Author's Notes- I've used a similar set up with a Naruto fic I wrote, but hey, I figure, it's not plagiarism if you're ripping yourself off, eh? And I've done my best to differentiate them in everything except the premise of using a week long timeframe.
Set in that vague time between the move to the Chinese Federation and Kallen's capture, but you could also take it as an AU timeline. R2 really doesn't provide much in the way of time for canonically placed Kallen/Lelouch interactions (that aren't horribly angsty, anyways), which really kind of sucks. So I suppose I'm forced to make up my own time.
"You're insufferable, you know that?"
"Now now, is that any way to speak to your commanding officer?"
"I'm sorry. You're insufferable, sir."
"The truth hurts sometimes."
"Oho, speaking from experience?"
"… that's not funny."
"Forgive me, then."
"Bah. See what I mean about you being a jerk though?"
"Really, I can't be that bad."
"Yes, you are!"
"Then I'll tell you what. The next time you get mad at me, if you can hold it for a week without me finding a way to have you forgive me, then I'll admit I've wronged you, and that I am, in fact, insufferable. In written and verbal form, or whatever format you choose. Publically, even."
"I'm mad at you right now."
"Then I suppose we'll see in a week which one of us is right, starting tomorrow."
"I'll make sure to get a record of your confession. I'm sure C.C. will enjoy it too."
"You do that."
Despite their argument the previous day, Kallen woke up feeling refreshed and happy. She'd gotten her favorite breakfast, a traditional Japanese meal with miso soup and fish, and then managed a rejuvenating workout, and then had a delicious lunch afterward. She'd nearly forgotten about the stupid bet until she passed Zero in the hall.
"Ah, Zero, I wanted to ask about-"
He breezed by her without so much as a nod, and then stopped in front of a random officer and immediately struck up a conversation with the poor, bewildered man.
What. The. Hell?
All around her, her fellow Black Knights stopped what they were doing, staring in abject shock. It was well known throughout the organization that Kallen was, with the possible exception of C.C. (who nobody really knew anything about), the closest one to their mysterious masked leader. Seeing him completely ignore the captain of his bodyguard squad came as something of a shock.
She remembered the bet, and her eyes narrowed. What, was he seriously expecting that if he gave her the cold shoulder that she'd just cave and forgive him?
Kallen bristled and growled.
Around her, several battle-hardened Black Knights cowered away in fury like frightened kittens before her ire.
If she had any doubts that Lelouch was playing the silent treatment card on her yesterday, today it was about as subtle as Jeremiah Gottwald's thing about loyalty or Nina's obsession with Princess Euphemia.
He would see her coming down the hall and make a sharp left or right. Once, she was even standing in front of his office, and he intentionally stepped out of view until she gave up and left- she turned back around and he had resumed his walk towards the office.
When she had to stop by his office to drop off some new paperwork, he didn't even bother looking up at her and said nothing to her, relaying all his orders through a very much bemused C.C., who gave her a catty smile that spoke volumes about how much the witch was enjoying her suffering.
He even organized a meeting and didn't tell her! Hell, she didn't even know there was one until Lakshata passed by and informed her that they were running new tests on the Guren starting next week, as decided on by the aforementioned meeting.
Okay, disrespect was one thing, but this was just downright unprofessional.
If Lelouch Lamperouge thought her so weak a woman that she'd bend before his childish little act, he had another thing coming.
Kouzuki Kallen was not some weak willed woman- she was a valkyrie, a goddess of the battlefield, damn it, and she was going to prove that Lelouch did not always get to win.
Unfortunately, she'd forgotten just how damnably clever Lelouch actually was, and that his tactics had earned him a reputation for miracles- apparently, this carried over into ordinary life as well as military planning (hooray for useless skills, apparently).
"Kallen," Ougi said concernedly, furrowing his brow, "You really should apologize to Zero. I know you've got your pride, but he's clearly hurt by whatever you said. He won't even let us talk about you in his presence."
"In fact, he organized yesterday's meeting to mention that perhaps the stress of putting you in such a top position such as captain of Zero Squad might be putting too much pressure on someone so young," he added, a note of panic in his voice. "He wanted to take you off Zero Squad, Kallen!"
Lelouch, you're a bastard and I hate you.
"I'm the best pilot we have, Ougi-san," she reminded him, crossing her arms. "Zero won't take me off his personal bodyguards because of something like a fight."
"So there was a fight!" Tamaki cut in, laughing loudly, stepping close to her. "What happened?"
Crap. Crap. Crap.
"It was nothing," she refuted quickly, refusing to meet their eyes. God damn Lelouch Lamperouge.
"He's trying to fire you over nothing," Ougi reiterated, arching his eyebrow disbelievingly. He broke out into a sigh, rubbing the back of his head. "Look, Kallen, ever since Naoto died, I've tried to look out for you, and… well… I mean, I know it's not my business to interfere in your life, but you should really think before you speak."
"Ougi-san, know that the only reason I'm not going to bludgeon you with a heavy object right now is because of my brother," Kallen said slowly, a low growl with more in common to a hungry lion than a teenage girl emanating from her throat. "So maybe you should take your own advice."
Wisely, Ougi left the subject alone.
However, his companion had no such tact.
"Is it trouble in paradise? Did you catch him doing it with C.C. or somethin'?" Tamaki interjected, grinning widely.
It took Ougi a good minute before he managed to pry Tamaki from Kallen's rather vicious stranglehold, and cost him a few bruises and scrapes for his trouble. He briefly considered abandoning his friend- honestly, what job did Tamaki do that they couldn't have replaced by either a six year old with attention deficit disorder or a trained monkey with one arm (the monkey and child would probably be more useful in battle anyways)- but in the end good conscience won out and he reluctantly took his lumps to save the poor dumb bastard.
"Ougi-san, I didn't say anything to Zero. He's just…" she frowned, and realized she was trapped. She couldn't just come out and say that Zero was manipulating them for some childish bet- it would damage his credibility as Zero, and that was something she wouldn't do, even if he was an insufferable son of a bitch.
Crap. Lelouch really did think all of this through.
"He's a grown man who created and manages the only resistance against the world's greatest superpower out of nothing- I would think he doesn't need you two acting as mediators," Kallen finally said icily, and turned on her heel. "Now if you'll excuse me, some of us have real work to do."
She caught the bastard in question outside the room, obviously having been waiting for the right opportunity to swoop in and force her into apologizing. Before he could escape, she grabbed him by the wrist, pulling him close.
"Next time, fight your own battles," she hissed, and stormed off.
Lelouch frowned contemplatively, and then, after her back had long since departed from his sight, he chuckled.
One lost battle hardly meant the war.
If Kallen believed Lelouch would try something a little less shameless after the complete and abject failure of his "silent treatment/sympathy" ploy, she was sorely, sorely mistaken.
It began in the morning, as she stepped outside her room, to find Zero waiting outside for her. Immediately, she straightened, believing there was some task that needed doing.
"Can I help you, Zero?" she asked, thinking that, with the mask on and after that debacle yesterday, that Lelouch wouldn't dare try anything else just yet.
She should really have been more careful with her words.
"No, I was merely hoping to escort you to the dining hall this morning," he answered cordially, gesturing. "If it's fine with you."
Now, people had already been shocked over the past three days by Zero utterly ignoring Kallen's entire existence, then the resulting trauma of suddenly seeing their mysterious, impersonal leader offer to take her to the dining hall left most of the Black Knights questioning their sense of reality.
Kallen stood there, eyes wide in confusion, for about three seconds before she narrowed her eyes in understanding (the part of her that realized she was getting to know his twisted personality a little too well was vaguely irritated).
"I'm perfectly capable of finding my way on my own, thank you," she said with false sweetness, "I'm sure you have much more important things to do than to take time out of your day for me."
"Nonsense," Zero refuted boldly, sweeping towards her with a dramatic gesture that was obviously for the crowd. Briefly, Kallen wondered if Lelouch had ever considered a career in acting. "I've been rude to you for the past three days. Allow me to make it up to you."
And before she could manage a reply, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders (the surrounding Black Knights resolved to retreat to the medical bay in the hopes of finding a drug that could return them to their senses, as clearly they were no longer in touch with reality) and led her off towards the dining hall. She could have thrown him off at any point, but her mind froze the moment his hand settled on her shoulder (slender fingers gently pressing against her skin ever so softly, sending tingles down her spine and- oh God what the hell-)
His attitude took a complete reversal- instead of outright ignoring her and pretending she didn't exist, Zero was the consummate gentleman. He opened doors for her, pulled out a chair for her in the dining hall (even though they both knew he wasn't eating there), and walked right next to her throughout the base as if she were a lover and not a bodyguard, breaching an unspoken distance that was supposed to be kept between two people in a strictly platonic relationship. His hands even 'accidentally' brushed hers from time to time, and all she got for the encroachment on her personal space was an insincere 'sorry' and (though she couldn't see it) a smile.
To a normal girl, ignorant to the scheming, deceitful bastard that was Lelouch Lamperouge, it would have been flattering and not a little bit charming.
To Kallen, it was a sign that Lelouch was willing to do anything and everything to win, and only renewed her determination to make him lose this time.
The final straw came when he offered a glass of water, without prompt, and she took it without even looking up, as if expecting it (in her defense, he'd been handing her utensils and condiments the whole meal, to the point it had become routine).
The unspoken level of intimacy in the gesture would have gone unnoticed, had someone not whispered in the background, "Wow, they really are just like a real couple."
She snapped. Grabbing a fistful of his cape, disregarding all protocol and decorum, Kallen dragged him outside of the mess hall.
"You have no shame at all, do you?" she challenged, once they were outside, flushing a deep scarlet.
"All's fair in love and war, Kallen," Lelouch said huskily, stepping closer to her, so close she could smell the faint hints of cologne lingering on him.
Squirming, trying to ignore the warm tingle in her stomach at the word 'love', she pushed him away from her.
"Nice try, but I'm not that easy."
This, she decided, was Lelouch's foulest, most underhanded, devilish tactic yet. Embarrassing her in front of their comrades not once, not twice, but four times in four days was apparently not enough for that sadistic monster. Neither was playing the victim, of what amounted to a jilted boyfriend trying to get back on his girlfriend's good side.
No, psychological warfare was apparently only the shallow end in the deep, vast ocean that contained the depths of Lelouch's cruelty.
"I know men can be foolish sometimes, Kallen-san, but really, Zero-sama is so torn up about you being angry with him! He just wants you to forgive him!" Kaguya pleaded, hanging off her arm with a wide eyed puppy dog expression that should have been banned by international treaty.
Now you're just playing dirty, Lelouch, Kallen thought irritably. This is definitely crossing the line.
Plastering on her best false smile, perfected by years of putting up with annoying Brittanian students, she replied, in as calm a manner as she could muster, "Kaguya-sama, it's not really as bad as that."
"But Zero-sama and C.C.-san told me so!" Kaguya said insistently, still holding onto her arm, "C.C.-san even claimed that Zero-sama cried the other day at your cold treatment of him!"
Okay, clearly Lelouch never told C.C. to say that, Kallen thought, and felt a bit of vindictive satisfaction at the thought of Lelouch's indignant fury at being humiliated in such a way. C.C. was nobody's ally in these kinds of quarrels- she was in it for her own amusement, and if she could embarrass both Lelouch and Kallen in one fell sweep, she would do it in a heartbeat.
"I'm not going to apologize," Kallen said firmly, but with as gentle a tone as possible. And then, with a flash of feminine intuition, she smiled and continued, "After all, Kaguya-sama… sometimes, don't men need to learn a lesson about how to treat a lady?"
Her gamble paid off beautifully as Kaguya's expression changed from pleading to contemplative, and then finally to a bright, understanding smile.
Gotcha, Lelouch, Kallen thought gleefully.
While she didn't see Lelouch that day, Kallen did hear through the grapevine that Kaguya returned to Zero and immediately berated him for 'not understanding the delicate feelings of a young flower', and then decided not to speak to him as well until he had properly gained Kallen's forgiveness. C.C. reportedly hadn't stopped laughing for a good hour afterward.
There's nothing quite as disconcerting as finding something in your room when you wake that wasn't there when you were asleep. It's a severe disorientation for the mind, not knowing whether to trust one's own memory or to believe that someone had snuck in said object. Sometimes, the object is barely noticeable, and it is easy to realize why you might have missed it before sleeping, or to have slept through as it was added to the décor.
Kallen, however, was very, very certain that she did not miss this particular sight before she went to bed, indicating that someone had to have snuck them in during her sleep.
"But how, exactly," she said out loud, trying to voice her concerns, "Does one sneak six dozen flower bouquets while someone is sleeping?"
She stared out at the colorful gathering uncomprehendingly. There were roses and lilacs and marigolds and baby's breaths, and other flowers she didn't know the names of off the top of her head.
What in the world…
And, sitting atop the nearest bouquet, was a card.
Slowly, hesitantly she opened it.
All the flowers I could find. They may only be a shade of your beauty, but I hope they express my sincerest apologies.
It went unsigned, but she'd recognize that flowing, near obsessively neat script anywhere.
Kallen scoffed and crumpled the card.
Now he was just getting desperate.
"Looks like you lose this one," Kallen said cheerfully, grinning at him from across his desk.
Lelouch gave her an annoyed look, glancing up from the computer at his desk, fingers pausing over the keys. "I hardly think childish taunting is appropriate when I'm working," he replied slowly, arching his eyebrow.
She gave him a deadpan look. "Excuse me if I don't believe you, but I think you just spent the last six days trying to convince me to forgive you over a stupid bet."
He removed his fingers from the keyboard, sighing.
"I can't believe you tried so hard, too," she muttered, rolling her eyes. "I mean, the silent treatment? The gentleman act? The flowers? Kaguya?"
"The flowers were Kaguya's idea," Lelouch said weakly, avoiding her gaze. "As for my sending Kaguya… well done. I admit I didn't expect you to turn that move against me. It was, I must confess, my trump card. I would have sent C.C., but she just laughed in my face and left the room."
Kallen's lips twitched, but she decided not to make fun of him over it. No one would say Kouzuki Kallen was anything but a gracious winner.
"You can't seriously be telling me that you've given up," she said, raising a curious eyebrow. "You've got one day left, and you're telling me you've got nothing?"
Lelouch shrugged, standing out of his chair, meeting her gaze steadily.
"I'm hardly infallible, or almighty, Q-1," he reminded her. "If I could solve every problem myself, things would be much simpler for us."
There was weariness in his tone, a tiredness in the furrowing of his brow.
Kallen remembered Suzaku, who rejected Lelouch's ideals and denied the very existence of his best friend as a mistake in the world, remembered Nunnally's announcement that went against everything Lelouch had fought for (everything he had fought for her, for the sake of her smile), remembered that with the mask of Zero came all the burdens of a world crying out for justice.
And suddenly making him suffer needlessly over a childish bet seemed pointless and cruel.
"Lelouch…" she said slowly, uncertainly.
He stepped closer to her, a soft, somewhat fragile look on his face that sent a wave of compassion through her. She had sworn to protect him, sworn to stand by his side- he needed her, she understood suddenly, even if he didn't know it himself.
"I'm sorry for this past week, Kallen," Lelouch said quietly, tilting his head to the side, standing barely inches away from her. It was nothing like the last time, when he put on his gentlemanly act, putting himself close to her as part of a little game he was playing. He was sincere this time, radiating it- there was no playfulness in his body language, no hint of teasing. "You're right, I have been insufferable. Forgive me, I suppose… I've been attempting to have too much fun. I should have been acting more professionally, instead of acting… well… insufferable."
"Well, I mean…" Kallen attempted to look away, embarrassed now at his sudden confession of weakness, but he caught her chin, cupping it between his fingers, tilting her head up to look at his.
Her heart skipped a beat. If she just leaned in a little bit more, their lips would touch and-
She shut her eyes in attempt to banish such a ridiculous thought from her mind. Why the hell would she want to kiss this arrogant tease of a jerk anyways?
"You win, Kallen," she heard him say softly, fingers tracing a gentle line against her cheek, leaving what felt like a trail of fire in its wake on her skin. He drew closer and closer to her, so near that his breath tickled against her lips.
"Lelouch…" she murmured softly, and cracked open her eyes ever so slightly.
"You're so full of crap."
Lelouch flashed her a shameless grin.
"It was worth a try."
"That was your real trump card, huh? That whole confession thing, pretending you were showing me your vulnerable side, all of it…" she muttered, feeling foolish, and stupid, for thinking he would let her in so easily.
It was all part of the bet, after all, and Lelouch Lamperouge would do anything and everything to win. That was it. He was a liar and a trickster, and above all an insufferable bastard. "I can't believe you set all that up-"
"It wasn't fake," he cut in suddenly, and her head jerked up, eyes meeting his. His tone was steady, his eyes bright and clear, like stars on a cloudless night. "It wasn't fake."
She was caught. Her mouth hung open, and she tried to say… something. Anything. But nothing could come through.
Finally, ignoring the protesting in her mind and the fluttering feeling her gut, Kallen pulled away (though there was a deep reluctance in her movements she prayed Lelouch did not pick up on).
She said nothing for a long time, simply letting his confession sink in.
Finally, at long last, the words came to her, the words she'd wanted to say for a while now.
"I'll want that confession in writing, by the way."