A/N: Wow! It's been a while, hasn't it? I've been reading tons more fanfiction than I've been writing…but I guess eventually it ends up inspiring you. A random little scene popped into my head one day and then the story itself started to blossom around it. Now I'm working with the deepest storyline I've had in years~ I'm just hoping that I'll be able to see this one through. This chapter won't really be terribly exciting, as most first chapters tend to be, but I've brainstormed out most of the second chapter and will hopefully have it up soon! Yay!

I know I seem to have a habit of doing "thrown into another world ono!" kind of stories lately (maybe I really like them o.O) but this one should be fairly different from my other one. Sorry for that and please try to bear with me n.n; if you have no idea what I'm talking about, then all the better!

I also want to thank my wonderful beta for giving this a once over~ :3 sherawks. 8D

Disclaimer: I don't own Code Geass or the characters, I just write out my fantasies including them.


Something was wrong.

Through the tranquil darkness of his unconsciousness he had the nagging notion that something was out of place. Something wasn't right. It started out as a gentle tug somewhere in the back of his mind, a tug that started the process of slowly unraveling the many layers of delicately woven cobwebs that had settled over his senses as he slept. The more that he became aware of himself and his surroundings, the more urgent and unpleasant this sensation of wrongness became.

The first thing he was aware of outside of himself was a very bright light shining directly on his face. It was hot and would have been unbearably so if not for the breeze attempting to soothe his roasting cheeks. Then he started to notice that he was lying on thick grass, which was cool in comparison to the light glaring at him. Various living creatures were making their symphony around him; bees, flies, and other airborne insects were buzzing lazily, birds chirped, and there was the occasional rustling of foliage by some larger animal.

Wherever he was smelt of freshly upturned earth, of pollens and flowers, grass, trees…it was surprisingly pure. There wasn't a touch of smog, car exhaust, cigarette smoke, or any other byproduct of a city. It was a rural place.

His eyes slowly slid open and he cursed loudly and briefly as he rolled onto his side, eyes once again squeezed shut. The light, which he guessed was the sun, burned his irises and ignited a throbbing sensation in his temples. Usually an early riser and a morning person, he felt uncharacteristically groggy and weighed down, as if blocks of lead had been rested upon his limbs, making it difficult to move. It took him a moment to recover on his side with his cheek pressed into the grass, but he opened his eyes again with a sense of determination. He wanted to see this place.

The first thing he saw was a knee.

It was covered in worn blue jeans.

Next to the knee was a hand resting on the ground, partially obscured by the surrounding grass, and the arm attached was encased in the sleeve of a white cotton dress shirt with thin tendrils of blue stitched through it. He imagined that from a distance it gave the shirt a more off-white color tinged with…well, blue.

The position of the knee and hand suggested that the figure they belonged to was leaning over.

He blinked slowly and turned his head to look up, although he was careful not to stare straight into the sun again.

Indeed, the figure was leaning over. It just so happened that the figure was leaning over him.

He was met with curious eyes in a dark shade of purple with very oval pupils, currently small due to the overabundance of light. Dark hair fell around the pale face of this figure and full lips were pursed inquisitively. A response. The expression was one suggesting that this figure was awaiting a response or reaction from him.

Immediately be blurted out, "Lelouch," with his own sense of confusion and a dumbfounded tone to his slurred voice. The eyes of the boy in question widened in surprise, but soon narrowed as he sat up straight and moved away.

"No, wait…what?" He mumbled helplessly as he forced his unwilling body to haphazardly prop itself into a sitting position. One hand automatically reached to clutch his head and one eye fell shut as the other stayed locked on that familiar face. It was the only thing truly familiar about this place and he hoped that an explanation was available.

But nothing happened.

Although he was tensed to do something – attack, run, he wasn't sure what – this "Lelouch" didn't move from his new defensive position. There was just that look in those dark eyes and the breeze that toyed with their hair, the bugs and the birds and the sun and this strange place.

"Don't go. Please…it's me. Just…just me, so…" his voice was soft and he tried to smile. He wasn't even sure if his words were audible, as yet again he was met with no response. Just searching. Eyes searching for answers, threats, intentions. They were the wary eyes of someone who was used to constant betrayal, someone who had to distrust to stay alive. That's why they looked just the same as Lelouch's eyes. The eyes, the face, the hair, the body, the posture…it was all the same.

Then his gaze was drawn to a flicker of movement.

They weren't the same. Atop that head of silky black hair were two equally black triangles, one facing towards him and very still while the other was a busy little satellite picking up noise from the surrounding area, should something of importance be happening. Just behind him was a lithe black tail that remained mostly still besides the occasional twitch of the tip.

He face-faulted.

"Oh," there was heavy disappointment in his tone. "You're not…" But he couldn't dwell on that. While he wasn't sure why, there was an urgency to find out about this place. Everything was still so fuzzy. But something was wrong, his brain kept reminding him. And it wasn't just because "Lelouch" had cat ears and a tail. "…Can you even speak?"

Now that he thought about it, this look-alike seemed to exaggerate on the cat-like behaviors the Lelouch he knew possessed. The way he acted reminded him of his Lelouch, but there was a touch more of an emphasis on his feline attributes. He wasn't sure how far that extended.

"…I can speak just fine," was the haughty response he got after a moment's pause. It was in Lelouch's voice, too. The brief moment where his lips were parted exposed tiny fangs. "Who are you? How do you know my name?"

He blinked. So not only did they look a lot alike, sound alike, and act alike…but they shared a name? The confusion in his face intensified as his mind, slowed by that lingering grogginess, attempted to compare the two images. The Lelouch he knew, the one he was sure of knowing despite forgetting most other things, and the one sitting in front of him now. They weren't the same. But they were very similar.

"Suzaku. That's my name." He sounded uncertain at first, but gradually gave a nod to confirm it. "I'm not sure…where I am. But you…I know someone who looks like you. His name is Lelouch…" He ran a hand through his hair, and after coming across a blade of grass began to sheepishly try to clean himself up. There was a strange sense of importance in looking decent in front of this…Lelouch. Who…wasn't Lelouch, but was and…his head hurt. He decided to give up with the thinking and just go by what his subconscious was telling him to do.

"I'm the only Lelouch that looks like this." A slim eyebrow raised in a questioning manner. Then he shook his head, tossing some of his hair out of place. It was quickly remedied. A habit he was familiar with. "I don't know a Suzaku, either. And definitely not a human named Suzaku." Lelouch got to his feet and brushed off his clothes as his tail began to sway behind him in what might have been a more relaxed manner than before. He didn't think Suzaku was a threat despite the weird things he was saying, and for a moment Suzaku feared that he was getting up to leave. He wasn't sure if he could follow after him yet.

"Uh, human…yeah…why do you say it like that?" He asked hurriedly as he attempted to get to his own feet, hoping that he might be able to stall Lelouch. There wasn't any pain as he moved, just that numb grogginess. Mentally he cursed his body for taking so long to recover from a simple nap – it was confusing, and another one of those things that was clearly not right. He wasn't sure why, but it shouldn't have been happening.

A soft noise of amusement easily put an end to his futile efforts. Bright green eyes shot up to inquire what the noise was…or more like, where it had come from and why, and he was surprised to see this cat version of Lelouch attempting to fight back a smile. Purple eyes danced with mirth as they made eye contact briefly, only for Suzaku to hurriedly look away when his cheeks started to burn.

"You're currently in cat territory," he stated, casually skirting around the topic of "humans", and offered Suzaku a hand to help him up. It was almost exactly like the hand he had grabbed countless times, sans the sharper looking (but still very well groomed) nails. He wasn't sure how it was going to help him when he couldn't bring himself to move properly, however. "Close to the edge of it, though. We're on some outskirts of a town. I'm sure the name wouldn't mean anything to you anyway, but this area is known as Gareth. It's a poorer, often ignored part of the territory."

The moment Suzaku managed to weakly move his hand to touch Lelouch's, an immediate change swept over him. The invisible weight was lifted and he felt re-energized, as if he really had just woken up from a nap. Blinking rapidly in surprise, he took Lelouch's curious look to mean that he had no deliberate part in the matter, and carefully got to his feet without pulling too much on his hand.

"Poor territory? That doesn't seem to suit you much." Now his mind was starting to clear as well. He would have thought that this Lelouch would be some sort of royalty as well…but then again, Lelouch had a habit of sending you and your expectations through a loop. "Gareth…but isn't that—" It was also something else, he knew…but what that something else was he couldn't be sure, and his mind told him that this Lelouch wouldn't know it anyway. He brushed it off when the cat boy gave him an inquisitive look. "Never mind. It's not important. …Look, I know this is going to sound really odd but—" Once again he was cut off, but not because of his own mind.

Lelouch's hand was over his mouth. Okay, that wasn't too exciting.

…But his delicate frame was pressed firmly against his own sturdy one. His cheeks burned for the hundredth time since he had woken up and he found it difficult to focus on much else. The warmth, the weight, the smell…

Those cute little cat ears were perked and twitching about and his tail was still between his legs. While Suzaku knew that he should've been trying to listen for whatever Lelouch was listening for, he ended up being distracted by the feeling of Lelouch's heartbeat through the palm of his hand and the very soft sound of his breathing.

Why all of this was suddenly fascinating to him, he had no idea. But other things seemed to pale in comparison.

After an eternity of this Lelouch finally pulled away from his body and dropped his hand from his mouth, instead moving it to take his hand once again and tug him along towards some trees. They hurried through the long grass, and Suzaku was sure that while Lelouch made absolutely no noise, he was creating a great raucous and he winced. But Lelouch said nothing on the matter and so he hoped that he had done an okay job in the end.

Once they were past the line of trees Lelouch let out a long breath and seemed to relax a bit. Again those alluring eyes were upon him.

"You're not from this place," he finished for him, startling Suzaku. "I know. It was obvious. I'm not stupid…the way you act is a dead give away. But it doesn't matter. We won't dwell on it. It's not as if you can remember where you came from at the moment, right?"

Suzaku shifted and folded his arms over his chest, then nodded slowly. If anything his confusion was growing by the second and he feared that too much of it might make his head explode.

…Well, maybe not literally.

"I don't. But I know that it isn't this place. Aren't you curious about how I got here? Isn't that what you want to find out? Investigate and come up with some abstract theories…" The look Lelouch was giving him was rather blank, so he shut his mouth. The silence that followed was a bit intimidating in his opinion, seeing as Lelouch hardly moved a muscle. Then the cat boy blinked and turned away from him to study their surroundings.

"I think what matters more than how you got here is why you're here. You don't go to places without reason. You have a purpose here, and while you may not be conscious of it yet, it'll make itself clear eventually." He seemed to be taking the idea rather well. It didn't surprise him in the least judging by his behavior. And while he didn't seem to trust him, per se, because he knew that Lelouch was not the type of person to go around trusting people so easily, he appeared to believe that Suzaku was not a threat. "Until then you should be aware of some things in this world. I won't bother to tell you everything because you can learn plenty on your own, but it would be dangerous for you to not understand anything."

By now he had turned back to him and offered a vague smile. "It's safer and far more comfortable in my home. You may join me for some tea."


They had walked most of the way through the forest, because Lelouch had said that they couldn't walk out in the open field right now. He wouldn't explain why. The forest was dense and there were fallen branches and tangled roots to watch out for. This Lelouch seemed to have the experience of picking his way through obstacles like these, and so for the first time he felt clumsy in front of Lelouch. There was the occasional amused look, but Lelouch didn't say anything.

The home that Lelouch was talking about looked like a nice place. Poor part of the country or not, Lelouch wouldn't be one to live in anything below his usually high standards. It was a cozy little place tucked away where it would be difficult to find if you didn't know where it was. It had a porch out in front with wooden railing and a few steps that led up to the door. For one person, it would probably be sizeable. Two people would be comfortable, and three would be crowded. He was led into the house, which was one story and contained no more than five rooms. The front door opened up to a short hallway, which in turn opened up into the room that doubled as both the kitchen and dining room. From there he could see the door to the living room, but he couldn't spot the bedroom.

Lelouch gestured to the small circular table fitted with a cream colored tablecloth as he himself moved to the stove. "I shouldn't be inviting you into my home like this. But you look so lost and confused that it's difficult to think of you as being dangerous," he admitted, and there was a touch of mirth to his voice that made Suzaku study the tablecloth in front of him with a sudden fascination. "There are two dominant species on this continent. Cats and dogs."

Suzaku perked and gave his full attention to Lelouch. While he had expected them to discuss this while actually drinking the tea, he wasn't inclined to tell Lelouch to stop. He was ravenous for answers, after all.

"We don't get along. We're both very different in the sense of how we look at the world and how we believe things should be done. We fight over resources, but ultimately our differences probably make the fighting a lot worse. Right now we're at the brink of war. The relationship between our two clans is very strained." He moved over to the table with two cups of tea balanced on two saucers, then set one down in front of Suzaku. "It's already sweet, so it doesn't need sugar," he added with a wide gesture of his hand, vaguely getting across that he was pointing to the cup in the process.

They sipped their tea in silence for a few minutes as Suzaku fought to absorb the information. It sounded familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on it. He gave up when he didn't seem to be getting anywhere and tried to just gather the information instead.

"So you don't like each other because you do things differently? That seems like a silly reason to start a war. What's your opinion of the dogs, then? Do you dislike them?"

"…They're different. But it isn't bad," he said slowly and a bit off-handedly. "There's value in both ways of living. Neither side is truly correct or better. I'm impartial to them personally, however." A shrugged shoulder and the topic seemed to be dismissed. Suzaku felt like he still didn't know anything at all, a feeling that caused him frustration, but Lelouch was soon talking again. "I'm sure you're curious about the surrounding area, but it's dangerous to wander around. Tomorrow would be a better time. For now you shouldn't stray far from my house. I'd appreciate it if you didn't give away its position…"

"Does that mean you're letting me stay here for the night?" His heart skipped a beat and he felt excited at the prospect. Lelouch rolled his eyes a little and Suzaku cleared his throat, trying to cover up his very obvious, very childish interest. Of course, he wasn't even sure why he was so excited. He busied himself with sipping his tea and found it to be rather pleasant.

"I don't have much of a choice. I could always make you sleep outside on the porch…" He trailed off, allowing enough time for Suzaku to whimper, then shook his head and glanced out the window. "But you're more valuable to me alive than dying from hypothermia."


"Do you want more tea? I have some things to take care of outside before I can make dinner. You can sit on the porch." Lelouch cut him off as if he hadn't even heard him starting to question the concept. Suzaku resisted the urge to scowl; it was so like a Lelouch, from anywhere, to confuse him with things. And to switch topics as he saw fit when he didn't want to explain. A touch frustrated, he balled his hand into a fist, rested his elbow on the table, and then huffily dropped a cheek on his curled fingers. It hurt a bit, and he ended up feeling stupid more than anything else. The gesture got two raised eyebrows out of Lelouch before he took Suzaku's cup to give him more tea.

In the end he found himself defeated, like always.

After attempting to be stubborn and pouty for about twenty-five seconds, he lost all hope in his ability to use Lelouch's tactics when he automatically took the fresh cup of tea from said raven-haired boy and thanked him. He would have smacked his forehead if he didn't have a delicate piece of china cradled in his hands. Worst of all, Lelouch seemed amused yet again.

But he made it better with a cookie and he, like the boy he still was, nearly forgot about the whole incident once he was seated on a chair outside, nibbling away at the treat to try and make it last.

So until he had consumed every last crumb he could find, he hadn't paid an ounce of attention to what Lelouch was doing. Now he found himself regretting it, as he couldn't seem to spot the cat boy anywhere and a feeling of anxiety squeezed his stomach, turning it sour. After so thoroughly enjoying his cookie, it wasn't a pleasant thing to deal with. So Suzaku focused his attention on studying the surrounding area, but found that from the front of the house there wasn't much to look at besides trees, grass, and the makeshift trail leading up to the stairs. It didn't occupy him for long, and soon he was tapping the side of his teacup with a finger and watching the vague ripples appear across the surface of the amber liquid.

"Just don't break my cup," a familiar voice mused above him. It startled him and he looked up like a deer caught in the headlights, or a boy caught sneaking a taste of whatever concoction before dinner. At any rate, it included large eyes filled with surprise and an almost-guilt. There was always guilt involved with Suzaku.

It was then that he finally decided to notice that Lelouch had his arms full. Or rather, that he couldn't have carried it all in his arms alone, so had made a make-shift hammock out of the bottom half of his shirt. But then he noticed that by doing this Lelouch exposed a generous ring of pale, flat stomach, and he was distracted again.

"…Sorry to interrupt, but would you mind helping me with these?" Lelouch asked, sounding a bit uncomfortable. He shifted, and the tip of his tail was twitching with the same sentiment. Suzaku snapped out of it and turned scarlet, then practically leaped to his feet, saluted, and attempted to take as much from Lelouch as he could. He studied the things Lelouch wanted help with, briefly, and found they were mainly vegetables. They were different from what he knew vegetables to look like and seemed a bit odd, but similar enough that he wasn't about to protest against eating them. Lelouch's shirt and pants were now smeared with dirt, and his knees had those grass stains…whether they had been there before when he found him in the field or whether they were new, he wasn't sure. Mentally he scolded himself for not being observant enough. "You're peculiar," the cat boy murmured and walked away to prevent him from attempting to take the entire pile of produce.

Suzaku momentarily wondered if his face would just permanently stay red and save him the trouble of blushing all the time around Lelouch.

He soon brushed aside this silly notion – for now – in favor of watching said boy's tail sway behind him as he went back into the house. Being inclined to that sort of thing, he wanted to cry.

Eventually, through some stroke of good luck (something he had completely forgotten about since the moment he had woken up here), he got himself back inside, gave the vegetables back to Lelouch, and flopped down in a chair to rest his cheek on the table. His green eyes stared at his cooling cup of tea without focusing as he tried to ignore the heavy silence that had settled over the room. Lelouch quietly cooked dinner.

The silence still hadn't lifted as they ate, and the awkwardness chewed away at his appetite while he was left simply poking at the food on his plate.

"Is it customary to play with your food, where you're from?"

He froze, paled, then quickly shoved a piece of…he wasn't sure what into his mouth. He swallowed hard after barely chewing and nearly choked himself in the process. "It's good," Suzaku wheezed after downing the rest of his lukewarm tea. When he managed to calm himself down again, he tried to use the broken silence to his advantage. "Did you grow the vegetables yourself?" Idle conversation would be good to start with.

"They were here when I got the house. I didn't plant them, I just take care of them." Lelouch shrugged and nibbled at his food. Suzaku prevented himself from staring by focusing on shoveling his own dinner into his mouth.

"You stare an awful lot," he commented off-handedly, causing Suzaku to swallow hard again.

"You look an awful lot like my friend," Suzaku tried to retort. It came out weak.

"…Well then, tell me about the place you came from?" Apparently finished, Lelouch pushed his plate aside to make room for his elbows. He laced his fingers and studied Suzaku, sending little shivers down the boy's spine. Once again Suzaku wished to high heaven that he knew what his problem was.

"When I try and think about things that happened before I woke up here, it's pretty foggy. There are only little things I really remember, like the Lelouch I know." Suzaku smiled wryly and kept his gaze on the plate in front of him. "I keep making comparisons between things here and things…wherever I came from, when sometimes I don't even remember what I'm comparing it to."

"It's there. Just don't push too hard."

Suzaku's eyes rose for a moment to catch a glimpse of a smile spread across Lelouch's face, but decided against really looking at him.

"…There were cities, back there. Wherever there is. With very tall buildings, mazes of roads…there was always a certain smell that lingered in the air around the city. I don't smell it here."

When Lelouch just nodded, something dawned on Suzaku and his eyes narrowed. The look he sent him was one tinted with wariness, a feeling he almost never harbored due to his terrible habit of blindly trusting people. Especially people named Lelouch. Even when he had cause not to trust him.

"You're awfully accepting of the idea of another…world, I guess it is. Someone shows up in the grass claiming he's from some alternate sort of reality where there's a boy just like you, and you aren't weirded out at all? Doesn't it bother you? You've even made dinner for me!"

"Even if it did bother me," Lelouch started, remaining perfectly calm and unaffected by Suzaku's demanding tone, "what would not accepting it get me? Is there another world, or are you just crazy? The only reliable fact is that you're here. You have a touch of amnesia, perhaps. But most importantly, you're a human, a human that claims to know me despite never meeting me, so either way…it won't change the important factors." He got to his feet and took their plates to the sink, perhaps as a way to divert some of the intensity of the conversation. "If you really are from somewhere else, it's still probably not the weirdest thing that's happened."

Suzaku was slightly dumbstruck. He sat in his chair with a certain numbness for a while with the sound of running water and china lightly tapping against each other in the background. Once again he felt a bit stupid, this time because of the very thorough debunking Lelouch had given his suspicions. When the water stopped, he abandoned that topic, but continued his attempts at talking.

"It seems like a real coincidence that you were in that field though, to find me. The spot's a bit far from your house I noticed."

"Not really," once again he managed a tone of nonchalance as he returned to his seat, his sharp gaze hidden behind a mask of lazy impartiality. "I scavenge. Town is a longer walk, so if I can find something in the more immediate area, I rather prefer it to taking a trip to town." He leaned back in his chair while his ears twitched, fully aware of countless little sounds, all while seeming as if he wasn't paying attention to anything in particular. "I'll be taking you there tomorrow, however. My efforts were in vain."

"What would you take me in to town for?" The thought that immediately popped into his head that this Lelouch was going to drop him off there and he would be left on his own in a throng of animal people. No money. No food. No knowledge of anything. "You aren't going to—"

"Leave you. No, I'm not. I have errands. I can't get everything I need here, first of all. Second of all, I have business matters. I'm not leaving you here. It takes two days to make the full trip. The first day is spent walking, mostly. The end of the day is for all errands that require non-perishable tangibles or information. We'll sleep at an inn, then visit the market in the morning and make the trip back." Lelouch seemed to be finished with the topic now as he rose to his feet and stretched with all the grace of…well, a cat. "Are you ready to turn in for the night?"

"Turn in? Already?" Suzaku questioned, looking incredulous. "But I've only recently woken—" he cut himself off with a rather large yawn that had him wiping at his eyes. Now that he thought about it he was beginning to feel increasingly drowsy. "But it must still be…" and when he looked over to the window he was startled to see that the sun was in its last stages of setting. While it wasn't very late, it definitely wasn't as early as he thought it would have been. Lelouch just looked at him expectantly when he pulled his gaze away again. "…That's really weird."

"The sun sets every day, Suzaku," Lelouch teased. As he walked out of the room, Suzaku found himself remaining where he was seated and staring blankly at the spot Lelouch had been standing. While it wasn't a rare occurrence to hear his name spoken in Lelouch's voice, he couldn't recall hearing it from this Lelouch. It was a nice thing to hear…so he ended up ignoring the fact that Lelouch had been teasing him.

"Are you planning on sleeping at the table?" The call came from the living room he had glimpsed earlier, and so he hurried in that direction while clearing his throat.

"No, I was just thinking. Sorry."

"Don't hurt yourself."

The taunt sounded so familiar that Suzaku was once again frozen in his tracks. It was the same voice. It was the same tone, the one that sounded so serious to the untrained ear. The words were even very similar, if not the same as ones he was sure he had heard before. Lelouch had his back to him, tail swaying idly as he set up pillows and blankets on the chestnut colored couch. When he turned, Suzaku was still sitting there looking startled and out of it.

"…Oi. I meant it. Really, don't hurt yourself. Get some sleep, all right?" A pause, and then, "I'm trusting you." The tone of his voice suggested that it was a difficult thing for him to do. There was the unspoken message of, "don't make me regret this rare occurrence." Suzaku was automatically determined to keep Lelouch's trust.

"All right." Suzaku smiled a little in response. When Lelouch said goodnight and turned to leave for his bedroom, Suzaku suddenly cleared his throat and blurted out, "Thank you."

Lelouch paused but didn't turn around to look at him. There seemed to be a brief moment where he might have asked why Suzaku had thanked him, but it didn't take him too long to come to a conclusion himself. "It's not a selfless act, you know…but you're welcome." Suzaku could hear the touch of a smile in his voice, even if he couldn't see it. Although he didn't have a reason to, he grinned. This time Lelouch left the room and shut his bedroom door. The last of the natural light that had flooded through the windows was fading, so he quickly removed his shoes, shirt, and pants, folded them neatly on a nearby chair, then crawled underneath the mound of blankets Lelouch had provided. He had to bend his knees a little to keep his feet from hanging off, but all in all…somehow he knew he had slept in similarly small but less comfortable beds. It was an odd and random fact and he paused, trying to poke around for more, but found nothing. After giving up and settling down, he briefly wondered if this new, odd place would be difficult for him to sleep in.

A moment later he answered himself by claiming he could fall asleep almost anywhere if he made himself.

He wasn't sure where that had come from, but before he could try and explore it, he had drifted off to sleep on the couch as the sun finished setting and an inky darkness settled through the still, quiet house.