Suzaku crashed down against the mats, clenching his teeth against the pain. Tohdoh was staring down at him with cold eyes, his arms stiffly by his sides.

"Suzaku," his voice was just as cold as his battle worn face, "you're not even trying."

"Sensei, I- I'm," Suzaku began to stutter an apology when Tohdoh's eyes narrowed on him. He knew enough to shut up.

"There is no time for excuses on the battle field, Suzaku," Tohdoh stated as he turned away, "go home until you're serious about your lessons."

"But, sensei, I am!"

"No you're not. Now go home, your lessons are over for today." Tohdoh said before he turned and left the room.

Suzaku's hands balled into fists as he watched Tohdoh's back. The boy stood up and brushed himself off, his olive eyes were narrow and angry. He turned on his heel and walked outside. The slight breeze quickly cooling off his heated skin and temper.


Lelouch sighed as he rested his head in his hands. He was sitting on the steps leading up to the storage shed, a wire basket next to him. The prince was tired of waiting for Suzaku to show up.

'How could I have even believed that he would show up? They're all the same, breaking promises. No one can be trusted! It's just going to be me and Nunnally, forever.'

Lelouch grunted and stood up, picking up the basket as he did so. He was going to have to go into town alone (he needed to make it back before Nunnally woke up from her nap, so she wouldn't have to wait for dinner). Just as he began to walk down the path towards town the bushes rustled behind him. The prince turned around startled. 'Boys from town?! I haven't even left the shrine yet!'

The Britannian's heart slowed as he saw the familiar mess of brown hair and striking olive eyes.

"Lelouch!" the boy called out as he ran toward his friend.

An aggravated sound cracked in Lelouch's throat as he began to walk down the stairs of the Kururugi Shrine.

"I thought you'd never show up."

"Oh, yeah, about that- I'm sorry, Lelouch." Suzaku apologized all in one breath.

"Whatever," the prince sighed and shook his head, "I wasted a lot of time waiting for you."

Suzaku placed his hands behind his head as his face slid into a pout similar to that of a wounded puppy, "Well I know how we can make up for lost time!" He said suddenly as a grin spread across his face. He grabbed the basket from Lelouch, "race you to the bottom!" he challenged before taking off into a full sprint.

"Oi, Suzaku! Wait!" Lelouch yelled out even though he knew it was useless. He shook his head before he began to chase after the older boy.

Suzaku reached the bottom of the stairs seconds later, breathing barely laboring as he turned around to wait for Lelouch. He laughed as Lelouch finally made it down the stairs, panting heavily.

"I won!" Suzaku said triumphantly between laughs.

Amethyst eyes narrowed on the Japanese boy, "only because you're an exercise nut."

"You're just too weak, Lelouch!" Suzaku teased as he waited another moment for the Britannian to catch his breath, "you should come to lessons with Tohdoh-sensei with me."

"Absolutely not!" Lelouch rejected the idea the moment it left Suzaku's lips.

"Why not?!"

Lelouch's cheeks dusted pink; he couldn't even keep up with Suzaku. He didn't even want to imagine what it would be like trying to keep up with the boy's teacher.

"Because I have to take care of Nunnally."

And that wasn't a lie.

"If you were stronger you could come into town by yourself," Suzaku pointed out as the finally made it to the marketplace. He saw a few boys from town eyeing Lelouch disapprovingly. But none of them would make a move as long as Suzaku was near the Britannian.

"Do you not like coming with me?" Lelouch asked, his eyes wide in shock.

"What?! Of course I like coming with you. You're really fun, Lelouch, I like to be with you a lot!"

The prince bowed his head. His cheeks grew hot as his eyes softened. He smiled too, even if it was a small one.

"That's good." Lelouch whispered.

Suzaku raised his eyebrows as he watched his friend. Lelouch sure was acting odd all of a sudden. The Britannian ducked into a stall, and Suzaku followed after him. The boys finished shopping mostly in a comfortable silence.

When they reached the edge of the marketplace Suzaku stopped dead in his tracks.

"What is it?" Lelouch asked, gripping his basket of food tighter.

"Wait right here, I'll be right back."

Before Lelouch could protest Suzaku had disappeared back into the crowd of people. Lelouch felt his anxiety rise slightly without the security of Suzaku's presence. It didn't take long for the boys in town to notice either.

Lelouch gasped, the wire basket clanging against the cobblestones under his feet.


"Thank you," Suzaku smiled as he traded his yen for the fresh strawberries.

The elderly lady smiled and waved as Suzaku walked back outside.

Olive eyes automatically began to scan the crowd for the Britannian. They slowly went wide as he saw a group of kids his age standing in the middle of the crowd taking turns as they swung punches at Lelouch. The adults all turned away from the boys, not caring that a Britannian was getting beaten up. As far as they were concerned he deserved it.

"Shit-!" Suzaku muttered as he dropped the bag of strawberries where he stood before charging into the middle of the circle of boys. Suzaku blocked a whole round of hits from the boys as Lelouch sat on the ground cowering at his feet. Lelouch's face and arms were bruised and bleeding.

"Leave him alone, he hasn't done anything wrong!" Suzaku snapped, pushing the boys away to give Lelouch some room to breathe.

"Why do you insist on protecting this Brit shit, Kururugi?!" One of the boys yelled back as he went to punch Suzaku.

Suzaku's eyes narrowed as he grabbed the boy's wrist, fisting his shirt in his other hand. With little effort he had flipped the boy over onto his back.

"He's not, he's my friend! And that's why I protect him!" Suzaku cried out, as he knocked another boy off his feet.

Lelouch looked up at him. "Suzaku," he whispered, amazed.

"Get the hell out of here, all of you!" Suzaku demanded, his shoulders shaking in anger. It took everything he had to hold himself back. He was a serious fighter; he wasn't going to use his power unless he needed to.

The two boys scrambled to their feet before running away followed closely by the others. Suzaku watched them disappear into the crowd of people before he bent down in front of Lelouch. His shoulders shook again as he bowed his head; a hot rush of tears ran down his face.

"Sor—sorry, Lelouch!" he choked on his words as he cried harder.

"Suzaku!" Lelouch rushed to his knees. His hands froze before he touched the Japanese boy. His fingers twitched as he reached out to brush them against the tear stained cheeks. The warm tears collected on his fingertips as his chest constricted. This boy was sure a weird one, acting like a hero one moment and a baby the next.

"Suzaku, why are you crying?"

"Because-" Suzaku gasped, digging his nails into the dirt beneath him, "because I was the one who left you, I shouldn't have done that!"

Lelouch smiled sadly, cupping the side of Suzaku's face in his hand. He brushed his thumb over the tanned cheek trying to calm the older boy down. Olive eyes locked with amethyst ones through all the tears. Lelouch sighed. "All this did was prove your point that I am weak."

"N-no," Suzaku's eyes fell away, "I'm suppose to protect you, I promised Nunnally I would."

Lelouch stared at Suzaku unable to move. His lips were slightly parted as he watched his friend. 'Suzaku- you...'

"Kururugi Suzaku doesn't break promises!" He swiped the sleeve of his kimono across his face as he abruptly stood up. Lelouch felt his heart twist as their sort-of-embrace was broken. Suzaku stuck out his hand, helping Lelouch to his feet.

"I swear to you, Lelouch, I will always be your strength!" He promised, placing his hand over his heart. His face was serious, as he watched Lelouch for a response.

The Britannian's lips curled up into a smile as he began to chuckle. It was an honest laugh from his gut.

"You dork."

"I'm being serious!" Suzaku snapped, his eyes narrowing on the prince.

Lelouch bent down to pick up the basket, "I know you are," He reached out and took Suzaku's hand in his as he began to pull the older boy out of the marketplace.

"Come on, Nunnally is waiting."