It's a muggy summer day, the kind that suffocates the trees and the flowers and the people. The kind of day that's so humid it seems as though water should gather on the windowpanes, in preparation for the rain. The sky is overcast; grey clouds with a peeking of blue sky between them. Grey clouds which steadily grow blacker as the afternoon goes on.
Rolo sits in Nunnally's room, watching the day pass. There's nothing better to do than to watch clouds breeze through the expansive sky. The air conditioning broke down a while ago; it saps his energy just to lie there lazily. Lelouch is at some sort of meeting with the student council. He should be there, but was told to stay back.
Undoubtedly it's for him; undoubtedly it's something Milly wants to do for his birthday, and the concept seems so alien. So foreign. These people with their false memories and false affections for him; the idea is strange. People caring enough to have a small party for ihim/i. For iRolo/i. Why? To them it's real, and Rolo himself doesn't know how to react.
Really, he doesn't. Rolo doesn't know how to react to any of this-- instead plays it by ear. And he plays it like someone who's never seen or heard a piano before; slowly learning what sounds this and that makes when you touch. And watching and waiting and learning on shaky legs.
He's so used to take and get, take and give. To receive is something so foreign to him. How do you react to a gaze as loving as Lelouch's? How do you smile in return? His (not)brother has taught him as much. He's taught him things that he never would have learned otherwise, shown him things he'd never have seen. A smile, a hug, reassurance. Weakness.
In the Cult, the research facilities, no one bothered to teach him more than arithmetic and how to shoot a gun. How to pull the trigger and not feel anything more than a sort of (sick, sick) fascination: the way the blood splatters behind a man whose head has just been blown off with gunpowder and lead, the way a broken bone punctures the skin, the way a mother will cry and cry and cry for her child to be spared but please, please, just take me instead. They taught him that to cry is the same as to be eaten by wolves.
No one else has ever made Rolo feel this way before-- like there are small butterflies in his chest when he awaits his return, or he walks along with him in a comfortable silence. When he ruffles his hair. It makes him feel, for the first time-- Lelouch makes him feel so happy.
Lelouch brought him a small speck of humanity: the ability to feel joy.
And Rolo hopes this normal, everyday life can go on forever. Even if he won't hesitate to kill the brother he never had, and will never have, but grasps in his hands (that have only ever held nothing) nonetheless.
He stands from the chair pulled in front of the wooden desk. Taps a button, and returns the computer screen to its desktop. Lelouch is back; the camera feed tells him as much. So he leaves his room silently, the floorboards not daring to squeak, and goes to greet him.
When he gets to the entrance hallway, Lelouch is slipping his uniform jacket off and undoing the top buttons of his shirt. His face brightens immediately upon seeing Rolo-- who timidly comes to approach him.
"I'm home, Rolo," Lelouch is saying as he unfolds the hanger.
"Welcome back…" comes Rolo's reply. Hesitates, then: "… Niisan." It still feels so foreign on his tongue; "brother". His brother, who he has supposedly spent all of his life with. He still can't quite wrap his head around it. Pretending is a game he isn't good at. But somehow it feels so real despite its falsehood.
"It certainly is hot out, isn't it?" Coming towards him. Brushes his own hair out of his face. A purple blotch by his ear and along his jaw. A bruise. How did that happen? Who did that? Lelouch isn't clumsy. But he doesn't have any real enemies either.
"What's that, niisan?" Pointing towards it. Bringing it to his attention. Lelouch looks confused for a moment before he touches his fingers to it and winces a small bit, smiling sheepishly. "Did you hit yourself?"
"No, no," he says dismissively. "Don't worry about it, Rolo. There was simply a misunderstanding before the meeting today."
"So someone hit you," Rolo shoots back coolly. His words come out in a stream, easy, one-two-three, automatically. He doesn't realize it until it's out of his mouth. Someone hit Lelouch; someone so kind and so caring and. Someone hit his brother. That is unforgivable. He steps forwards once, twice. "Who hit you, niisan? I'll kill them for you."
Lelouch blinks four times before replying, bewildered. But smiling a slight smile nonetheless, as though Rolo's told a somewhat distasteful joke. "What's gotten into you?"
That snaps him back into place. He shakes his head. "Nothing, niisan. Forget I ever said that. The air conditioning broke while you were out," Rolo almost blew it. Though Lelouch may only see it as minor, as nothing, the people watching the camera feeds might not; they might think him bad. They might think him fit to be removed from the mission. It would be no trouble at all for the memories inside of Lelouch's head to rewrite themselves, and to replace Rolo just as Nunnally had been. And that makes him scared; makes his palms sweat and his pulse quicken and his breathing come in shallower. "It's funny how hot it can get inside within an hour, isn't it?"
"It's considerably cooler inside than it is out," Lelouch remarks, a bit dryly, before more softly: "though it certainly is a bit funny. You'd think the cold air would stay in a bit longer."
He pulls Rolo along by the shoulder, chit-chatting idly. Speaking of the antics the student president has gotten up to lately. Mentioning subtly that they're planning a party, and Rolo knows it's likely for him. The hints all of them have dropped aren't inconspicuous, so even someone like Rolo can understand.
The muggy weather continues for another two days before a storm breaks out.
After school, in the kitchen, making dinner. Rolo and Lelouch cook together a lot; Rolo is good at it, while Lelouch excels. The pans and pots are set up on the elements, and Rolo is tending to the stir-fry while Lelouch dices vegetables.
"Niisan, taste this," Rolo says a bit uncertainly, holding out a spoon with some noodles on it.
Lelouch leans over and tries a bite. Chews and frowns for a moment. "More soya," he says. "And a pinch of sugar."
"Alright, niisan," he replies, smiling a small bit, and moving to add just those things without a hesitation. Lightning flashes outside the kitchen window and almost instantaneously the thunder roars alongside it. The rain battering against the glass and the roof seems so much louder afterwards.
"It's close," he says idly, sprinkling a bit of sugar onto his pan and mixing it. "I hope it doesn't black out."
"I hear it's already knocked a few trees down," Lelouch says, sighing distantly before smiling warmly at Rolo. He gathers the carrots and the celery in his open palms and dumps it into the pan. "Shirley was telling me on the phone earlier. Ah, that reminds me-- on Thursday she's having a competition and wants me to attend. Will you be fine alone for a bit?"
"But, niisan… weren't we supposed to go to the park on Thursday?" He steps back as Lelouch takes over, mixing the food in the pan. "Did you forget?"
"Of course not," Lelouch assures, reaching over and ruffling Rolo's hair affectionately. "But with all this rain, it's bound to be muddy. We'll go on Saturday when it's dried up a bit, since on Friday we're seeing that movie you wanted to see. I promise."
"I don't think you should hang out quite so much with Shirley, niisan. She looks at you strangely," Rolo's tone is flat. But he means it; the way Shirley will gaze upon his brother, not hers, makes him feel strange in his stomach and strange in his ribcage. It makes him feel the way he feels sometimes when someone has something he wants for himself, and he hates that-- and he doesn't like the girl, as strangely kind to him as she is, because of it. "I don't like it. It's bad."
"What do you mean, 'looks at me strangely'?" Lelouch's tone is bemused.
"Her eyes are full of…" He thinks. "I don't like it. It's bad."
"Don't worry about it, Rolo. She's a dear friend of mine, and don't you get on with her well?" He raises an eyebrow. "Dinner is ready. Set the table, please."
After the table is set, another resounding flash and boom echo throughout the dining room. The lights flicker, dim and eventually die.
"You jinxed us," Lelouch says good-naturedly, with a sigh. "At least we managed to finish cooking first."
The storm rages on for the rest of that night, and by Saturday the ground is almost completely dry from the summer heat.
Rolo enjoys movies. Maybe he just likes going to the cinema rather than the actual movies on screen. He likes to go out with his brother and feels proud, feels so happy to walk around in public with him. It makes him so happy to buy snacks with Lelouch. It makes him glad to sit next to his brother in the theater and to talk quietly while the previews roll. It makes him smile to look over at Lelouch, whose eyes are fixated to the giant screen. It makes him bubble with glee to talk about the film afterwards.
Lelouch always has such good ideas of what was going on in the movie; Rolo sees the actions and doesn't read so much into them as his brother does. He doesn't consider the motivations of people who aren't really real.
The movie they'd gone to see was some sort of spy movie. It was strange, considering the situation (that Lelouch doesn't know). There was a beautiful woman spy with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes, and a handsome villainous man the woman 'fell in love with' despite her mission to assassinate him.
What does that mean? "Fall in love". Maybe he's fallen in love with Lelouch. Maybe he is like the woman in the movie. But he isn't sure what love is, so how can he know? But he knows he cares so much for Lelouch. Cares for him so, so, so much. He can't put that feeling into words, and the woman on screen had an inner monologue that said something similar. Maybe what he feels for Lelouch is love. He isn't sure, but he knows that he won't fail to complete his mission like the heroine did.
He will kill Lelouch if he regains his memories. It will happen instantaneously; a gun to the head and the trigger pulled. Rolo may care-- maybe even 'love'-- Lelouch a lot. But in the end, the mission is all that matters. It has always been everything, and he won't allow his emotions to betray that 'everything'.
The park is nice at noontime. There are a lot of chattering people, but it makes the place not feel empty like it does early in the morning or late into the evening, even if there are more animals around then. But Lelouch likes it best when it's sunny and populated like this, so Rolo is fine with it.
"It seems as though they've picked up and cleaned off the debris from the storm," Lelouch comments idly. The trees that had fallen over during the storm had been picked up and cut down, so now a few tree stumps are there in place of what used to be. "It's strange to not see that giant cherry tree there anymore, isn't it?"
"It is," Rolo says. "Let's get shaved ice, niisan."
"If you insist," he replies, smiling warmly, and they stop by a cart to get some.
They sit at a park bench and eat their ice in that comfortable sort of silence that makes it so Rolo can only smile softly to himself, because it is impossible to do anything different. They toss the garbage into the trashcan and move along the dirt path. It winds through a massive garden with many, many different sorts of flowers; sculptures; and finally, a large pond of water. Ducks swim through the murky water with half-grown ducklings.
"I wish we'd brought bread," Rolo says. "We could have fed the ducks, then."
"It's a shame," Lelouch returns, smiling. "It could have been fun. Next time, I'll remind you."
They reach the end of the path, a dead end, the sun much lower on the horizon from when they'd started. Rolo pauses. He looks at the rocks, the tall grass, the trees. A cool breeze shifts everything together, and he breathes deep-- small moments like this… he never thought that he'd ever enjoy them. They were simply there before. But with his brother by his side, they are real.
Rolo turns towards Lelouch, suddenly a bit timid. He recalls the movie; recalls the shot where the shadow of the woman embraces the man in a moment like this. Recalls the close up of their mouths slowly moving together. That's called a 'kiss'. It's supposed to express love, and is supposed to confirm it. His hands are neatly folded behind his back, as though hiding something.
"Niisan," he says, coming closer. Lelouch smiles back at him, waiting for him to continue. It takes a moment for him to muster up the courage. He could geass him, and try then. But that wouldn't feel right-- that'd be stealing, wouldn't it? And he doesn't want to steal from his brother. He just can't make himself do it. And it might not work if he's not aware. "Shut your eyes for a second."
After a moment of confusion, Lelouch obeys wordlessly. His eyes are shut lightly, lashes dark against his pale skin. Rolo swallows. He's anxious. He's nervous. He's afraid. Rolo steps closer, pulling his hands forwards to clasp around his chest. What if Lelouch thinks it's strange? If he hates him for it? But Lelouch loves him as he loved Nunnally… so he wouldn't, right? But the idea alone is enough to freeze his insides and make them fall out his stomach. And so, he hesitates.
Taking a deep breath, Rolo places his hands on Lelouch's shoulders. Moves in slowly and closely, standing on his tippy-toes, feeling Lelouch's hitching breath against his cheek and the tickle of his hair against his jaw. He looks at Lelouch's still closed eyes; they're shut tighter now. He can smell the light scent of his brother's shampoo, and breathes it in. He's so close… it makes his breath stop and his heart race. He doesn't ever want to move from this spot; it's too good.
But he can't keep Lelouch in limbo forever, so he does it. Rolo presses his lips to Lelouch's in his 'love' for the other. It's chaste, closed mouth, lips unpuckered; just a brief brush of skin against skin before he pulls away and looks up at Lelouch expectantly. It felt 'good'. Rolo touches his own lips with his index finger's knuckle. It felt good. It felt so nice to kiss his brother he loves so much. And now he knows he does. If it felt bad, it would have mean it wasn't 'love', right?
Lelouch's eyes flutter open, and he's pink-- it's not cold outside, so Rolo isn't sure why Lelouch is. He seems to be at a loss for words-- silent, mouth opening and closing like a fish's.
"Niisan," he manages after a long while. "Do… do you…"
"Rolo," Lelouch sounds… Rolo isn't sure how to describe it. Like he's embarrassed, but is trying to hide it. "Let's walk back."
And they walk back. It's quieter in the park, somehow, and the silence they walk in doesn't make him smile. It makes him freeze up, it makes him wonder if he did something bad; but it couldn't have been bad. Something that felt so nice couldn't have been bad. But the feeling remains.
By the time they reach home the sun has not quite sunk and the moon has not quite risen. He thinks there's a name for that time, but can't remember it.
They take off their jackets in silence, and stroll to the living room just as quietly. Lelouch motions for Rolo to sit on the couch, so he does; Lelouch sits next to him.
Before Lelouch can get a word out: "Niisan… did I do something bad? I thought that it would be good," he fidgets with his fingers and the cuff of his sleeve. "You do that sort of thing to people you… luh… love. Right?"
Again, that silence. It makes Rolo even more nervous and even more tense and Lelouch places a hand on Rolo's shoulder and squeezes. When he looks up, Lelouch is smiling and Rolo doesn't feel as bad anymore. "Rolo, there are different kinds of love."
"There… there is?"
"Yes. The sort of love we share," Lelouch shifts to a more comfortable position, with one of his legs up on the cushion and his body turned to face him. "Is familial. You don't kiss your relatives like that. You only kiss people you have a romantic love for on the lips, and you usually don't kiss people you have a friendly love for at all."
Rolo reaches up to brush his own lips again, looking down at his lap. "Then… where do…"
"Innocent places," Lelouch replies, as though it were simple, but still kindly. He reaches over and pats Rolo's head, rustling his hair a bit. "Not on the lips. There are better ways to express your love."
"I… I see." He swallows. "I'm sorry, niisan. I didn't mean to offend you."
"It's quite alright, Rolo," Lelouch says kindly, rising to his feet. "You didn't know. Now let's go make dinner."
Rolo still has a few questions he'd like to ask; why did it feel so nice if it's not what's supposed to happen? the most wondered. But Lelouch knows this better than he does. Maybe he was just overeager? There are better ways, Lelouch said. Better ways.
There are better ways.
It's funny how the smallest details come back to you. He grits his teeth in determination and does his best to smile. There really are better ways. Maybe something as intimate as that wasn't right. But this has to be. Because it's the last thing Rolo will ever do for Lelouch. He knows he'll die if he keeps using his geass off and on, off and on, off and on. But he does it anyways. This is how he will show Lelouch his love; because Lelouch gave him so much. Lelouch gave him kindness, happiness and everything in between. And Rolo has no real way to repay him, except for in his loyalty.
His loyalty no matter what. Lelouch can be cruel to him, but Rolo knows he doesn't mean it. He never means it. He's just tired. He's just stressed. He's just overworked. Lelouch can never mean it, because he loves him. Their bond is irreplaceable. Rolo will kill any number of people to make him happy; Lelouch is his brother, and Rolo is his brother's tool, and Rolo is all Lelouch needs. So he'll throw his life away happily for him. Nothing he says or does can change his decision.
Though he can't help but wish he could live a little while longer.