A/N: Thanks to everyone for reading.
Just as a final note, just wanted to say that I pulled inspiration from a number of sources for a few chapters (i.e. "Intrigue" had a song from Billie Holiday; "Ascertain" had music from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald; and "Obtain" borrowed a few lines from The Crow).
Just a minor disclaimer, M-rated material ahead. Read at your own discretion.
Feedback: I love it. The more the merrier.
And now for the final installment of this story.
The suite balcony overlooked the construction of the hotel on the lake as she sat on the glazed terracotta floor. The lights left on from the skeletal structure remained despite its almost deserted state. Shirley could make out a few figures of the construction crew roaming around on several floors. In the distance, they looked like ants in their incessant wandering, never stopping, even as they wound down for the day.
Several stories below her, the spring dance endured without her as loud music continued to blare nonsensically. She guessed (correctly) in imagining Rivalz's awkward steps as he tried to lead Milly and how Nina tried to avoid direct eye contact with Suzaku.
Her ears were just acclimating to the silence when she heard the door sliding open behind her.
She didn't need to look back to know it was Lelouch, perfectly dressed in an impeccable suit.
She hugged her knees to her chest as he filled the space on the floor beside her. A mild wind blew past them in the persistent silence.
The sound of dark water lapping at the edges of an inflatable boat as it drifted away from a collapsing structure echoed in her memory.
Her chin rested on her arm.
A pensive glare kept vigil over the ongoing construction. It had taken eight months for the previous building to be completed, she had recently learned. Funny how something that took so much effort could be undone so quickly. Just a few flashes of light and the structure had come down with a crash, reminding her of a lightning strike.
In response, the glass of gin tonic at her side tipped around in a lazy circle.
His fingers caught her hand, tracing up her bare arm. When her eyes settled on him, he was up on his feet, taking her along. The almost empty glass lay forgotten on the floor. Even in the midst of contemplating the structure, he was not one for being ignored for too long as she already knew.
She swayed gently to the silent rhythm of the soft breeze as she stood between his arms.
"Nice dress," Lelouch offered mildly, though she understood what he meant. Her face warmed under his stare.
She pinched the lapel of his jacket, feeling the smooth material between her fingers.
"Nice suit," she countered and mentally calculated how long it would take her to get him out of it.
Her arms slid upward, winding around his shoulders. The familiar scent of fresh linen filled her lungs pleasantly as she held him close.
"Tighter," he murmured in her ear.
She conceded to his request, grip strengthening around him.
"Like this?" she asked shyly, suddenly unsure.
Had they been in full view of their classmates, they would've done an awful job of disguising it, no matter how convincing Lelouch tended to be when arguing. She really didn't care as long as he didn't and pulled herself towards him so that she balanced on tiptoe. She wasn't oblivious to the way her breasts pressed against his chest.
No bra. He remembered, obviously.
"Yeah, like that."
It seemed surreal to her that he'd taken an entire airport hostage to ensure a private conversation with her. And that they'd slept side by side in her bed was a thought she had never bothered to entertain. She hadn't been able to shake the image of him sitting on the edge of her bed ever since.
If ever another boy came into her life, she would surely find it impossible for him to eclipse Lelouch. He'd ruined her completely and probably wasn't aware of it.
They hadn't progressed much further, aside from the one time he'd unexpectedly kissed her in the library. She wasn't exactly sure what provoked him when she sat across the table from him and asked him about graphing an equation. She'd complained about the day's lesson having a convoluted explanation that irked her. It was only when she'd looked up that she noted the hungry look in his eye. The sound of his chair scraping against the floor as he stood was the only warning she received before he leaned over the tabletop to press his mouth against hers.
Far from complaining, she did think they'd been lucky not have been caught as a rather large crowd of underclassmen made their way in to find material for their research projects a few scant minutes later.
Except for that minor outburst, they had avoided each other in public for the most part.
Well, except for the few times he had surreptitiously dragged her into lone classrooms and they'd emerged with swollen lips and rumpled clothes.
However complicated the relationship between them and the blurred lines of a friendship they kept up as a facade, she only knew she wanted him. It was more than a little odd, to say the least. And yet, she had a hard time imaging life without him, despite his previous efforts.
She stood on tiptoes, breathing him in. His lips found the edge of her jaw, below her ear.
"I love you," he confessed.
One hand rested on the nape of her neck as the other slid along the bare portion of her back. She felt herself melt at the contact and held on tighter.
"Kiss me," she heard him say, his voice reaching her so clearly she had trouble hearing the not so distant clang of metal sheets hitting in the quiet night.
She did so without hesitation. For mostly ignoring romantic entanglements, he was quite adept at making her insides liquefy with simple words and silent gestures. The irony was not lost on her. But then, charm poured out of him effortlessly.
"Quid pro quo," she managed to breathe out when they broke apart. He licked her lower lip.
He made it further difficult to concentrate as he kissed her neck, replying with a curt hum instead. Shirley exhaled shakily, which he rather enjoyed as she held him tightly.
"I love you," he repeated in a soft sigh against her skin.
She tried to still the tremble in her body, but he felt it anyway as his grip held her closer. She found his mouth easily, clutching at him to keep her unsteady knees from knocking her to the floor.
"Sleep with me," she whispered.
She chose to ignore how he'd gone still beside her and instead kissed his face. Her hands slid down to the collar of his shirt before bringing him down to her.
There was something potentially dangerous in what she wanted as they stayed together. As much as he was attracted to her, he didn't want to risk involving her more than she already had been.
He couldn't resist her for long, giving into her insistent soft lips.
Amid the sounds of heavy power tools being moved, she pulled away from him slowly. The crackling sound of a worker welding steel beams together produced enough light to brighten up the darkness.
The green of her eyes startled him momentarily when she stepped aside and the remaining sparks illuminated her face. She responded with a short tug on his tie to keep him moving after her as they made their way inside.
She left him leaning against the wall as she took a moment to slide the curtains shut. Her silhouette in the dim room incited his imagination, suddenly remembering that he'd let her choose how much she wanted to be involved with him.
When she turned back to him, he appeared too composed for her not to be tempted to mess up his perfectly tailored clothes or that soft hair or even provoke a few bruises on him. Still, she noted the restless gaze he fixed on her, uncertain and with something else she couldn't quite identify that made her so very hungry and curious.
The softened light of the lamp illuminated the room enough for her to seek out his lips again. Her fingers undid the satiny material of the black tie that slipped off so easily from his neck.
"Shirley?" he called out softly as she undid the top buttons of his shirt.
"Mm," she replied, kissing his throat.
"Are you sure?" he tried.
She tugged at his shirt, roughly pulling it out from his pants. Her hands made it under the cotton material, arms circling his waist as she pushed him against the wall. The press of her hips against his earned her a low groan.
The handsome frown on his face incited her further, suddenly dying to do such more to him.
"Aren't you?" she retorted mildly before finishing the line of buttons on white cotton.
He kissed her harder than before as he grasped a handful of soft hair and pulled her closer, barely tasting the remains of her drink on sweet lips. That and the warmth of smooth skin beckoning to him filled the top spots of his preoccupations.
One hand slid under the thin straps along her back as the other rested on the nape of her neck. The ties that kept her top tightened loosened after some light tugging.
Her hands flattened against the wall on either side of his head, attempting to maintain balance. Graceful fingers trailed without interruption from the nape of her neck down to her lower back for several long minutes. A shiver slid down her spine.
She felt his inquisitive stare through closed eyes as her neck arched backwards.
Through the cotton shirt, her fingers dug into his shoulders as he kissed the bare arm that wrapped around him.
"I love you," he whispered as he started forward.
She had trouble letting him go, preferring to drown in taste of his lips than breathe.
His shirt was pulled apart at the seams and fell noiselessly somewhere along the short path to the bed. The belt came undone before she fell back on neatly folded sheets. One leg hooked over his hip, hiking up the hem of her dress in the process.
Roaming hands felt smooth skin, warm breath and soft curves.
He shifted over her, pushing both of her wrists into the mattress above her head.
Her head rolled back on her shoulders as he neared her, lips tracing her neck with slow, infuriating kisses.
Despite the gentle feel of lips lowering between her breasts, she couldn't help but gaze out of the window. Through the sheer material of the curtains, the lights from the hotel in construction lit up the night.
She was in a different time, recalling the debut days of Zero meddling in state affairs.
"I don't know why, but I thought of you then," she commented suddenly.
She deliberately omitted the part where she was held at gunpoint along with her friends although the flashback of the incident lingered on. It was easily in the top three worst experiences of her life although the fear of that moment was gone. His line of sight followed hers, staring off into the distance. He'd inadvertently rescued her without realizing it until now.
He was something else entirely, infecting her with concern and affection where hatred and revenge should have inhabited her feelings.
He nuzzled her shoulder, planting soft kisses along the way to her jaw line.
"I can't stop thinking about you," Lelouch murmured, his tongue tracing the line of her throat.
Somehow, it didn't seem like enough. A complicated mixture of desire and frustration overtook her, making her fingers twitch.
She looked up at him, gaze suddenly sharp as her attention was torn between his eyes and mouth. Something uncomfortably hot racing in her veins urged her forward. She slid one wrist out of his hold and wound an arm around his neck, bringing his mouth down to hers.
She burned with an intensity that alarmed her. The mild fever coursing through her made her wonder if it was at all possible for love to make anyone ill. It was a strange evil, she surmised.
Before getting too deep into those thoughts, his hand had slipped into the flimsy top of that dress. A gasp filled the short space between them before they met in another urgent kiss.
"Since when?" Shirley managed, somewhat more sober as she considered him.
"A while," was the vague response against her mouth.
Hand still inside her top, he pinched her—a cheap shot at distraction. Groaning, she bit him.
He was more surprised when her hand slid to the hem of his pants, thumb sliding under the crisp material as she yanked at him.
"I need a better answer," she said against his throat, her hand lightly covering his mouth.
He sucked on her fingertips and bit down on her knuckles as she kissed sensitive skin. He generated more warmth than usual, bordering on unhealthy. She liked it.
"Lulu," she said breathlessly as he hovered over her.
From the angle she was positioned, he got an eyeful of cleavage as her dress had begun to slide off her shoulder amid their movements. He took in the sight as she'd expected. In his lack of proper concentration, she bumped her hips against his. His fingers dug into her hip, almost painfully.
When his other hand closed around the falling strap on her shoulder, she noted the intense stare before being overcome with a rough and slow slide of lips. He didn't let her come up for air for a long moment, not that she missed the oxygen.
"The first time you kissed me," Lelouch whispered without letting her go.
She didn't fail to notice that he was flushed, eyes glinting darkly.
Had it not been for the loud vibrating noise of his phone ringing in his pocket, she would've had him.
He pulled back from her reluctantly at the third ring, hands sliding over her legs to get untangled. Her head sank heavily into the pillow.
"What's going on?" he answered as his voice suddenly went cold. Getting into business mode came very easily to him, she noticed.
Still sitting on the bed, his tightly fisted hand rested on the edge of the mattress.
"There haven't been any updates," he said, dryly.
She sat up slowly.
"It seems like someone isn't upholding a part of the deal," he chastised.
Her ear pressed between his shoulder blades to let her savor the soothing rumble of his voice. She nuzzled his smooth skin and planted long, random kisses until she reached the back of his neck.
"The intelligence reports regarding the matter are still pending," he continued, his tone bordering on sarcasm.
Her arms slid forward to embrace him. She pressed herself against him as her lips continued a slow trail along the side of his neck and licked his jaw.
When her hand landed on his enduring fist, she felt his fingers close over hers for a moment. She was expecting a kiss when he turned toward her.
Instead, his thumb traced her mouth before she gently bit him.
"Right…" he trailed off as he studied her for a long moment, eyes scanning her face.
He was on his feet before she knew it and watched as he impassively paced back and forth in a straight line. His abrupt departure left her suddenly cold and so very agitated.
"The point is organization," he went on, slightly shaken, although none of it appeared in his voice.
She sat on her legs, unable to take her eyes off him.
"Keeping a competent task force is the most important thing," he stressed, running an impatient hand through his hair.
Slowly, she raised herself to a kneeling position, keeping balance on the soft cushion of the mattress. Hell flaring in her eyes, she beckoned to him with a single look.
"Seeing as strategies and contingencies are planned based on gathered intelligence, it's important the sources we cultivate are trustworthy," he added, giving her a side glance. "Otherwise, it's all for nothing."
His footsteps halted immediately when he noticed that pesky strap slide off her shoulder once and for all. He'd been wrong about how this relationship would turn out—short-lived and doomed from the start. It was so much worse than he could have ever imagined. The image of her on the bed burned itself into his memory, leaving him wondering if she realized how she was absolutely killing him.
He swallowed hard.
Being noble was more difficult than he could've imagined, especially with the way she was tempting him and killing any attempt at maintaining distance.
"Uh huh," he replied to the noise on the phone.
She took advantage of his attention to lower the other strap down her shoulder. When it came down, his mind was made up to terminate the conversation that had taken up far too much of his time.
"Yeah," he responded automatically.
He was going to hell.
"Affirmative," he mentioned before hanging up. "I'll get back to you about that."
He reached her in a few steps, carelessly depositing the pesky phone on the nightstand before making her back up a few spaces on the mattress to make room for him. She would smiled at her triumph had he not been kissing her so insistently that he left her breathless.
Hands roamed over her, memorizing the generous curves of her body as he held her impossibly closer.
She drew in a shaky breath, feeling dizzy as he stripped her out of the remaining dress that hung onto her hips.
She was on her back as she felt him push the scrap of dress down her legs and let it drop noiselessly on the floor.
He moved over her, hands not stopping as he kissed soft skin. Underneath him, she writhed with his movements, drawing in sharp breaths every so often as her mind forgot to process anything coherent, except to feelseehearbreathetaste him.
Him kissing her.
Driving her insane.
He heard her hiss with the occasional gentle graze of teeth over her skin. She pulled on his hair in sheer restlessness.
In the midst of his caresses, both rough and gentle, she felt him suddenly stop when her leg shifted inside his thigh. Intrigued, she opened her eyes and repeated the motion. She felt the sharp inhale he took at the movement.
"I've tried to forget you," she blurted out in one breath.
He cradled her chin against his palm, a feral glare searching her. For the long moment he didn't break eye contact with her, he seemed lost and desperate, so unlike the image of the nonchalant classmate he dutifully portrayed.
It was quite a sight to behold.
He crushed her mouth with a breathless kiss that left him dizzy and unable to think.
It distracted her from realizing that his hands reached her hips to slide off black lace panties. Her skin burned under the pressure of his palm, fingertips drawing her.
"He's nothing like me, huh?" she heard him ask directly in her ear, almost mockingly. "Is that what you want?"
The forgettable boy she'd once met on a faraway continent didn't register clearly in her memory as Lelouch dipped long, elegant fingers into her. She was slick to the touch, silky as he permeated her depth. In response, she bit down on his shoulder.
"Lulu," she whispered thickly and licked the edge of his jaw.
She grasped his wrist tightly as he heard his softly spoken name echoing in his ear before she found his mouth and kissed him senselessly. Her fingers dug into his skin, soft moans deafening
him to everything else.
"Do you want him instead?" he went on, tone fierce.
She hadn't expected this reaction, the sudden jealousy that had risen in him.
She shivered against his skin when his hand gripped the back of her knee and pushed it into the sheets. The hand wrapped around his wrist slowly slid up his arm to dig impatiently into his shoulder.
Before she had a chance to answer, he kissed her again, just as angrily.
Flashes of them in her bed and between the sheets filtered through his memory. The gentle proclamation she'd made to him. There'd been no way she'd said those words to him. Instead, the fatigue had made him imagine she'd said such a thing or else she'd just been teasing him.
Something in the deeper part of his conscience called out, reminding him that he didn't deserve her. Still, the possessive portion of him was drawn out, seeking to imbed himself in her completely and to never let her forget it. And despite everything, from the mental diatribes and debates he'd wrestled in regards to her, it was Shirley that permanently occupied some portion of his thoughts.
"I want you," she muttered darkly, almost threateningly. "No one else."
His blood flowed in a rage as he felt her move helplessly beneath him. Something about seeing him affect her in such a way left him unsteady as he found himself more and more addicted to making her react again and again to him and only him.
"I don't," she paused to breathe. "—know how to—ahh—"
Another tremor shook her uncontrollably.
"How to want anyone else," she finished as he kissed her throat.
One long leg brushed against his side before stopping at her side. She leaned up on one elbow, pressing them both closer together, enough for him feel her pounding heart against his chest. He felt himself grow lightheaded within her confining embrace.
"I want you," she mumbled fervently as she clung to him, fistfuls of his hair in her hands. "I want to hurt you."
The comment barely fazed him as he stared into her darkened eyes before leaning in to kiss her. Knowing she meant her words, he found her pent up aggression oddly irresistible. Still, it did nothing to calm him and only incited his anger further.
"Lulu," she repeated when they broke apart.
She was on the brink, scraping her nails against his skin and burying her face in his neck as she shook underneath him. Her nails lightly scratched him in a concentrated effort to not injure him as her hands moved over his chest.
His hands wandered over her soft skin as he studied her, completely enticing him to do more damage and letting her tear him down as she wished.
"What are you doing to me?" he asked against her collar as he tasted her sweat.
Her head hit the pillow as she breathed heavily and tried to compose herself somewhat. He didn't stop staring.
When she was slightly steadier, she kissed him again, more gentle than before.
"I've always wanted you," she murmured. "Only you."
It echoed in his ear.
Her touch led her to his waist, where she undid his pants and helped him push down the remaining fabric. He surrendered control as she maneuvered on top of him in the process, unable to stop his hands from wandering over exposed skin, memorizing all of her.
"I love you," he said breathlessly.
Her hair fell over them like a curtain as she settled against him. Again, soft curves pressed into his skin, making him oblivious to everything else.
His hands threaded into her hair as he brought her down to taste her on his tongue.
"Say you love me," he demanded, although she noted how he lacked the authoritative tone she'd heard him use on subordinates.
Not quite a question, this was more like him pleading with her.
She sucked his lower lip into her mouth before pushing him down against the mattress.
She was the first to break away from him, flushed and panting. Her hands rested beside his ribs as she pressed their hips together. He moaned, moving against her.
Her fingers combed through his hair as she stared into his eyes for a long moment in which neither one looked away.
"I want to feel," she spoke in his ear as her hand slid over his stomach and between his legs. "Just you."
He breathed in deeply, inhaling the faint scent of her smoky perfume and fresh sweat before bringing her down for a kiss. He was smooth under her hand and warm like the rest of him.
"Only you," she reassured him.
Her legs slid on either side of him as she raised herself up slowly.
"Don't hold back," she breathed.
She guided his hands to her breasts. His fingers closed over her, feeling her heart pounding.
"I feel like I'm going to lose control," she mused aloud.
Her head turned upward to stare at the blank ceiling momentarily. Part of him ached to taste her throat as he watched her tangle one hand in her own hair. She slowly slid down.
"Just go crazy, OK?" she said softly, sinking into him.
He nodded once.
The soft cry reached his ears when his hips arched upward to meet hers.
"Yeah," he mumbled, eyes sliding shut as he made sure she felt him with the same aching need. "Anything you want."
He drowned in the satin feeling of skin and warmth invading his surroundings. She found herself unable to release him, groaning as she felt him react.
"Say it," he repeated, more desperate this time as he raised himself up on his elbows. "Stop teasing."
Their chests touched, each one feeling raised pulses. She pushed herself against him recklessly, badly wanting all of him everywhere.
She bit down on his lip before kissing him with a need she'd never felt before. He responded in kind, almost as violently as she devoured him.
"I love you," she said in between the hot slide of lips and tongues.
The warm press of skin distracted them both as they fell into each other, desperately trying to make sense of one another.
He had trouble making sense of anything that was not her. She wasn't very loud, but overwhelmed him with sheer intensity that when the phone rang several more times in the middle of the night, he didn't answer it for not being able to hear or sense its presence.
Dawn found Lelouch exhausted when he rolled onto his side.
Shirley felt the mattress shift beneath her as he slid off to collect his clothes. She watched his familiar figure as he found his pants and stepped into them.
"Lulu?" she inquired gently.
He turned to her as she sat up slowly, the covers bunching at her waist when she moved. He stood stock still while taking in the sight.
She reached for his arm, effortlessly bringing him down to an empty spot beside her. His mouth was on hers automatically as she embraced him.
Before long, he had pinned her shoulders down to the bed.
"Shirley," he said breathlessly.
"Fine, you can be on top this time," she teased, smiling at him.
She kissed him hungry as her arms drew around him, wanting him everywhere again. She got as far as sliding her hand down his stomach before he clamped down her wrist to stop her.
He shook his head.
"I'd love to," he replied, eyes roaming over her momentarily. "But I can't."
Her palm rested on his cheek as she watched his eyes close when he leaned into the warmth that seeped into him from her touch.
His stealthy exit interrupted, he was finding it difficult to leave.
She drew up into a sitting a position again and slid her arms around him. He was hers in some ways as she felt him react to her.
"Go," she said softly, running her fingers through his hair.
He stood up slowly and gathered the remains of his clothes as she mentally replayed how she'd gotten him out of that expensive suit. She watched curiously when he paused after sliding his jacket back on. Reaching into the lined blazer, she gazed on as he produced a thin box.
"I meant to give this to you," he explained as he handed it to her. "But you sort of distracted me," he finished with a short cough as he gazed away.
"Want me to distract you again?" she asked, holding on his wrist instead.
She grabbed the loose ends of his tie to drag him downward for a brief kiss. He responded in kind, between damp breaths and a need for more contact. Even when he managed to pull back from her a bit, she held on, trailing her lips along his neck.
"Thanks," she smiled to conceal her disappointment at his imminent departure.
If he picked up on her mood, he said nothing but kissed her in reply.
"Come back to me," she instructed him.
Her arms slid under his loose shirt, pulling him tighter against her. He stayed still for a long moment, feeling the pounding of her heart through the thin material against his chest. He didn't seem to mind how her arms didn't immediately comply when she was supposed to let go.
"Promise?" she pressed closer.
"Anything you want."
The kiss he placed on her lips lingered long after he left.
It had been five hours since his departure.
The sounds of power tools from the nearby construction site made quite a bit of noise through the open window. Unable to sleep soundly for too long, she found herself wide awake enough to watch the sunrise lighten the shadows in her lonely suite.
Her fingers touched her lips, recalling the feel of him.
A flurry of images scanned through her closed eyelids, all of him. Lelouch under her, on top, unable to stop wandering hands, his breath on her skin as he said he loved her…
Some part of her still found it too fantastic that she'd deconstructed him so and that he'd allowed her to be so intimately involved.
She turned onto one side to feel the rising sun on her face along with a healthy blush when her hand slid under the pillow. The slim rectangular box lay inert in her hand as she traced its edges and the sharp angles of its corners.
Breathing in, she removed the top portion carefully to see a wristwatch lying atop a spongy cotton pad. What took her attention was not the subtle design on the face of the watch or the brilliance of its metallic glimmer but the two ticking hands moving simultaneously, side by side.
Snippets of a past conversation floated in her ears.
"Where did you go?"
"So far away?"
She breathed out a sigh, knowing it was just like him to be practical. The considerate gesture made her heart swell painfully. A small folded piece of paper under the rim of the watch slid between her fingers as she opened it. Three words in neatly written print stared back at her.
Crushed and delighted at once, Shirley read and reread the tiny thing, deciding to do as he said, no matter what. Fingertips ghosted over her lips, a reminder of his promise to her.
Wait for me.
The finely made watch turned over between her fingers as she inspected the familiar looking outline imbedded on the metal. From her previous research into the subject, she immediately recognized the intricate design as a noble crest reserved for Britannian royalty.
Despite herself, she smiled in the gradual sunlight that warmed her.