A/N: To anyone that cares - I know I haven't updated Zero Requiem for quite awhile, but rest assured, I'm still working on it. This one just... begged to be written. And it took me quite awhile.
Please be warned that this contains incest between half-siblings, some sexual content, and some possibly disturbing imagery. Oh, and spoilers for the whole series.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Also, there are a few lines in the fic that are taken directly from the show itself. They're probably quite recognizable; just thought I'd mention it.
It was a tradition, of sorts, for them to meet on the lawns of the imperial villa late at night and gaze up at the stars together. It had started with just Euphy and Nunnally, and then they both brought their older siblings to watch, and in the end even the Empress Marianne joined them. And they sat there together, just the five of them, chattering about their day (in Euphy's and Nunally's case) or speaking eagerly but nervously to Marianne about history and battle plans (in Cornelia's) or just sitting and breathing and counting the stars overhead.
"What do you think about?" Euphy asked him, once, during a lull in the conversation. He looked up at her from where he was lying, shrugged a little against the grass.
"Chess," interrupted Nunnally boldly, and he knew she was grinning widely even though he couldn't see her from his position. "And how he's going to beat Clovis tomorrow at their next match."
"Am not," said Lelouch. "I don't need to plan for that. Clovis is stupid."
"Lelouch," said his mother gently, reprimanding, and Cornelia smothered a laugh at her tone.
"That's not very nice," said Euphy after a moment, and Lelouch's self-satisfied smile faded a little. She lay down next to him and spread her arms so that her fingers were just barely touching his, a gentle warmth at his side. When he didn't say anything, she sighed and turned her head a little — he was very conscious of the sound of her movements, near to him as she was — and said, "There's so many of these stars. What do you think they mean?"
Lelouch snorted, indisposed to speaking kindly. "Nothing. They're just balls of gas way out in the vast emptiness of space."
"Vast emptiness of space?" mocked Cornelia gently — she had noticed how Euphy's face fell as he spoke. "My, what a little nihilist you're turning out to be."
"Mama," said Nunnally drowsily from where she lay, "Didn't you once say there were stories to them...?"
"Stories?" repeated Euphy, interested.
"That's so," came Marianne's voice, deep and warm and just a little wistful. "There are all sorts of stories about the skies..."
"And constellations," added Lelouch, not wanting to be left out. "There's lots of constellations, I can show them to you."
"Can you?" Through his peripheral vision, Lelouch saw Euphy shift her head and body so she was looking at him straight on. He kept his gaze firmly on the sky, nodding his head against the grass.
"Yes — you see, that one's Orion, if you can just see his belt..." and as he went on to describe the constellation, feeling very smart and self-important, his mother adding in the story for Nunnally, he remained very aware of Euphy's gaze on him, and the awareness added a little blush to his cheeks that he tried steadfastly to ignore.
She tripped and he caught her, strong enough to hold up her weight, and there were no insults and laughter from the side, no fighting or older siblings to tear them apart. And she looked at him very seriously, and thanked him, and drew her face close and planted a little kiss on his lips in reward.
Then he woke up.
There was no time to say goodbye after Marianne died. He stayed with Nunnally day and night until the doctors told him her life was no longer in danger, and then he went to the Emperor. When he came back to the hospital it was only to tell Nunnally that they were going away, perhaps forever, and he hugged her when she started crying weakly.
But he did write once or twice to Euphy — no one else. He did not consider himself to be connected to the royal family anymore, but Euphy was different. Euphy was special. Euphy was still the kindest and most beautiful girl he knew, and that would never change.
'I do not mind living here in Japan very much,' he wrote. 'We have made a Japanese friend, and he is teaching us about Japanese culture. I will have more stories for you,' and he considered adding 'when we come back,' but he was beginning to wonder if they ever would.
They passed each other on the street almost without noticing, and then she turned and raced back to him, to the two of them. She asked them if they were okay, if they needed help, and said that he was so brave and strong for looking after the two of them in a war like this. She said she'd always known they were alive, and she hugged them and kissed them and then she told them they were going home, Cornelia had arranged it, and wasn't it wonderful because Empress Marianne was there too, and they could even take Suzaku back with them —
Then he woke up.
"Neh, Lelouch, have you ever had a girlfriend before?" It was Rivalz who said this, the guy with a funny voice who drove a motorcycle and played moderately well at chess but gambled badly. He seemed to have taken it into his head that he was Lelouch's friend, and Lelouch had no reason to tell him otherwise so he let him hang around when he pleased.
This question brought his head up from the book he was reading, though. "A girlfriend?" he repeated. "No, I don't think so..."
"What, really? And you have such a pretty face — agh, no-not that I mean anything about it — ! I mean haven't you ever, er... fancied someone?" And here he blushed and looked away. "I mean, like, none of the girls in our class or anything...?"
Lelouch looked at him with some surprise. "What's brought this up all of a sudden?"
"Ah — I don't know. It's just. I thought maybe...?" He trailed off and muttered something, looking decidedly uncomfortable.
"Hm." Lelouch turned a page in his book and looked down at it, but he didn't see the words. "I - I think I did, once," he said after a minute or two had passed, and Rivalz looked up at him in surprise.
"Mm," said Lelouch, and then nothing more, and blocked the image of pink curls from his mind.
She was lying in a bed, eyes just barely shut, though she could open them if she wanted, and he was aware that she wasn't wearing anything under the covers. He'd never seen her naked before, and was nervous at the prospect, but at the same time somewhat... curious and interested at the idea. So he went to her and pulled back the covers and stared for some time — she was a bit more well-developed than should logically make sense at her age, more like one of those models in a magazine that Rivalz had once found and shown him —
She opened her eyes and looked at him, and she didn't even seem to mind that he was staring at her. She sat up — he watched with interest as the flesh on her chest moved — and reached out to him, and he swallowed, and raised his hands to her bare waist, and kissed her, awkwardly —
Then he woke up.
He couldn't honestly say he was surprised to see her standing there with the guards of the JLF. After all, the Euphy he'd known would never stand by and simply watch the slaughter of innocents; of course she would reveal herself to the terrorists in an effort to spare their lives.
And in a moment of weakness, he told her far too much.
"Euphemia. How like you, to sacrifice yourself for the sake of others," and "I killed him because he was that man's child. So are you, come to think of it... but for now..."
She looked at him in fear and confusion, and something like comprehension flickered in her eyes briefly.
She pulled away his mask and smiled at him. "I knew it was you, I knew it," and she hugged him. "I missed you so much! I forgive you for killing Clovis, I know you had to. I understand. I don't mind. You're right, you're right, Britannia's rotten to the core. I want to help you."
She was so beautiful. Smiling at him, laughing, promising her loyalty.
She brought Cornelia to him, bound in chains. "To prove it to you," she said. "That I — I love you, you know, I love you. I always did."
He thought he should maybe say something to that, return in kind or maybe —
Then he woke up.
"Are you mad at me?"
He looked up with some surprise at Suzaku's question. "For what?"
His friend shifted uneasily in his seat, tapped his pencil against the side of the student council table. "Well... I wasn't completely honest with you, about my position in the army."
Lelouch blinked. "Ah... that." He shrugged. "Well, I wish you had, but it's no matter now. You just didn't want to alarm Nunnally, right?"
Suzaku nodded, looking somewhat relieved. After a few minutes filled with nothing more than their studious labor had passed, he spoke again: "... did you hear? Euphy — that is, Princess Euphemia — is going to make me her knight."
"I think the whole world knows, Suzaku, what with her announcing it on national television and all."
His friend shuffled his clothing. "Oh... that's right," he said, sounding distinctly uncomfortable. He cleared his throat. "I... probably, because of that, I won't have much free time at all anymore..."
"Hm," said Lelouch without looking up from his schoolwork. "Nunnally won't be happy to hear that."
"... I'm sorry."
The rest of their work period passed in silence.
There was a knight, a princess, a magician, and a witch.
The knight was the magician's friend, not his enemy, so he brought the princess to see him. The knight was a good, virtuous man, and had no carnal interest in her — his love was pure and unromantic. The princess blushed prettily when she was given over to the magician, and the magician smiled.
"Milady," he said, bowing over her hand, "Let us dance together."
She looked up at him with laughing eyes and consented, and they danced beneath the soft red light of a thousand candelabra in a great ballroom. They were alone together as they danced, but the tune was the witch's making and it was hard to follow.
Faster and faster went the beat, and then slow without warning, and they were tripping over their feet as they whirled. At last, the princess took a truly wrong step and fell, and the magician caught her. She looked up at him, breathless with laughter and excitement, and the music faded as he leaned down, very aware of the heaving of her chest and the brightness of her eyes, her breath through her lips —
Then he woke up.
"Lelouch... it's you, isn't it?"
His eyes widened behind the mask, his hands shook, and he couldn't do it after all. He couldn't shoot her. Not when she was looking at him like that.
He removed his mask of his own will. He didn't need to — he was the one with the gun, after all. He could always just deny it.
But the look on her face... she cried, and she smiled, and it was enough that he couldn't just stay standing there on the rock, so far removed from her. He managed to scramble down the side in a mildly dignified fashion, but she laughed at him anyway.
Her clothes were dripping wet and hanging from her figure in a very distracting way.
He removed his cloak. "Here," he said, and when she blinked at him in confusion, "You'll catch a cold if you continue wearing those in such a state."
She blushed. "Oh — of-of course." She was already shivering.
He looked away as she changed, and later leaned against the opposite side of the rock as they spoke. She didn't know anything about Marianne's death — of course, of course. Euphy would never be involved in something like that.
And it was embarrassing that he had to depend on her for food instead of the other way around, and he wished she wouldn't laugh, and this was really irritating to be trapped here like this, but...
"The stars are the same," she said quietly, framed by the red blanket of his cloak.
He looked at her sidelong, and she sighed. "Won't you come back?"
He stared at her for a long moment, and a thousand scenarios ran through his mind — he would stay with her forever on the island, and no one would ever find them, and it would be a perfect, childish paradise — he would convince her to join the Black Knights — she would take him home and his father would welcome them —
"It would be nice, wouldn't it?" he said wistfully.
He slept without dreams, and when he woke it was to see her smiling down at him, glorious in the morning light.
"Here," she said, holding out his mask to him. As he took it, straightening from his cramped position against the rock, he saw that it was full of berries. He blinked.
"... this is rather degrading, don't you think?" he said lamely. "First you use my cloak as a tablecloth and a bed, now my mask is a bowl? You're making a mockery of me!"
She laughed, and after a moment he joined in. It had been too long since he'd laughed properly. They shared the berries between them, and then he shook the sand out of his cape and draped it over one arm, telling her that he didn't trust her to look after it properly. And it was only then that he told her about the searchlights he'd seen in the night.
Her smile wilted. "Searchlights? From where?"
He pointed. "Thereabouts. We'll have to see who they're for... you, more likely."
There was a question in her eyes as he set about scuffing up their makeshift campsite, hoping to remove any obvious traces of their presence — what are you going to do about it?
He wasn't sure, himself, but he was confident that he could manage something with his Geass. He patted his chest to reassure himself of the presence of his gun, but, to his surprise, it wasn't there. He looked around carefully — had he dropped it somewhere?
"Euphy, have you seen my — ?" He stiffened at the sound of a gun being cocked, and turned swiftly. She was holding it out before her, carefully pointing it at the ground as she fiddled with it. He strode quickly over.
"Give it back," he said, harsher than he intended to.
She looked up, startled and a bit guilty. "I was just looking!" she said quickly, holding it out to him. He checked to make sure the safety was on and shoved it back into his chest pocket. When he looked up again, she was watching him strangely, as though she were almost afraid of him.
"What?" he found himself asking.
She shook her head, forcing a tiny smile. "Nothing. It's just strange to see you so at home with weapons."
He couldn't think of anything to say to that. Instead, he jerked his head in the direction of the area he'd seen the search lights. "Let's go," he said and swept past her. When he turned a moment later to make sure she was keeping up, she hadn't moved. She was still staring thoughtfully out at the sea.
"Euphy, come on," he said, exasperated.
She turned at the sound of his voice, and hurried up to him, "Sorry, sorry," she said breathlessly, "I was just thinking."
"You can think while we walk," he told her, "Or am I the only one of us able to multitask?" He was joking with her again, hoping to bring back the light-hearted banter they'd been keeping up with before he'd taken the gun from her.
It seemed to work. "Don't act so high and mighty!" she said, turning red with indignation, just like she had when they were children. "You're not all that great!"
"Aren't I?" he returned with amusement, relieved that they were back in comfortable territory.
"Well — you can't even get food for yourself! How would you have survived here, without me?" she said triumphantly.
"I would have perished," he said carelessly. "I would have put so much energy into digging that trap that I'd be easy prey for the first rhinoceros to stumble upon it."
That brought her up short. "Rhinoceros?" she repeated, as though she couldn't quite believe he'd said it. He nodded solemnly, and then they were laughing again as they climbed their way back into the forest.
She splashed him with sea water, making him splutter indignantly. She giggled — "You look like an upset cat!" she called gleefully, and he waded over to her, intent on dealing out his revenge. In a flurry of splashing and tickling, they fell over into the shallows, and somehow she ended up straddling him, smiling triumphantly.
Her eyes caught his, and the smile faded a little, became something else, and then she was leaning down, closer and closer, until their lips were touching... He went absolutely still, then opened his mouth, kissing back hesitantly and awkwardly. And a few moments later, he was rolling them both over, slamming her into the wet sand as he kissed her hungrily, desperately.
Her breath came in short, excited gasps as his hands traveled up her body, pulling at her clothes, and she ran her own over his chest, feeling at his ribs and shoulders. He pulled away a moment, panting for breath, and she looked up at him with flushed cheeks and bright, eager eyes.
"Lelouch," she breathed. He broke her gaze. Frustrated with trying to figure out how her dress came undone, he removed his hands from her chest and instead felt up beneath her skirt, tracing the smooth skin of her ankles, her calves, her thighs — she sighed, pushing into his hands, and when at last they reached her panties she moaned.
As he tugged and pulled at them, he became aware of her own fumbling at his belt. He let out a choked sort of gasp as she managed to pull aside his pants, feeling curiously at his crotch. She smiled at him, pleased, and in revenge he plunged his fingers between her legs, rubbing until she gasped and arched beneath him, keening.
Even in her pleasure, she managed to tug his own underwear down, and then she was taking him into her hands, stroking slowly and carefully —
"Ah, Euphy," he complained breathlessly, hips jerking under her touch. Their frantic movements stilled a moment, and she removed her hands, reaching one up to gently caress his cheek. He shut his eyes, leaned into it.
"Now, Lelouch. Please," she said quietly but clearly. The moment was broken, and he surged forward, pushing into her, again and again, shuddering at the sensation, hands braced on either side of her as she moaned and pushed up against him and —
"That's some dream you're having," commented the witch drily, looking down at him with raised eyebrows. He blinked, disoriented, and gradually became aware of his surroundings. His dark, night-time room, his blankets tangled around him, too hot for his sweating body. He sat up, heart still pounding, all too aware of the warm hardness pulsing between his legs.
He looked sidelong at CC, trying to keep away the blush rising to his face.
"Bathroom's over there," she said helpfully, pointing. He stood, hastily shoving the rest of the blankets away from him, and stumbled off to it, hoping desperately that he hadn't said anything in his sleep.
"Brother, what's wrong?" Nunnally, worried. He forced a smile into his voice.
"Nothing, nothing," he told her, and the upsetting crease between her eyebrows smoothed a little. Outside, loud cheering greeted the princess's announcement. The masses, supporting her — they were supposed to be supporting him —
"That's a wonderful plan Euphy has," said Nunnally. "Don't you think so, brother?"
He looked at her, hesitating for a moment. Then — "It's not very practical. But it's very like Euphy, isn't it?"
The cursed man stood beneath an archway of flowers and thorns. Behind him lay a barren, fiery wasteland. Before him was a beautiful garden. He could not move forward or back, trapped by creeping vines.
A little pink haired girl stepped toward him over the carefully cultivated lawn, and with each step she grew — from a laughing child to a joyful young woman, but still naive, still innocent. In her hands was a silver cup, and she held it out to him.
He bent his head to drink, but in its depths he caught sight of the reflection of his eyes. He pulled away in surprise and the cup fell, spilling the wine over the girl's white dress, dying it a deep blood red —
"Euphy, stop! Please, stop it!"
He ran through the stands, stumbling over the dead and dying, screaming until his throat was hoarse. No use. No use.
A dying woman grabbed his cloak and he stumbled away from her, shuddering. Zero, hope of the Japanese.
"No, I can't, I can't. Don't look at me to save you. Don't. I can't."
Whispering, shivering, and at last walking numbly away, and there was only one solution to all this, only one —
"Zero, do you want me to capture her?"
"I'm afraid that would be useless."
("Lelouch!" she called, indignantly.
He looked up from his book with some exasperation as the two of them descended on him, flushed and angry from arguing.
"Euphy says she wants to marry you when you're older," stated Nunnally, "But that can't be right, because I'm going to marry you. Right?"
He blinked at her. "I... what?"
"Tell her she's wrong, Lelouch!" shouted Euphy. "You're going to marry me, right?"
"Ah..." He looked between the two of them, feeling suddenly very out of his depth.
"Well?" they both said at once, glaring.
"Ah... I don't know, I'm not going to marry anyone!" he said at last, blushing, and he went back to his book.
But later, when he'd finished with his book and there was no one around, he leaned back and thought hard about it. Nunnally was his sister — well, Euphy was as well, technically — but he knew Nunnally as his sister. He could never see her as anything else.
But Euphy... he thought of the curls of her hair, the brightness of her eyes, thought of her laughter, her kindness, everything...
I wouldn't mind marrying her, he thought.)
"Bye, Euphy. Probably, you were my first love."
"Zero! Zero! Zero! Zero!"
The crowds chanted his name, and around the world people's allegiances were shifting toward the Black Knights. Outside, his army readied itself for battle. The rebellion was fully in motion.
Lelouch leaned into CC's arms and wept.
They lived in an ordinary house in an ordinary neighbourhood with an ordinary family. He and his mother and Nunnally. And next door to him lived Euphy and Cornelia, and on the other side was Suzaku. And in the other houses lived his friends, Shirley and Kallen and Milly and Rivalz — there was even a cat that they all looked after together.
There was no war. No kingdoms or empires or even countries. No witches or strange, inhuman powers. No traitorous friends or twisted lies, no uncaring fathers. They lived together and were happy, and everything was as it should be.
Then he woke up.
He carved her name on the candle — white, for innocence — and set the wick aflame. He held it up to him, smiling a little in fondness.
"Goodbye, Euphy," he whispered softly, and set it on the water.
It floated away to join its fellows in the centre. He looked after it a moment more, and then continued on.
He walked along the shores of a wide, beautiful river, beneath a shower of cherry blossom petals. The water was a deep clear blue that let him see straight to the pebbles of the bottom, and full of fallen petals.
He stopped for a moment, just looking about him in contentment, listening to the sweet birdsong in the trees — and then he saw it. A single white lily, floating close to shore.
He stepped towards it curiously, and reached out to it. But just as his fingers touched the petals, it changed into a slim white hand that grasped at his wrist, weakly. He took hold of it and pulled, and from the water she came, white and naked and beautiful. She stood, graceful and elegant on the river shore, and he couldn't help but stare at the way the water ran in rivulets down her body. Her eyes were shut, her arms relaxed at her sides, and she seemed almost to be sleeping as she stood.
He called her name.
She opened her eyes and they were red-rimmed pits. The water running down her body became blood, the birdsong screams and gunshots. She held out a hand and smiled. "Let's build a new Japan together! Let's destroy them! Let's destroy Japan!"
He pushed her away from him in horror and she fell back into the river, and sank, the water around her dyed red from the blood. Her hand was still outstretched toward him, and for some reason he could still hear her voice, clearly asking him "Why?" —
Then he woke up.
"What did being Zero ever gain you?"
"Minions! Land! Power a mere student could never hope to obtain!"
"But it lost you Euphy..."
Suzaku, standing before him with his sword at the ready, and Lelouch already exhausted from a battle and the death of his dearest sister, and his own murder of his own parents.
"You killed Euphy."
"And what of it? — I will atone."
There was a city of pure white stone, but through it ran a red stream. He followed it to its source, and found the princess there, standing by the water pump. She was washing her hands, which were covered in blood, and she had been for some time; the water overflowed from the basin and became the red stream trickling down the street, staining the white stone. But the blood would not wash, and she was weeping, desperate and horrified.
He stepped forward and waved her aside, and she went clutching her hands to her chest as she stared at him desperately. He didn't know how to fix this — it couldn't be fixed. Nothing could erase the blood. Everyone could see it.
So he walked away, farther up the street until he reached the steps that led to an aqueduct. With a hammer and chisel he broke down part of its side, and as the water gushed out he held his own filthy, bloody hands in it, so that it, too, would be stained red.
It crashed down the streets toward her little stream and completely engulfed and hid it. And as the people ran screaming, terrified, he could see her smiling, her eyes filling with grateful tears —
Then he woke up.
It was a brilliant, sunny day when Euphy died at Zero's hand. Her murderer was exalted, and everyone spat on her name and memory. One who loved her held her in his arms and begged her not to die, but all in vain. Her death was the beginning of a war, a symbol of the destruction of any possible fellowship between Britannia and Japan. And her murderer wept, for he'd loved her.
It was a brilliant, sunny day when Lelouch died at Zero's hand. His murderer was exalted, and everyone spat on his name and memory. One who loved him held him in her arms and begged him not to die, but all in vain. His death was the end of war, a symbol of the forging of new bonds between the changed Empire of Britannia and the rest of the world. And his murderer wept, for he'd loved him.
He dreamed that he was dying.
The day was cloudless, the sun beating hotly down on him. He could just faintly hear his sister's voice, telling him she loved him. The crowd was a distant noise in the background. He thought of a thousand things, his friends, his warriors, his family. He thought of everyone he'd used and mistreated, and everyone he'd loved and hurt.
His breathing grew shallow, the ache in his chest spreading into numbness. His vision began to fade.
I destroyed and created the world, he thought, or whispered.
He shut his eyes against the white hot sun and thought he could see her face, smiling at him.
He never woke up.