be good. She needed some time to herself, so she wasn't driven absolutely crazy by that—
Her feet were on the floor before it hit her. Kallen's eyelids flared open and she froze, her hand curling into a fist, her coverlet a substitution stress ball.
Breathe in, her mind conditioned. Breathe out. Just, you know— calm down and don't go hit anything. Good, you're doing good, this isn't bad, is it? Now just calmly go and ask Naoto what time it is—
In lieu of moving her reluctant self out of the safety of her bedroom, she checked her phone. It was nine o'clock. A slightly fanatic look in her eyes, she stood up and robotically moved towards the dresser, pulling out a 'casual' outfit and staring desperately at it before picking up her phone and dialing another number. She counted the dial tones. The girl had it down to a science.
"Hello~? Good morning, Kouzuki-san! Are you free today? You seemed odd last night, so I was going to—"
Kallen cut off Kaguya's voice, which was becoming very similar to the squeal of rubber tires against asphalt. "Kaguya, I need your advice."
You shouldn't do this, the part of her she'd dubbed her personal therapist said. What if she asks for money? Or if you're going out with someone? Or—
"With what?" Kaguya sounded all too pleased. Kallen looked heavenward.
"I need you to help me—pick out clothes. Please."
"For what? Ooh, is Kallen going on a date?"
"I guess so," she said, staring out the window at the bright blue sky. "Yeah, I guess you could call it that."
Lelouch watched the milk hit the bottom of his glass with apathy induced by the early hour. By 'early hour', he meant eleven o'clock, but any hour would be considered early if you were kicked out of your bed and mercilessly teased for being so whipped.
"Watch it, Lulu," came a patronizing voice from behind him. "You might spill it if you don't watch out for yourself."
He rolled his eyes and tossed the milk into the sink, opting for coffee instead. Lelouch was sure if he listened hard enough, he would be able to hear C.C.'s smirk. He'd asked her for her help three days ago. She'd laughed at him and his 'silly fascination with how things were'. Could he help it? Kallen had been close to him in his—past life. Many others had been. He was lucky that Nunnally was still related to him, and that he'd met Suzaku when he was thirteen. Otherwise, he might not have known how to deal with them not being close to him, and he'd have been liable to attach himself to their side in a creepy manner, a manner that certainly wasn't accepted in society.
"So, is the Red Lotus coming to visit us today?" He turned to look at C.C. She sat on the kitchen counter, her expression going from disdainful to blank in seconds. Sometimes she seemed different. A little more open about her feelings; a little more bitter in turn. Others she seemed the same as she had—what? One hundred, one-twenty years ago? She had not changed physically. Most days she kept her hair in a loose braid and wore comfortable, knee-length dresses, but her eyes were the same gold color and her hair the same green color as sour apples.
"She's supposed to." He shrugged and ran a hand through his hair. He'd taken a shower that did little to wake him up and dressed in clean clothes, and sent Nunnally out for a trip to the carnival. On the subject of his clothes, the following conversation had taken place.
"Do you think you're going to a white-tie event?"
He looked at her, mock-hurt. "There's nothing wrong with my clothes," he said, his tone leaving no room for extra remarks. But he'd learned that C.C. always had the last word.
"I always thought you were a little flamboyant," she'd sighed, dangling socked feet off the end of his bed and flipping through a feminine magazine she'd found in Nunnally's room. "Then again, I didn't know such traits exceeded a life span. Are you sure you weren't secretly a girl in the life before your last, Lulu-chan?"
"Are you sure this is wise, Lelouch?" she asked, and her tone had softened. It hadn't softened to the point of concern. This was C.C. he was dealing with, after all.
He mulled over it. His spoon chimed against the side of his mug as he stirred sugar and cream into it, watching it lighten from black to brown and the white center slowly break apart and disintegrate into the rest of the liquid. No, he wasn't sure it was wise; he just didn't have much choice else. Kallen wasn't much different this time around, either. Both of them looked very much like their counterparts in their last life, and while the situations they'd grown up in had changed significantly, there were some things you couldn't take from people. She still had that core of pride and a fighting spirit. He was still calculating and ruthless. Perhaps his Geass wasn't the same, yet— He couldn't let this go.
"No," he eventually said, setting down his spoon in the sink. He took a long sip of his coffee. "But we always bet on chances, didn't we?"
C.C. was halfway through nodding when the doorbell rang. Lelouch's arm jerked and he spilled coffee over himself and the floor. Throwing the roll of paper towels at C.C., who was smirking her equivalent of hysterical laughter after him, he cursed and wrung his shirt out as best as he could. The doorbell sounded a second time. He walked to the door. It took effort to keep his step even and his features smooth, suave, and debonair.
She was standing awkwardly in the middle of his porch. There were shadows underneath her eyes and she looked unhealthily wan, her shoulders slumped. She straightened guiltily when she saw him. Her heels snapped together and her hand twitched at her side, as if she was tempted to make a salute. He noticed that she had dressed up for the occasion; not overtly so, just enough to make him notice the effort. If she were healthier, the color scheme would have brought out the blush in her cheeks and the lurid blue of her eyes. As it was, it just served to make her look pallid and washed-out.
A black jacket was over her shoulders and a pale pink shirt was underneath it, billowing to mid-thigh. A skirt that matched her jacket inched past it. Her shoes were what C.C. would call 'hooker boots'. A butterfly barrette twinkled in her hair, doing little to contain her spiky hair. They stared at each other. He'd never seen her in such formal attire, in this life or the last, and he wasn't that surprised to find his palms clammy and his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth.
Funny, he thought. I can kill and command without a second thought, yet seeing her makes me nervous. This is a problem.
"You look—" he ventured, and shut his mouth as she observed him in return, her eyes stopping at the coffee stains. She raised her eyebrows. If he remembered correctly, she'd never been able to raise each one individually. "—nice. This isn't what it looks like, I assure you."
"Whatever." She folded her arms and glared at him. It was so familiar he smiled, and she snarled. "You called me here. What for?"
"Please, come inside and—"
"I don't want to have tea. I want to find out what you wanted me for." Her chin jutted upwards stubbornly, and she didn't drop her gaze for a second. Kallen stepped forward. He stayed in place.
"Fine," he relented, his words not revealing that it could be considered relenting at all. He turned away and didn't wait to see if she'd follow. She always had—and he hoped that, out of all things, it was one habit that hadn't changed.
Her footsteps thudded on the stairs behind him as he climbed. The walls were bare of pictures. His family had changed, but apparently fate enjoyed mocking him too much to have different parents. Cousins had become uncles and aunts or distant relatives, and uncles and aunts had turned into cousins. Lelouch didn't mind. As long as he wasn't forced to see them often, he was fine with keeping them at arm's length.
"C.C.?" he called, rapping his knuckles on the library door. It wasn't an actual library; just a room with a fireplace, the shelves stacked to capacity with movies and books. She liked to sit in there. Whatever she did was beyond him.
Silence fell. No answering dry remark broke it. Lelouch twisted the knob and stopped as Kallen spoke, "You know, I'm not going in there." He stared at her incomprehensibly. She ducked her head, a pale blush on her cheeks. "You know. Alone. With... you."
He chuckled. "Really, Kallen, I'd stop suggesting these things. It's almost like you're leading me on." Lelouch turned the knob while she spluttered in protest.
C.C. was sitting on the sofa, legs crossed, a pair of black glasses perched on her nose. She had been reading, if the book in her lap was any indication.
"Yes?" she asked, cocking her head to the side and blinking innocently. A smirk grew on her face as she noticed Kallen standing behind him. "Ah, Lelouch—your next victim? So soon!"
This is where the practice of keeping your expression calm comes in. He tried not to turn red out of mortification as Kallen's spluttering increased. C.C. remained pleasant, no hint of her maliciousness appearing on her face.
"No pizza for a week," he hissed. C.C. raised a derisive eyebrow. He turned around, intending to tell Kallen to not listen to that witch and the lies she spewed, when he realized she was laughing. His mouth dropped open.
"You're crazy," she managed, wiping imaginary tears away from her eyes as she straightened, smoothing her mussed hair. "You're absolutely crazy, and I still don't trust you, but... Unless she's your accomplice, I'll feel safer with her in the room."
With that, Kallen walked into the library and flopped onto the floor. Lelouch compressed his lips. It hadn't been what he'd been expecting. Reluctance, yes—he would never have physically forced her to go in, though he almost would have said anything at all to make her follow him. Not that he was going to begrudge her doing it this way. It was easier, yet... He chewed on his lower lip, pulling the skin between his teeth. Was it right to burden someone with this knowledge? Just because he wanted company in his memory (or maybe only someone to assuage his guilt) gave him no right to disrupt Kallen's daily life and stack memories of another life onto her shoulders. It was in the past. Yet, she had agreed when he proposed it to her... It wouldn't be worth it to back down without finishing it. The risk was too great.
Shaking away all trepidation, he smiled at her and took a seat on the lavender couch. This was the only room with pictures in it. They lined the walls, black-and-white intermixed with color, formal portraits and blurred shots next to each other. His family and his friends, both new and old. He would have toasted them if he had a glass, or if they'd drawn his attention to them as closely as they usually did. Today, the whole of it was focused on her.
"So, what are we doing?" Kallen glanced from him to C.C. "You said that you could prove that you'd known me. In a past life."
No doubts. Remember, no doubts. "C.C., will you do the honors?"
The green-haired witch, the only one who'd really known him for his past two lives, turned to look at him apathetically. She rose with a sigh only to crouch down on the floor next to Kallen. C.C. took Kallen's hand in both of her own, sandwiching it between the two. "I advise you—don't scream. There will be pain. Are you sure?"
"I'm sure," she said, her smile disbelieving. She leaned back, against the edge of the sofa he was sitting on, and closed her eyes. Lelouch wished, with a taste like ashes in his mouth, that she would allow him to put his hand on her head. "This can't be too bad."
C.C.'s smirk was bitter and wry. "Everything is worse than it seems."
She leaned forward and brushed her lips against Kallen's forehead for a brief second. Kallen went rigid—mortis, as stiff as if she were dead. Her pupils contracted, her back half-arching and her fingers digging into the carpeting. Lelouch couldn't tell if this was what was supposed to be happening or not. He'd never seen it happen before, and C.C. remained impassive, the Geass sigil flaring beneath her bangs. A guttural sound came from Kallen's throat.
"C.C., you aren't doing anything I did not ask of you, are you?" he asked, and she held a hand up for silence. He remained unsure. Kallen's mouth hung open, and while she hadn't blanched, her knuckles showed white through her skin. She shook. Her throat was bared, her jaw clenched, and sweat had plastered her bangs to her temples. She was now muttering.
"No, no... I... I never wanted it to happen—why?! If you had just asked, if you had said one word, I would have—I would have done... anything... Anything..."
"Naoto, Naoto! Piggy-back ride, please!" Her brother smiled down at her before lifting her up to his shoulders, her chubby hands curling into his hair, the Japanese summer sun smiling down at them. Her father and her mother waited at the campsite. She could smell bacon frying and eggs cooking. It was happy—
"Damn it!" The phone fell to the floor, slipping through her fingers. She didn't care. It was expensive and so fucking what, what did it matter when Naoto was dead, when he would never laugh or cry or scream or breathe ever again. He had mattered. She hadn't. Why was he gone? Why couldn't she have been the one? Why, why, why, over and over again and none of it did anything. The cuts on her knuckles and the bruises as she pounded her fists on the kitchen floor did nothing. Her screams did nothing. The hot tears running down her face did nothing but leave her eyes red and ugly. Her ragged breathing did nothing. It was all for fucking nothing, and what did that leave her with? Nothing.
"I killed my father."
Kallen slit her eyes at Suzaku over the fire, out of instinctive suspicion and the upwards rush of embers. She didn't want to believe him. She'd never known him to lie; still, what kind of sick fuck would kill their old man? She muffled her snort behind her hand. He continued to look at her in that way, somewhere between honesty and lying, the fire adding new hollows and hidden turns to his face. She would, if she had the chance. She'd rip that man apart, tear him to shreds, and spit on his grave. It was different. His father had been a good man, an honest man, one who wouldn't have let Japan fall as far as it had. He wouldn't have let the Britannians march in and take. Her father was a liar. A Britannian.
Shrugging, she let out a yawn and rolled over. "So? I would kill mine."
Her screams echoed back at her. They were mocking her and him and it didn't matter. All her hate—all her anger—had been spent on this. She didn't regret a second of it.
Would she fall to her knees if she wasn't bound? No, she'd run towards him and scream at him. It was—wasn't fair. He brought peace. He brought happiness. And he'd never seen any of it. He'd never see it.
Why were you so kind? she wondered, desperately, as her bonds were loosed. Why?! It's not fair! Do you think any of us wanted this? Why did you—Why couldn't you have let me hate you? Why did you have to be so kind?
She was falling, through a hall of mirrors, past fields of flowers. Bright white lights blinded her. Somewhere, the sky burst apart (blue to red, aether to flame) and swords clashed; lovers entangled and battles were won. Battles were lost. Somewhere, sometime, a girl fell in love and a boy broke her heart; but that was an old story, old as time, and it was nothing new. Somewhere, sometime, friends held each other at gunpoint. Somewhere, sometime, a purple eye washed over red and she felt so very, very sick, and somewhere, sometime—
(A boy died. And his death meant everything.)
—a girl fell, white dress stained red. An innocent killer. Somewhere, sometime, a witch's stone heart cracked open and bled for the first time in centuries. Somewhere, sometime, a princess lost her sight and could not find her way back home. Somewhere, sometime—(the white king won the battle; the chess board toppled; an angry boy hid himself in a cloak of naivete and lies; a prince walked through the fire and slathered his hands in his beloveds' blood.)
Somewhere, sometime—and the world kept on turning.
"C.C., what did you do?!"
The witch glanced at him cooly. "I did exactly what you asked of me, Lelouch. I showed Kallen her past life."
He grit his teeth and clamped his eyes shut, fighting the surge of anger. It was hard not to revert to his former way of thinking; that she was just a pawn and he the black king, the one who made all the moves. He pressed his fingers to his eyes and waited for it to pass. The pain of his fingernails digging into his palm was a good distraction. Slowly, he allowed his breathing to even out.
"Tell me, Lelouch," came the half-curious inquiry from C.C. "Why do you bet so much on a single girl? I find it hard to believe you love her like you think you do. Is it her connection to the past? Out of all the people you know—that you like—her life has changed the least, in your opinion. Is it because she might still act the same? Did you hope that you might have something to cling onto?"
Lelouch gave her a level stare. She did not flinch. C.C. stared back, her fingers coursing through Kallen's hair. The redhead's eyelids were fluttering, revealing the whites and the occasional flicker of blue, and her mumbling was getting more comprehensible. Her forehead rested against his knee. "Why would I? The past is the past, and I should know that better than most. I don't wish to know how my legacy succeeded: the proof that it flourished is all around me. I don't wish to inflict any pain on her. But I—"
"Hush," C.C. said, and stood. She leaned over him, one arm on either side of him, her face inches in front of his own. Lelouch sat immobile. "You're a silly boy who doesn't know what, exactly, he wants. It's not what or how. It's why. Why do you want this? Why do you wish to inflict so much pain on someone? The sins of a past life are a heavy burden to bear, and the weight is doubled with the sins of this life."
"Are you suggesting I made a mistake?" he asked, his voice calm and dripping with ice. He laced his fingers over his stomach. Lelouch hated the way she could reduce him to something inconsequential in a matter of words, something to be brushed away, someone not worth a second glance. She'd treated him the same when he was a child and he started to have flashbacks to a life that was not his own. His mother wasn't worried; it was an apparent trait of his family, and if they were coming sooner than predicted, what was the problem? The only thing it meant that he was 'precocious'. But when the nightmares produced nosebleeds, migraines, nights spent awake in fear of the monsters, an old 'friend' was called in. C.C. had unlocked his memories a little at a time. They had ruptured into his daily life, memories of war and pain and the unbearable rot inside of him, like he was already dead; a zombie inhabiting a live body, and it had scared him. She had never held or coddled him. Sometimes he considered that she was trying to turn him into what he once was, but the time he suggested it (thirteen, face suffused red after an argument with his father, thunder rolling outside) she had walked out the door and hadn't come back for two months. When she did, she brought back postcards of India and Egypt, the far East, to 'trigger more memories'. All it had done was what she had meant it to do: show him that she didn't need him, but he needed her. He still hated it. Especially when she was exercising that power she held, like she was at that moment.
"No." He could feel her smile, curving jagged along his jaw as she pressed her lips to it. "I am only saying that—"
"Well then," Kallen said. If he had thought his voice had been icy, hers must contain the entirety of the arctic. "I see that not much has changed, has it?"
C.C. moved away, too slowly for her movements to be anything but purposeful. Lelouch wondered what cruel god had decided to make Murphy's Law. The kiss was not romantic; perhaps he had some semblance of those feelings for C.C. in his past life, as well as some for Shirley, but Kallen had always been his Q1. She was a wild card. Kallen was different. Despite her nature, she had refused to be just a pawn, and she had kissed him. If he had lived, if he had someone managed to gain her forgiveness, he would have loved her as best as he knew how. This kiss with C.C. had only been maternal, a reminder of their power struggle. Apparently, she hadn't thought so.
His throat tightened. Kallen had stood, her face turned away so he couldn't see her eyes. "Kallen, I—"
"Save your lies for someone who believes them," she said, her voice chocked. Her knees wobbled as she turned away. "I don't. Not anymore. I'm going home."
Lelouch stood and walked towards her, catching her shoulder. He tried to turn her around to face him. "Kallen, don't overreact. C.C. and I are just friends; nothing more. Partners. That's all we ever were, and—"
Her slap (she was stronger, if that was believable) made his head ring. He tasted blood. Suppressing that surge of anger, he clocked his neck back around until he could see her. This was his fault, not hers, and any anger taken out on her would not be justified.
"Don't touch me." Her face was blotchy, color high in her cheeks, her eyes swollen and her mouth red. "I'm—I have to go. I never want to see your sorry face again, Lelouch vi Britannia! Don't you dare approach me. If you talk to me at school, I'll ignore you. If you come and talk to me at Naoto's garage, I'll sic him on you. If you even try and talk to me through Kaguya, I'll make sure you never get to see her either."
With that, she turned away, practically fleeing. He stood. Like a girl touching her lips after her first kiss, he raised his fingers—trembling, he noted absently—to the mark she'd left on his face. She'd curled her fingers in at the last moment. When he took his hand away, the tips of his own were smeared red with his blood, and he hoped that she left a bruise.
Voice hollow, he said, "I made a mistake."
"And you're going to just leave it like that?" C.C. said derisively. She was sitting on the couch, picking up the book she'd been reading earlier, her eyes already focused on the page. "I never knew you were a quitter, Lelouch. I never thought you were much of a man, but I thought you were more than what you're acting like now."
"There is not a mistake," she muttered, "that cannot be fixed."
This is all your fault! he wanted to whine, like a child pointing fingers. All Lelouch did was nod. He waited there before checking his watch—nearly three P.M. Time had flown by, it seemed; and the next subway to her house left at three-thirty. If she ran, she could make it to the station in time, while he would have to order a taxi or ride a bike. It didn't matter, he decided, and grabbed his jacket off the wall.
"Goodbye, C.C.," he said, already out of breath as he shrugged it on. "I'll see you later."
The door clicked close behind him. C.C. looked up before pulling a malformed plush doll from behind the couch, and she wrapped her arms around it. "See, Cheese-kun," she whispered to it. "I told you he was a good boy."
Lelouch was already out the door when he realized that he had not heard or seen any footsteps coming down the stairs before him, but he did hear running water. He cocked his head before turning and running back upstairs. The sound was coming from the guest bathroom. Underneath it was a quieter sound, like muffled sobbing.
"Kallen?" he called, knocking on the door. He leaned against the wall. He'd wait until she came out, and she couldn't stay in there forever. Eventually, her family would start to miss her. She'd get hungry, and while there was water from the sinks, it was not as good as the one in the downstairs sink. When Nunnally came home, she'd wonder why a woman was in their bathroom.
The running water paused before turning back on, louder than before. It was several more seconds until she spoke. "Go away."
"I thought you were going home," he said, testing the knob. It was locked.
"I didn't know it was against the rules for guests to use the bathroom before doing so."
"It isn't," he agreed. He wanted to shout at her, plead with her, and Lelouch did none of those things normally. What was it about her? There were prettier women, smarter women; women more complacent, who would not bite back and glare as she did. He dared not use the word love to describe the enigmatic feeling inside of him. Lelouch didn't know what the feeling entailed (a need to protect her, love her? He'd felt none so far) and was not sure he wanted to find out.
"Good." Something broke the flow. She no longer sounded so raw, though that didn't mean she sounded all right. In regards to the latter, she sounded far from it.
The door creaked open. In an instant, his foot had wedged between it and the wall, blocking Kallen's attempts to close it. She kicked him in the shin, and despite the pain, he forced his way through and locked the door behind him. Kallen sat down on the rim of the bathrub, her face turned pointedly away, a sneer twisting her lips. He calmly slid down and sat on the floor across from her. Placing his hands on his kneecaps, he sighed heavily, waiting for her to say something. It was just a matter of waiting.
Finally, her eye twitched and she swung around to face him. There were tears in her eyes. Her fists slammed down onto the plastic and she shouted, "Why?! I didn't want to know any of it! I was doing fine! You bastard, you told me to move on—to live!—and when I get the chance to, you take it away! I—I never wanted to know. I just wanted to have happiness, and...I..."
"Would you rather have lived the rest of your life with nightmares?" he asked quietly, not once taking his eyes off her face. Everything she said was true; she had every right to call him names, to deprecate him, to hurt him. It wasn't like he didn't expect it.
"Yes," she said back, wiping furiously at her eyes and sniffing. "I would have! It's better than knowing what you did!"
"I did what was right for the time," he responded, handing her a ball of wadded toilet paper. She threw it back on him. It missed by a few centimeters, and if she hadn't still been crying, it probably wouldn't have. "I would have eventually been killed. I had to. After what I did, I didn't deserve to live, and it would ensure peace. People could live safely. With Zero behind Nunnally, none of the former Areas would question her legitimacy, and the world would be happy."
It took her a moment to respond. When she did, her eyes were bright and clear and focused, and she stood as she spoke. Her words sounded hollow. "Nunnally wasn't happy. Suzaku wasn't happy. I wasn't happy. You could have done something different. You could have gone away with C.C., or... I would have kept you safe. I could have. There were other ways."
She had knelt in front of him as she said it and taken his hands in her own. Her grip was so tight it was painful, her fingernails against the knobs of his wrists.
"No, there weren't," he said, no regret audible. "The world would have had a constant cloud of fear over it. What if the Demon Emperor came back? I appeared suddenly, and if I disappeared, I could have come again. The world would still be afraid."
"You could have faked it!"
"No, I couldn't have."
Kallen let his hands go and dropped her head into them. "I loved you. I know it wasn't enough. The rest of my life, I wondered...I tried...I moved on, but I thought about you so much. I—"
"I loved you as well," he cut her off, seeing her plunge into a tirade. "And that was how I showed it."
"By dying?" she asked, incredulous, lifting her head to stare at him.
"No," he said, and smiled at her. "By letting you live."
With a snort that was half sniffle, she slid over next to him, lying her head on his shoulder. He froze before slowly beginning to stroke her hair.
"You know," she said quietly, "I'm still going to kick your ass for putting me through that. And I'm still going to interrogate you on why you did this for—to—me. But...Thank you."
"For what?" he asked, pulling back. She grinned up at him.
"For one more chance."
A/N: I hate this chapter so much. D: But, um. My opinion doesn't really matter, considering every time I say it everyone goes, 'YOU'RE APOLOGIZING WHY ARE YOU APOLOGIZING!'. xD Not that I mind being proven wrong, but this gave me so many headaches. Ugh. Not to mention I think I probably made a load of typos, and called Kallen a 'he' and Lulu a 'she' and C.C. a 'him'. Anyway~The next chapter should be quicker, and not as long, though most likely the chapters will be longer than they were previous to this chapter.
Feedback appreciated very, very much~! By which I mean I will love you FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER if you review this chapter, because it was much harder to write than the other four. XD