"This is completely ridiculous," Lelouch sputtered, staring down at the item on his desk in disbelief. "Who in their right mind would do this?"

C.C. chuckled, absently tapping her finger against the item as she sat atop the desk, legs dangling off playfully. "People are people, I've learned over the years," she replied whimsically. "They love to gossip, and they love rumors."

"This isn't some idle gossip, witch!" he snapped, sounding anguished. "This is my life!"

"A public figure such as yourself should have expected small problems such as this," the witch responded with false sweetness. "You were a prince, you should know how the media works."

"Nobody would have dared accuse a member of the royal family of something so base!" Lelouch said heatedly, narrowing his eyes.

He paused, however, a more thoughtful look on his face. "Okay, I think there was one time I heard a rumor my brother Odysseus was found in the garden with a maid who was actually a man, and that time Schneizel was accused of having an affair with three sisters at the same time…" he cut himself off, realizing he was on a tangent that contradicted himself, shaking his head. "But this is different!"

C.C. started laughing.

"It's not funny," Lelouch sulked, rubbing his forehead.

"No, it's hilarious," she replied, tears of laughter streaming from her eyes, voice choked with mirth.

He opened his mouth to deliver a stinging retort, when a knock on his office door broke his concentration.

Gathering his composure and placing his mask on his head (but not before shooting his patented Shut Up Or Die glare at C.C.), he managed hurriedly, "Who is it?"

Instead of a prompt response like he was used to, Lelouch instead swore he heard whispers.

"You ask him."

"No, you do it!"

"Are you crazy? He'll kill me!"

"Kallen, you do it. You want to know, don't you?"

"W-what are you saying?"

"He likes you best, anyway."

"Hey, what are you-"

The door opened unceremoniously and Kallen tumbled (or rather, was shoved rather forcefully by what looked like Tamaki) into the room.

"Yes, Kallen?" Lelouch asked slowly, keeping his voice distant and cool.

"Um… Zero… we… er… that is to say… Tamaki and the others…" Kallen shifted uncomfortably, hands wringing something in her hands nervously.

Lelouch peered out at the item in question, and suddenly realized what this was all about.

After all, that same magazine was sitting on his desk as well.

"Would this, Kallen, perhaps pertain to that article you are holding your hands?" he asked slowly, doing his best not to sound irritated.

Kallen mumbled a near inaudible "yes", flushing a deep red, staring down at the floor fixedly.

"And you wanted to verify the truth?" Lelouch continued coldly, raising a critical eyebrow beneath the mask unconsciously.

The redhead nodded and squirmed uneasily, blushing so hard now she couldn't speak.

"I assure you, Kallen, the tabloids are merely attempting to sound sensational," he said icily, folding his hands. "I would have expected better from you than to believe such preposterous hearsay."

"It was Tamaki's idea!" she said suddenly, sounding desperate. "He and Ougi wanted to know!"

"Don't lie Kallen!" came Tamaki's voice from outside the door. "You were the one who found the article and asked us about it!"

Kallen looked ready to curl up and die on the floor. "I'm going to kill you, Tamaki," she muttered with a deadly tone.

"Since everyone seems to be outside my office," Zero began, voice like the gathering of thunderheads on the horizon, "Let me make an official announcement. Anyone caught bringing any more sensational material such as this into the base will be put on toiletry duty for the next week, and the next person who asks me about it, I can assure you, will be made either Rakshata's new guinea pig for her experiments."

There was a simultaneous shudder throughout the base.

Everyone still remembered Rakshata's last little 'experiment'.

Moriyama still screamed anytime Rakshata came within twenty feet of him, and Hiroshi was only just starting to remember how to use vowels.

"Is that clear?" Lelouch thundered, and there was simultaneous chorus of affirmation in response.

"Then get out of my office. You have work to do," he practically spat.

Kallen saluted and bolted from his office with speed that would have made Suzaku green with envy, and the sound of a veritable herd of people beating a hasty retreat before the wrath of their illustrious leader (and the threat of Rakshata's experiments) echoed from beyond the door.

Lelouch sighed. "This is ridiculous," he muttered again, shaking his head, looking down at the article's bold headline with disgust.

"Honestly, who would believe this?"

C.C., who had been watching this whole exchange with unconcealed mirth, shrugged.

"I don't know," she said, chuckling, "I think Zero's The Father Of My Baby was a pretty good hook."