How did this happen, Lelouch wondered. I'm smarter than this.
It was true, he knew. Academically and analytically, he was near the peak of human intelligence. His IQ tested higher than anyone else in Brittania's except maybe for Schneizel (damn him), who always kept that information a closely guarded secret. He was knowledgeable in literature, mathematics, the sciences (to a point- higher level physics and such that Nina studied were beyond him), culture, and even the basics of Knightmare Frame control. And when it came to the chessboard, he could run circles around the best of them (except Schneizel, again). Some people would consider all this to be the words an arrogant braggart, but Lelouch believe there was no sense in being humble about it.
"I said hands up."
Oh, right. He'd forgotten.
For all his intelligence, Lelouch Lamperouge had just fallen prey to the most common and base of all criminals, the mugger. Maybe an unfair assumption, but given the situation Lelouch believed he could be excused.
"Sir, I'm just a student," he tried to plead, keeping his voice appropriately humble and nonthreatening. "I have nothing of value."
"Don't toy with me," came the man's rasp, and the knife pressed closer against his back. "I know what this place is," he said, and Lelouch's eyes glanced towards the back alley he had just exited, "And I know that you just won a chess game and over five hundred. So hand it over."
Damn it. He was definitely smarter than this, so why the hell couldn't he move?
What good is it being a genius if a knife against your back leaves you incapable of thought!
A bead of sweat rolled down his forehead, and Lelouch's hand, reluctantly, moved towards his wallet.
"Slowly," the mugger growled.
At least Rolo isn't here, Lelouch thought, relieved. His younger brother would be terrified and helpless, even more so than himself (not that he was… helpless, even if he was shaking and pinned by a knife). Knives scared the poor boy.
"You don't have to do this," he said, keeping his voice level, the way that zoo keepers try to talk to hungry lions.
"Shut up!" the man said, sounding crazed. "I need this!"
Refrain, Lelouch thought inwardly. That accursed drug. Someone should really do something about that…
A phantom pain echoed throughout his skull, a common recurrence for the past few months. He'd gone to see a doctor about it, but nothing had been found.
"Now drop the wallet or-"
The distinctive point of the knife fell away from his back and the sound of a hundred and sixty pounds of mugger hitting the floor followed.
"Well," Lelouch said, almost absently, "That was fortuitous."
The second she delivered that bone crushing drop kick to Lelouch's mugger's back, Kallen immediately regretted it, knowing for sure that C.C. was going to torment her for weeks about 'rescuing her prince'.
And yes, she did know she wasn't supposed to interact with him, that this was strictly observation for when they finally created a plan to get C.C. in contact with Lelouch away from the eyes of Brittania.
But damn it, what was she supposed to do? Just let Lelouch- er, Zero- get stabbed by a random mugger on the street?
Admittedly, the absurdity of the legendary Zero, who had survived and won countless battles against the relentless juggernaut that was the Brittanian Empire, being killed by a drug addicted thief was not lost on her.
Lelouch seemed to have recovered his wits, as he turned towards her, adjusting his collar- for a moment, the familiarity of his face (mad eyes glowing in the moonlight, a dark laugh echoing in her ears) caused her to freeze, forgetting she was supposed to be fleeing before he saw her.
If he recognized her, realized who she was-
Her thoughts were stymied by his next words.
"Thank you for your help, sir," Lelouch said gratefully, extending a hand out.
"No problem," Kallen replied, shaking his outstretched hand, trying to make her voice sound gruff to disguise it-
Wait did he just say sir?
Okay, so maybe the overly large hat, concealing jacket and large collar hid her identity very well, but it did not hide the fact that she was also a woman, god damn it!
"Is there anything I can do to repay you?" he asked genially, a friendly expression on his face.
You can stop calling me a boy! Kallen thought, indignant, but instead shook her head. "No, that's alright. It was something anyone would do."
Lelouch smiled at that. "No, I insist. I should do something to help you for your trouble."
Damn you and your pride to hell, Lelouch! She snapped inwardly. Why can't you ever just accept someone did you a favor and not want to repay it!
Kallen turned away. "It's perfectly alright, I-"
She was cut off as a particularly loud, embarrassing grumble echoed from her stomach, and she suddenly realized that she hadn't had anything to eat since she managed to steal that slice of pizza from C.C. this morning (a deed she was sure she was going to pay for).
Lelouch chuckled. "There's a restaurant just around the corner. I insist."
After a moment, and with a slight premonition she would regret this, Kallen nodded. "Alright then."
The restaurant was a small diner, the kind that Japan had been quick to adopt from the West and Brittania had deigned to keep. For the Japanese it was an excellent place to study, to meet, and go long after everything else, even the bars, had closed, since they served food twenty four hours a day.
They had come in that short break between the departure of the families going out for a quick meal outside and before the arrival of the younger night crowd.
"Table for two, please," Lelouch said smoothly, and the waitress (young, pretty, obviously chosen for those two qualities) smiled and nodded, escorting them to a window table.
Kallen squirmed as she sat down. What the hell was she thinking? She was jeopardizing their one shot at reviving Zero and the rebellion… for a pique?
She weighed the option of just bolting from the table then and there, but before she could Lelouch passed her the menu, and the idea of warm food that was not pizza overtook her more rational thoughts.
"Order anything you want. It's on me," Lelouch assured her, smiling still.
Damn Lelouch. He was only a gentleman when it was problematic for her.
Deciding it was better to just order something quick, eat it, leave, and make this whole thing a memory, Kallen nodded, and ordered an omelet.
As she put the menu away, she glanced curiously over at Lelouch, who looked remarkably calm for having nearly been mugged a few minutes ago. They stayed silent for a while, almost uncomfortable.
"You didn't order anything," she said quietly, still trying to disguise her voice as best she could.
"I'm not hungry," he assured her. "I merely wanted to repay you for the kindness you showed me."
Kallen smiled a little at that. "Like I said, it was something anyone would do."
"I heard three different sets of footsteps pass by the alleyway while that man had a knife to my back," Lelouch responded, eyes unreadable.
She flushed, not sure what to say to that.
"Don't be embarrassed, it only means you were quite admirable," he continued, giving her an appraising look. "By the way, I never caught your name… I'm Lelouch. Lelouch Lamperouge."
"Naoto," Kallen said, without thinking. If he thought she was a boy, all the better to disguise her name as well.
"Naoto, hmm?" Lelouch raised an eyebrow. "So you're Japanese."
"Half," she replied, and then paused. "You said Japanese… not Eleven."
He blinked, as though he hadn't even considered his own words. "So I did," he said, sounding mystified. "I do that, sometimes. I don't know, I just always think of your people as Japanese before Elevens."
Kallen's face broke out into an unconscious smile. "That's very kind of you," she said softly, bowing her head.
"Not all Brittanians are the same," Lelouch assured her, folding his hands.
Kallen remembered Milly, promising to keep her secret. Shirley, smiling at her and proclaiming her a friend. Rivalz, joking around with her, always upbeat even when his luck was terrible.
"That's true," she said, nodding back in acknowledgement. The waitress set the omelet down in front of her, and she began to eat, the conversation fading off as she did.
As she finished, murmuring "Gochisousama" as she did (a habit she'd never been able to break), she glanced up and smiled.
"You're welcome," he replied, inclining his head. "Like I said, it was my pleasure."
He stood, and extended his hand again. "Thank you again for saving me. I hope we meet again, Naoto-san."
"You as well, Lamperouge-san," she replied, taking the hand. Tacking on the –san and using his last name felt foreign in her mouth, like some kind of exotic dish that didn't taste quite right.
Despite herself, Kallen smiled.
"I'm sure we'll meet again."