get back, back, back to where we lasted, just like I imagined, I
could never feel this way
So get back, back, back to the disaster, my heart's beating faster, holding on to feel the same."
-Memory by Sugarcult
Something flashed in her mind, and her eyes snapped open, like a fleeting dream had just touched her brow to awaken her. For a moment, she had a brief sensation of disorientation, like her mind was disconnected from the present, and her memories felt jumbled and unorganized.
It faded, and Kouzuki Kallen shot up, realizing she wasn't alone.
"Good morning, Kallen," Lelouch said slowly, standing behind the glass wall of her cell, smiling widely, dressed, not in his white Emperor's robes but the familiar black uniform of an Ashford Academy student. "I hope you had a pleasant sleep."
Behind him, Jeremiah Gottwald stood holding a brown package, a conflicted expression on his face- but she barely noticed it, as that familiar feeling of rage and betrayal surged into her veins upon seeing the Emperor of Brittania.
"I was," Kallen replied coldly, narrowing her eyes. "What brings you here today, Lelouch? I thought the ruler of the world had better things to do than see his former pawns."
Instead of answering, Lelouch merely continued smiling and said, "Jeremiah here has a change of clothes for you. I'll be back in an hour once you get ready."
"Get ready for what?"
"Is this some really weird form of torture?"
Lelouch gave her a bemused look. "I take you out into the private gardens of my palace, and you call it torture?" he gestured out to the wide, sprawling area, briefly flicking a glance up at the gorgeous blue sky. "It's such a nice day, isn't it?"
Kallen sneered back. "Excuse me if I don't particularly trust you, given your history. And the handcuffs and armed escorts don't seem to indicate you trust me very much either."
The Emperor shrugged, giving her a helpless look. "I trust you to a point, Kallen, but I'm afraid I don't trust you not to punch my face in and try to take me hostage in a futile attempt to save you and your friends."
Kallen flushed- okay, maybe that had been the rough sketches of her plan had she gotten free of her constraints, and even now the temptation to kick Lelouch in his stupid smug face was pretty high, even with the certainty of being shot right afterwards.
"If you promise to be a good girl, I may release you from these constraints," Lelouch offered, a smirk playing on the edges of his lips. "But be warned- if I let you out of them, and you should attack me or attempt to escape, Jeremiah will activate the nerve gas in the air circulation system of the prison your friends are still captive in, and kill them all. And trust me, it will not be an easy death."
Kallen's blood ran cold and she stared at him in shock. Even now, adjusting to the cruel, ruthless methods that Lelouch used was difficult. She didn't dare question the existence of such a thing- it would be just like this new, cruel Lelouch to have such a measure in place in case of any emergency.
"Do we have a deal?" the Emperor asked, smirking a little wider. "All I'm asking is for the pleasure of your company for a few hours. You'll be completely free, as long as you respect the rules of our deal."
She stayed silent, still unwilling to trust him, after all this time.
"I'll even sweeten the deal," he continued. "I'll answer any questions you might have, truthfully. No lies."
She laughed bitterly. "Like I'm going to trust you at your word."
"I swear it," he said flatly, gazing directly into her eyes, fixing her with that same gaze that once made her stomach flutter and her heart skip a beat. Even now, it held sway over her, and they both knew it. "What've you got to lose, even if I do lie, Kallen?"
"Why are you doing this?" the redhead asked suddenly, giving him a hard, searching look. "What's in it for you?"
"You'll understand soon enough," Lelouch assured her, and for a moment, the smirk faded, and was replaced by an unreadable expression, a myriad of emotions flashing through his eyes before they settled into an impassive mask. "Well?"
"… deal," Kallen muttered, and prayed she wouldn't regret it.
They were walking past a beautiful gathering of magnolias when Kallen found herself unable to keep up the cold silent treatment she'd been determinedly giving Lelouch thus far. Before she'd been captured, even at the battle of Damocles, she'd had so many questions for him, questions she'd never gotten around to asking or never received a straight answer for.
If he was really serious about telling the truth- no, even if he wasn't, and the only things he would say were lies- at least she'd have an answer of some meager kind.
"Why?" she found herself asking, glancing over at him, a kind of desperation in her voice she wished she could hide. "Why are you doing all of this?"
Lelouch knelt in the midst of the flowers, absently fingering the petals, as though he'd never seen such a shade before. After a long moment, he said, "What would you do, Kallen, if you wanted to save the world from itself?"
"You said you'd answer me!" the redhead snapped irritably. "Or was that a lie as well?"
"I am answering you," the Emperor said softly, sounding almost tired. "People are foolish, Kallen. They can't be bothered to save themselves, not without the proper motivation. So I will be that motivation."
"An empire ruled through fear is not saving people!" Kallen hissed, and, for a moment, longed to lunge over at him and grab him and throttle the life out of him. Only the reminder that the lives of her friends and allies depended on her control kept her from attacking him. She settled for looking away from him. "I can't believe I trusted you… that we actually believed in you. I thought you had the same vision of a peaceful world that we did… not this… this…"
"Is this not peace?" Lelouch challenged, glancing over at her, fingers twisting the stalks of the flowers. "One nation, one empire, one people. No one fights anymore, no one makes war."
"Because they're afraid of you!"
He gave her an icy stare. "Fear and hate are more powerful than love, despite what the cinemas may tell you," he informed her tonelessly. "What would you have done, Kallen, to stop the war? Do you think winning is enough? That if you just beat Brittania and freed Japan, that everything would change?"
Lelouch sneered, an ugly, vicious look, like a vulture swooping in for a carcass. "It wouldn't. Brittania would harbor vengeful thoughts, hungry for the chance to pay you back for what you'd done, and sooner or later the fighting would return, until one or both sides are destroyed. There is no future down that road."
Kallen looked away, unable to withstand the vehemence, the venomous condescension in his voice. He was right.
He was always right.
"So I'll give the people a new vision. I'll make them forget their hate for each other, and bury it with the fear of me."
"And what then? So the people stop hating each other and start hating you- what then, Lelouch?" Kallen questioned, voice barely above a whisper.
Lelouch smiled, and it was one of the saddest things she'd ever seen, something broken and fragile and beautiful.
"What happens to all tyrants, Kallen?" he chuckled bitterly. "They create an enemy of the people, and the people destroy them."
Kallen's mouth fell open, her eyes wide.
Lelouch glanced down at his watch. "Ah, it's tea time. Come, Kallen."
It took a few minutes of blankly staring at her tea (jasmine) and the assorted pastries that sat atop silver platters before she managed a response.
"Why are you telling me all this?" she asked, suddenly afraid. Of what, she didn't know, but she felt that if she spoke too loudly, this moment would break and she'd awaken in her cell again, and Lelouch would be a monster without remorse again.
Lelouch sipped his tea, looking at her over the porcelain horizon of the teacup. "I promised you the truth. Nothing more, nothing less," he replied, voice divorced from emotion. "It is yours to do with as you will."
"But why are you telling me this?" she pressed.
The Emperor's eyebrows shot up, and he looked momentarily caught off guard, before it broke into amusement. "Perceptive, aren't you, Q-1? I suppose I merely wanted to tell somebody, before this ends… someone who didn't know from the beginning."
He paused, and then corrected himself, "No, that was a lie. I didn't want to tell somebody. I wanted to tell you, Kallen," he said sincerely, folding his hands and gazing directly across the table at her.
She looked away. "And this? Why the walk outside? Why not just tell me in the cell? Or before that, even?"
"I couldn't tell you before this because… of a lot of reasons," Lelouch answered, sounding hesitant. "As for why I asked you to accompany me today…" he smiled- a boy's smile, not the smile of a general or a manipulator or a demagogue, but one of the boy that Lelouch Lamperouge had been, once upon a time- "Call it a selfish wish on my part. One last day with you, Kallen, before I return to my role, and you to yours."
Kallen said nothing for a long while, just sitting in her chair, face expressionless.
And then, finally…
"How did you know I liked cherry scones?"
Lelouch gave her a bemused look. "I do my homework. Please, take them. I know you haven't eaten yet."
And so she did, finding comfort in something as familiar and free of thought as eating, drinking hearty gulps of her (now lukewarm) tea. She reached for the teapot to pour herself another cup, but Lelouch placed a hand over hers and smiled.
"Let me," he said softly, and let his fingers ghost across the skin on the back of her hand as he moved his own hand over to the teapot, causing a shiver to run down her spine and a pleasantly warm flutter in her belly.
She flushed, and barely mumbled a grateful "thanks" as he poured her the tea.
"Does C.C. know?" Kallen asked suddenly, glancing up at him.
Lelouch nodded. "Suzaku as well. It was a pact between the three of us."
"Why didn't you include me?" she questioned, voice withdrawn, half afraid he was going to reject her, or laugh at her for being silly and thinking she was important enough to be included in his grand schemes.
Lelouch looked away, but she saw the flash of a pained grimace on his face before he did. "I didn't… I wanted you to live Kallen. Not to become the enemy of the world, to be hated, to be destroyed."
"But it was okay for C.C. and Suzaku?" she challenged, eyes fierce.
"We have a pact, C.C. and I, and I doubt I could get rid of her if I tried," Lelouch added, sounding vaguely annoyed, "And Suzaku understood what I was doing better than anyone. He took part in this to hold me to my promise."
"And I killed him," Kallen mumbled, suddenly feeling remorse- was Suzaku dying part of Lelouch's grand schemes as well?
Lelouch coughed, looking uncomfortable. "Yes, well… it was for the best, in a way… Suzaku knew his duty, and knew his life might be the price for the peace we sought." He straightened, then, and gazed at her with a serious look. "But enough of this. Forgive me, but I wanted to spend this time on less… unpleasant matters."
"What would you rather we do?" she asked, sounding suspicious.
The Emperor tilted his head to the side, folding his hands as he did so and leaning forward. "Let us pretend that you and I are just an ordinary man and woman, having a pleasant time together."
"What, like a date?" Kallen flushed a deep scarlet. This was ridiculous- less than three hours ago she was in a prison cell and now she was on a date with Lelouch?
"Why not?" Lelouch said casually, and gently laid a hand atop her own. "Is that such an unpleasant fiction, Kallen?"
She squirmed, and felt that damnable flutter in her stomach again.
He chuckled, and let go of her hand- the absence of it felt like a phantom wound. "Come. There's still some time, and I'd like to show you the rest of this place."
They came to a spot that looked like someone had sequestered a small corner of paradise and transplanted it into Lelouch's garden.
"This place is beautiful," Kallen breathed. She'd never seen so many different flowers, all shades and colors she could imagine, and grass like the highest grade of emerald stretching as far as she could see. Nearby, a small stone gazebo made out of polished marble shined in the sun.
"It's a recreation," Lelouch admitted softly, standing next to her. "Of my mother's garden in the Aries villa palace. The original is gone now, destroyed by FLEIJA, but I've done my best to recreate it from memory." His face grew nostalgic. "I had fond memories of that place. Perhaps some of the few I have at all."
She looked away. She wanted to ask him about Nunnally, and if she'd seen this garden- and more importantly, if she knew her brother wasn't a total heartless monster. But she felt that if she asked, she would only hurt him more- God only knew how much it hurt him already to pretend to be such a vicious, calculating creature in front of the only people he cared about.
She wanted to be his strength- right now, maybe that was what he really wanted, what he needed from her.
On a daring impulse, Kallen reached over and grabbed his hand, shutting her eyes so she wouldn't see his reaction.
"Tell me about them," she whispered softly, and squeezed his hand. She chanced a look up at his face- the expression was of surprise, but maybe not an unpleasant one.
"Alright," he agreed, and squeezed back.
They talked for what seemed like hours, sitting on the marble edges of the gazebo, watching the sun pass overhead. He spoke about playing with Nunnally and the princess Euphemia, about trying to teach them to play chess, about being subjected to their attempts at cooking (Euphemia got better, but Kallen learned not to trust anything Nunnally made with an oven- her onigiri was fine, Lelouch assured her, but the cakes were less than palatable), and after a lengthy session of teasing the story out of him, the time Nunnally and Euphemia forced him to choose which one to marry.
And she responded in kind, telling him about a similar story she had with her older brother, Naoto, and they spoke about him at length as well.
"He sounds like a fine man," Lelouch complimented, smiling wistfully. "I wish I had been gifted with the chance to meet him."
"He would have liked you," Kallen said, smiling back, though her eyes were sad. "I think he would have trusted you more than we were able to. He was a great judge of character… I learned a lot from him."
"No, you're a fine judge of character, Kallen," he assured her. "Trust me."
"But that's just it!" she said, sounding desperate. "I didn't trust you! I wasn't able to understand you until now…"
"I'm not a good person, Kallen," Lelouch responded, glancing away, voice flat and devoid of any kind of feeling. "You were right to distance yourself from me."
"You are a good man," Kallen whispered, leaning closer to him, so that their faces were nearly touching. He looked back at her, and their eyes met, fixed upon each other, like wandering stars caught in each other's orbits.
"Kallen," he breathed softly, and their lips touched.
It was nothing like their last kiss, full of bitterness and unsaid feelings, Kallen full of desperation and Lelouch forcing himself to remain dead in inside.
This, Kallen decided, was what a kiss should be- soft and passionate, tender and, dare she admit it, loving. His hand sifted through her hair, his other wrapping around her to draw her deeper into the kiss.
And then the moment was over, and they were both separated, panting slightly, gazing at each other, a precious moment of silence falling between them.
"Let's go away, Lelouch," Kallen suddenly said, and grabbed his hands, clasping them with her own, her gaze pleading. "You've done enough. You don't… you don't have to die."
He said nothing, expression blank as a cloudless sky.
Her tone picked up, desperation and longing fueling her voice. "Can't we go somewhere? Just the two of us? Away from..."
Lelouch placed a gentle finger over her lips, shushing her with a kind whisper. "I would have liked that," he said sincerely, and smiled. "Yes, I think that would have been lovely, Kallen."
"Lelouch-sama," Jeremiah's voice suddenly broke through the moment, and the knight appeared behind him, looking pained as he bowed deep and low. "It's time."
"Time?" Kallen repeated, blinking, glancing from Jeremiah to Lelouch. "Time for what?"
The Emperor said nothing, biting his lip, looking away from her, refusing to meet her eyes.
"I'm sorry, your majesty, but…" Jeremiah continued, voice sounding almost as if he were begging.
"I know!" Lelouch snapped, and the sound of his fury was like thunder, causing both Kallen and Jeremiah to shrink back before him. "I know," he repeated, quieter, sounding tired, as he stood up, away from Kallen.
She stood as well, giving him a confused look. "What's going on, Lelouch?"
He didn't meet her eyes.
"Leave us, Jeremiah," he ordered tonelessly.
The cyborg knight looked hesitant, but finally bowed, and excused himself.
"Lelouch?" Kallen repeated, and reached out for his hand- and was shocked and not a little hurt when he pulled it away.
"Our pleasant fiction is over, Kallen," he murmured, voice thick and choked with regret, "I thank you for going along with my selfish little wish."
She opened her mouth to question him again, brow furrowing in confusion, but before she could, he reached up to his eyes, motioning towards the contacts he wore, that shielded the people from his Geass ordinarily.
"What are you doing?" Kallen asked, drawing back unconsciously. "What's wrong?"
"Like I said, our pleasant fiction is over," the Emperor informed her, voice subdued.
The realization dawned upon her like a keening northern wind, cutting her down to the bone. "No…" she whispered, horrified. "You can't…"
"I'm sorry, but this is the only way," Lelouch said softly, hands pausing over his face, just waiting to unleash the power hidden beneath the thin contacts. "I don't want you to live with only a 'what if', Kallen… I want you to live on, truly, and be happy, without me."
"I'm immune," Kallen shouted, panicked, desperate, near pleading, "You already used it on me!"
"Jeremiah cancelled that last Geass this morning as you slept, and freed me to cast this one," the Emperor answered, hesitation filling his voice. His fingers quivered, and it seemed like he was waging a war within himself not to pull his hand away and leave this moment be.
An errant tear trailed down his cheek.
His fingers removed the contacts, and the terrible crimson light of Geass was unleashed.
"Lelouch vi Brittania commands you… forget today!"
Kallen felt the presence in her mind, the overwhelming blackness that wanted to consume her consciousness, that roared and whispered simultaneously, that ordered in the voice of a god to submit to Lelouch's voice.
But she fought it- she fought it with all the desperation of a woman who wasn't about to lose the one she loved again. And even gods might bow before such a love.
"Don't…" she managed, voice broken and strained. Oh God please don't do this, not now, don't take him away from me…
Lelouch trembled, but said nothing.
Please don't make me forget.
It was too strong.
"At least…" she panted, and shook her head violently- she wasn't going to lose to his Geass, not yet. "At least…"
Don't let this be the end.
The voice roared again.
"Tell me… do you…"
(SUBMIT. SUBMIT. SUBMIT)
She wasn't going to lose him again. Not again.
Please don't make me-
(FORGET. FORGET. FORGETFORGETFORGETFORGETFORGETFORGET)
"Do you love me, Lelouch?"
Please I love him please don't-
His lips moved, but his words were lost on Kallen as blackness overwhelmed her, and she collapsed.
Why can't we just stay here forever, Lelouch?
"What are you doing here?" Kallen sneered, rage and hate filling her eyes. Her fists clenched, as though she longed to have them around his throat.
Lelouch looked away, but, just for an instant, she swore that she saw a tear escape his eyes. But when he looked back, his eyes were clear and cold, and she decided it was just a trick of the light.
"It's time for your execution," he informed her, an unpleasant smile on his face. "Come."
"You really are a heartless bastard," Kallen spat, gaze full of defiance, fueled by the blackest hate her heart could muster.
Lelouch smiled in answer, looking oddly melancholic.
"Yes," he agreed, nodding, "I am."
I really am.
"Is this some really weird form of torture?" is a quote from the hilarious Red vs Blue series, which is somewhat inappropriate to reference, considering the nature of this story.
"Unpleasant fiction" is a play on a phrase from the film Gladiator, "a pleasant fiction".
With this, I hoped to write a scene that I (and I hope other people who enjoy this ship) wanted to see- Lelouch and Kallen having a true heart to heart, understanding each other, and just having a moment to spend with each other without lies.
Of course, I then promptly destroyed all of that and made their ultimate fate as tragic as I possibly could. But I'm a cruel, sadistic bastard- what did you expect?